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August 2010  
www.namiohio.org

Jack Marschall

Former News Anchor and Community Leader


Jack Marschall

The name, face and voice of Jack Marschall are well recognized in northeastern Ohio, having served a number of his 33 years in broadcasting as a news anchor for WEWS and WUAB in Cleveland. People know Jack for his trustworthiness and quick wit.  What they do not know is that he battled back from the deepest throes of major depression.

Jack is one of the last people his friends and co-workers would have suspected of being so depressed that thoughts of suicide were almost constant. Like many with this disorder, he learned to “hold it together” at work. “The scariest thing a person with depression can do is put on a mask and go to work. I did it for a long time; I was ‘Happy Jack’ at work. At home I was ‘Catatonic Jack’. I couldn’t enjoy or even react to my kids as they were growing up. They would be goofing around, being silly, being kids, and all I could do was sit and stare. It was the worst possible feeling,” said Jack.

 

“The thing about depression is that it slows everything down, it immobilizes you. It is very frustrating because, under ‘normal’ circumstances, one would be proactive and get help. Depression impacts you in a very strange way because it is hard to pinpoint. Thoughts of death and dying become a constant companion and they are not necessarily bad thoughts because, on some level, you know that dying would take the pain away.” Fortunately, Jack finally came to the realization that unless he sought professional help, the end was near.

Ironically, Jack’s first doctor tried to find something “medically” wrong with him. “Stigma exists very much in the medical field; it was clear that both my former doctor and I wanted to nail my ailment to a medical condition, even a catastrophic one. That would be better than a mental illness,” explained Jack. Finally, when everything checked out fine medically, Jack went to another doctor, a personal friend, who did refer him to a psychiatrist.

We forget we are human; we are all vulnerable to all kinds of diseases and mental illness is no different.  We are family, and for better or worse, we are all the same.

Facing the stigma of seeing a psychiatrist, Jack worried what his family would think. “I talked to my wife about my condition, my need to see a psychiatrist. She just looked at me and said, essentially, ‘then get the help you need—what’s the big deal?’ I had been afraid of revealing the depth of my condition to my family, assuming they view me as weak, fearing those I loved the most would be judgmental. That, of course, wasn’t the case at all. Like so many people dealing with the various forms of mental illness, I underestimated the love and support of my wife and family.” 

“It took me a long time to recognize that my mental illness impacted not only me but those around me. I couldn’t see how my inability to be a part of the family, to participate in normal family interactions, affected my wife and kids. Depression is like a blanket that covers and surrounds you and anyone who comes near. Had I been able to see that, I think I would have been able to get past my fears and get the help I needed sooner,” Jack reflected. “I was raised in a wonderful family, and my father taught us it is our duty to leave the world a better place, to give back. Now that I am doing so well, I have an obligation to share what I have been through; but it is more than an obligation. I am stronger now as an individual, but the demon can always come back. Sharing my story helps others, but it helps me, too.”

Talking about his current role as NAMI Walk Honorary Chair in Cuyahoga County and speaking out on mental illness in general, Jack says, “After every speech or public appearance I make, someone comes up and talks about their own situation. We have to get rid of this stigma! We forget we are human; we are all vulnerable to all kinds of diseases and mental illness is no different. We are family, and for better or worse, we are all the same.” 

His message to others who are hesitating to seek help for their depression, “I know how frustrating it can be when there is something wrong with you and you believe you can’t tell anybody because of shame and embarrassment.  Anyone out there who feels that they can’t say anything, believe me, you can. You will have the support of your family and friends, and they will be relieved to know that you can get better – you can get your life back. They want to help you because they, too, have come to realize it’s a matter of life and death. If you need help, you have to get it—and you have to do it now.”

Jack spent several years reporting on local Hometown Heroes who have made a positive impact on their community and the lives of countless others. Now, it is Jack’s turn. He would be the last one to cast himself as a “hometown hero” but he does acknowledge that someone has to speak out about mental illness, depression and stigma. “Happy Jack” is no longer a mask; it is Jack Marschall, Hometown Hero.

NAMI Ohio Message to Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Law Enforcement Officers

On September 1st, NAMI Ohio and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence are hosting the third annual Crisis Intervention Team Advanced Training Conference in Columbus. Over 150 CIT trained law enforcement officers are registered to attend, the largest number ever!   

CIT is designed to help law enforcement officers identify and respond to individuals with mental illness who are in crisis. These programs are established for many reasons. Certainly helping to ensure the safety of the individuals in crisis and the officers is the most important. However, diverting people in crisis from the criminal justice system whenever possible is a close second as far as NAMI Ohio is concerned. 

Even with a strong CIT program, which Ohio certainly has, preventing individuals with mental illness from cycling in and out of Ohio's jails and prisons is becoming more and more difficult as community crisis services evaporate due to a lack of funding. 

NAMI advocates and law enforcement officers must rise up together and call attention to the costly impact of these funding decisions. Make no mistake, cutting community mental health services DOES NOT save money. It costs money. And more importantly, it leads to suffering for consumers and their families. 

Soon, NAMI Ohio will be announcing our budget message for the Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013 budget cycle and we will be asking for your help in communicating it to lawmakers when they are in their districts. Please be prepared to join the Voice on Mental Illness. The more voices we have, the louder our message will be.

 

Stigma Busting Challenge: Take dinner to a family that could use some understanding and support. Dealing with a loved one's mental illness can be lonely and difficult.

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