DENVER - It took many years of depression and alcoholism before Judy Collins was ready to let the light enter her own dark world. Now, the folk music superstar says, the national network of depression centers, such as the one on the Anschutz Medical Campus, are bringing awareness and help to the millions who suffer from mental health conditions.
Collins, who grew up in Denver and graduated from East High School, was the keynote speaker at the annual benefit luncheon for the University of Colorado Depression Center
on Nov. 21. The sold-out event drew 400 people to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver.
Collins, who rose to fame as a folk contemporary of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, suffered her life's greatest tragedy when her only child, Clark, committed suicide at the age of 33. She said she doesn't believe that suicide runs in families, but that depression and alcoholism certainly do.
"There are many significant signs that the depression and chemical imbalance are pretty prevalent in my family on all sides," said Collins, 72, who has been sober since 1978. "So, it's not surprising, really, that a girl of 14 would try to take her life as an answer to a life problem."
She took 100 pills as a teenager in a failed suicide attempt. After that incident, even after her son committed suicide in 1992, not many treatment options existed for those suffering from deep depression. "We're so much farther along than we were," Collins said. "I think we're so much farther on the road, and what you're doing here with your organization will help and continue to help those of us who suffer from depression and its consequences."
Colorado Depression Center patient "Gretchen" also spoke emotionally about how the center with its research "gave me and many others like me hope."
Vail resident George Wiegers, who provided the seed money for the Depression Center and a network of 21 similar depression centers at medical schools across the country, said he was "looking for something to do that was meaningful for mental health."
The growing network of centers will "bring the d-word out of the closet, much like the cancer centers brought the c-word out of the closet," Wiegers said. "We hope to destigmatize the depression word."