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Chirlane McCray Talks Family Mental Health Struggles, Public Health Plan for NYC

The first lady of New York City drew on personal experience to announce a review of the NYC mental health system

While advocating for a comprehensive review of New York City’s public health system, Chirlane McCray, wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, highlighted her own family’s struggle with mental illness, reports The New York Times.

The first lady revealed that both of her parents suffered from depression, recalling that she didn’t fully understand their behavior when she was a child.

“They had periods of intense sadness for different reasons,” she said during a speech on Wednesday to Brooklyn mental health professionals. “To their enormous credit, they still managed to bring us up. But we knew it was there.”

McCray also highlighted her 20-year-old daughter’s struggles with depression, anxiety and drug abuse. Chiara de Blasio went public with her battle in December 2013, shortly before her father was sworn into office. McCray said that though Chiara is now “kicking butt at recovery,” her struggles came as a shock.

“I felt everything you would expect a mother could feel—love, at first and foremost, but fear and a great deal of uncertainty,” she said. “I can’t tell you what a shock it was to find out that this young woman, who was a great student, beloved by her classmates—her teachers had so much to say, so many good things to say about her—a high-performing individual was struggling with these issues right beneath our nose.”

Because mental illnesses are so prevalent, McCray continued, an airtight mental health system is crucial to the public.

Her plans for a review of the New York City mental health system—conducted by the health department, the Fund for Public Health and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City—are scheduled to be completed by this summer, funded completely by the office of the mayor.