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Daughter of NYC mayor-elect De Blasio details depression, past drug use

The daughter of incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that she had suffered from clinical depression for years and, until recent therapy, abused alcohol and marijuana. Chiara de Blasio, 19, said that she was going public with the personal information in hopes of supporting others who were struggling.

“Removing substances from my life, it’s opened so many doors for me,” she said in a video posted on YouTube. “I was actually able to participate in my dad’s campaign and that was like the greatest thing ever and now I’m doing well in school and actually getting to explore things that aren’t just partying.

“It’s just important for people to realize, anybody who’s watching this, that if you’re suffering or if you’re depressed or dealing with mental illness and you think that it might have something to do with your drug abuse or drinking ... getting sober is always a positive thing. It’s not easy -- by no means is it easy, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done -- but it’s so worth it.”

Her father, a Democrat who takes over Jan. 1, succeeding independent Michael R. Bloomberg, talked briefly to reporters on Tuesday from his home in Brooklyn.

“We are proud of Chiara,” the New York Times quoted De Blasio as saying. “I think if you look at this video, it speaks to a whole set of challenges that we face in our society.” He said his daughter demonstrated "courage and clarity."

Chiara de Blasio, who also spoke briefly in front of the family home, added that she thought the video “speaks for itself,” and wished everyone “a safe and happy holiday season.”

Chiara de Blasio and her younger brother, Dante, had been unusually visible for political offspring in a high-profile campaign. They introduced De Blasio to New York’s minority community as a white man with an understanding of their lives. (His wife, Chirlane McCray, is African American.)

An ad featuring Dante de Blasio that emphasized his father’s intent to reform the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which critics deemed to be racial profiling, helped De Blasio break from well behind in the Democratic primary to become the eventual winner.

Chiara was not quite as visible as Dante, at least on television screens, but was the central figure in an ad defending her father in the general election and was a familiar sight on the campaign trail. 

In the Christmas Eve video, Chiara de Blasio said that she had had clinical depression “for my entire adolescence.”

“So that’s been something I’ve always dealt with -- or not known how to deal with. It made it easier, the more I drank or did drugs to share some common ground with people who I wouldn’t have (otherwise). It didn’t start out as like a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me.”

Going away to college — and what she termed “physical insecurity with where I was” — worsened the problem, she indicated. A therapist, whom she praised enthusiastically, referred her to an outpatient treatment center in New York.

Chiara de Blasio closed the video with a pitch for both public understanding of mental illness and substance abuse, and more assistance for those affected by both.

“We’re not providing enough treatment,” she said. “ I wanted to speak out because people are suffering from this disease and dying from this disease every day. And you really can’t do anything as a society to help those people until we start talking about it."

Cathleen.Decker@latimes.com

Twitter: @cathleendecker

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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