OXON HILL, Md. — As her father ran for mayor last spring, Chiara de Blasio was “overpowered” by depression and addiction, and “life didn’t seem worthwhile,” she said Tuesday.
“One year later, here I am, and that is nothing other than a miracle,” she said.
The comments – at a ceremony here for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – marked the first time Mayor de Blasio’s daughter has spoken publicly about her struggles since revealing in a video on Christmas Eve that she underwent treatment for depression and abusing alcohol and pot.
She flew in from college in California to accept an award from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for speaking out about her experiences.
One year ago I could not have imagined I would be standing before you today as a sober and healthy young woman.
The 19-year-old received a standing ovation from the more than 1,000 mental health professionals in the audience as she walked on stage.
“One year ago I could not have imagined I would be standing before you today as a sober and healthy young woman,” she said.
“One year ago, I was lost, confused and overpowered by depression, anxiety, addiction and fear. One year ago, life didn’t seem worthwhile. One year later, here I am and that is nothing other than a miracle.”
Chiara acknowledged her parents, who attended the ceremony, and her young brother, Dante, who remained in New York to take a high school AP test.
Kevin Wolf/Kevin Wolf Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius presents the award to Chiara. Patrick Smith/Getty Images Mayor de Blasio looks on as his wife, Chirlane McCray (c.), hugs their daughter, Chiara de Blasio (l.), before she received a special recognition award at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Annual Conference in Maryland on Tuesday. Kevin Wolf/Kevin Wolf Chiara’s comments marked the first time she had spoken publicly about her struggles since revealing in a video on Christmas Eve that she underwent treatment for depression and abusing alcohol and pot.
“Thank you dad. Even while running the biggest city in America, you still give me more love and support than I could ask for. And thank you mom for your patience and endless dedication to helping me get better.”
She called Dante “The best little brother in the world. And this is the only time you’ll catch me saying so.”
She also gave a shout out to mental health professionals for showing her “that life is worth living.”
Hours before the ceremony, the website XOJane.com posted a deeply personal essay by Chiara in which she wrote that she was born an addict and was “miserable” for her “entire adolescence” despite her family’s best efforts to help her.
She added that she works every day on her recovery.
“Every morning I awaken a nervous depressed wreck, before slowly putting myself back together again,” she wrote.
“I know that fighting my depression, anxiety and addiction will be a lifelong battle. But today, it is one that I’m willing to fight.”
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Sebelius suggested Chiara consider following her father the mayor into politics, but then the HHS secretary joked that even in her worst days dealing with the botched launch of Healthcare.gov she told herself, “At least I am not the mayor of New York City.”
Both of Chiara’s parents also spoke, saying they were proud and impressed by her hard work on sobriety.
“I realized Chiara didn’t need me or her father to take charge in her life, she needed us to walk beside her and listen,” said her mom, Chirlane McCray.
The mayor noted he has introduced many honorary chairpersons, but usually “they are a lot older than me. This is a new situation for me today to have an honorary co-chair who happens to be my 19-year old daughter.”
The mayor added that Chiara’s experience resonated with him because “in my own family we’ve faced these demons before,” noting his father was an alcoholic who committed suicide after failing “to find his way to recovery.”
“But his granddaughter did and there is something powerful in that,” the mayor said.
With Jennifer Fermino