ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Talking about depression now. Such a widespread problem in the U.S. that “The Journal of the American Medical Association” is devoting this week’s entire issue to it. Now, while women are still the most vulnerable, you hear more and more about men who suffer from depression.
You may remember Jim Shea Jr. from the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was the third generation Olympian. His grandfather died in a car accident just a month before his grandson competed. Jim Shea Jr. went on to win the gold in men’s skeleton, a luge type event, but while he was beating the competition, he was also fighting a silent enemy. CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a nation that richly rewards being number one, Jimmy Shea proved he was up to the task, winning a gold medal and becoming an instant hero. His story? The stuff of folklore. The third Shea in as many generations to be an Olympian. His entire life now public, except for one thing.
JIM SHEA JR., OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: A lot of people don’t know that I suffered from depression, you know, just about my entire life. And, you know, looking back, I won the world championships, I did all these things, and I was just never happy.
GUPTA: He had been on top of the world and also in a deep valley of depression. Shea was living proof that this disease does not discriminate, gold medal or not.
SHEA: I think like 12 through like 25, there were some really dark times, you know? There was thoughts of suicide. There was thought of a lot of different things, and it was just difficult. There was a lot of real lows that I just couldn’t get out of.
GUPTA: But he did climb out of that, and today, Shea, with financial support from a pharmaceutical company, is putting his Olympian dedication towards getting out the word.
SHEA: You can actually go and you can see somebody and you can get treatment for this.
GUPTA (on camera): Jimmy Shea is not alone. Best estimates are that one in six Americans suffer from depression. And while things are starting to change, it is still stunning that so many suffer in silence.
DR. MICHAEL LARDON, PSYCHIATRIST, U.S. OLYMPIC TRAINING CENTER: It’s not a case of, you know, pulling up your bootstraps and so you’ll be better. But it’s really a medical illness like diabetes.
GUPTA: And like diabetes, it is treatable. If you had to choose now, after all you’ve been through, you’ve got the gold medal, you’ve also overcome depression, if you had to choose one of those two things?
SHEA: If I had to choose between winning a gold medal and overcoming my fear of going and getting treatment for my depression, absolutely. I would say, you know, my treatment. It’s just a medal. It’s just a race. Being able to live the rest of my life and being happy, that’s priceless.
GUPTA: And priceless is worth more than gold.
GUPTA: I’ll tell you, it’s interesting, because more and more people are actually going out there and getting treatment. But as you mentioned, the JAMA, “Journal of the American Medical Association,” devoted an entire week looking at some of the specific issues, and found that while people are getting treated, only 21 percent of people, or about that, are actually getting treated adequately. One in six people they say now have depression, women twice as likely as men, so about one in four women, one in eight men out there with depression.
COOPER: And there are so many treatment options these days, it’s a shame that more people aren’t seeking the treatment that they need.
GUPTA: They say the best option, talk therapy plus the combination of drugs is probably going to be your best option.
COOPER: All right, Dr. Gupta, thanks.