W. Daniel Hale, Ph.D., knows depression inside and out. As a clinical psychologist, he studied depression for more than 40 years after the subject attracted his interest in graduate school. He realized that each of the one in five people who will experience severe depression during their lives is surrounded by a group of family and friends. Dr. Hale was grateful to be able to make a difference in so many lives—helping each single patient cope with the strain of depression also rippled outward, improving the lives of their friends and loved ones.
Despite seeing the ways depression “could destroy careers, wreck relationships and even be life-threatening,” Dr. Hale wasn’t emotionally prepared when he had the first of two major depressive episodes in his own life. He was eventually able to recognize the severity of his depression and, with his family’s support, sought treatment in the form of both medication and therapy. Thanks to the care Dr. Hale received, he was able to continue treating patients while raising his family.
Unfortunately, depression continued to haunt Dr. Hale’s family––his firstborn daughter Libby began to wrestle with the disease in her early teens. As she became more withdrawn and less of the vivacious, nationally-ranked swimmer she had been, Dr. Hale and his family pushed her to get treatment. With sustained effort, she was able to hold depression off, graduating from college before marrying and having children of her own.
When Libby moved away, she struggled to find support for medical treatment in her new surroundings. With her depression untreated, she slipped further into her own darkness, committing suicide at the age of 36.
Since Libby’s death, Dr. Hale has spoken publicly and often of the importance of recognizing depression’s destructive potential, as well as the importance of receiving proper treatment. He hopes speaking about his family’s story can help prevent tragedy for others, and urges anyone feeling an inability to enjoy life, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness or thoughts of harm or suicide to reach out to someone—a physician, mental health professional or a suicide prevention hotline.