Mad Men Cast Interviews: Jon Hamm Suffered from Chronic Depression and Took Antidepressants

I am glad when celebrities share details about their mental illnesses. It makes things easier for the rest of us. Jon Hamm’s revelation that he took medication for his depression is very significant. There is quite a stigma related to therapy and antidepressants in Singapore. Sadly a huge stigma.

Here are parts of The Observer interview with the Mad Men star that resonated with me.

When Jon Hamm was 10 years old his mother died, suddenly, of stomach cancer. Hamm went to live with his father, who had divorced his mother when he was two. “To lose a parent at 10 – which is young, though not unprecedented – it means you understand, at a very early age, what permanence is.”

And then, 10 years later, when Hamm was studying English at the University of Texas, his father died. “I was… unmoored by that. But I was very fortunate to have really good friends in my life whose parents sort of rallied: ‘We’re gonna help this kid out, because otherwise there’s going to be trouble…’

Were they right? I say. “Oh yeah,” he says.

You could have lost it? “Easily. I struggled with chronic depression. I was in bad shape. I knew I had to get back in school and back in some kind of structured environment and… continue.”

What helped? “Work.”

Therapy? “I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me. Which is what therapy does: it gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps. And honestly? Antidepressants help! If you can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work and…’ Reset the auto-meter, kick-start the engine!”

He also talks about his life partner Jennifer and that part of the interview is really sweet. He’s set to star in Jennifer Westfeldt’s screenplay, Friends with Kids.

We talk about his 12-year relationship with Westfeldt, which is enduring in Hollywood terms. What’s the secret? “We just… really love each other.”

The little girl, Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper also recently did an interview for Mad Men. I think she is heart wrenching in her role.

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Q: Do you think you’d act like Sally if your mom was like Betty and your dad was like Don?

A: I think Sally’s actually much better than I would be, given her situation. Sally is really, really reserved. Divorce can be terribly stressful and confusing. Add to that an emotionally unresponsive mother and a physically absent father, I think Sally’s actions are pretty tame. If I was experiencing Sally’s situation, I would be a complete terror of a kid.

Q: What’s been your favorite scene to act out in all of Season 4?

A: Unfortunately I can’t discuss it because it’s in an upcoming episode.

Q: Any runner-ups?

A: I really liked the fall in Episode 9 — the trip. It was my first time doing a really big stunt and I thought it was fun. I have done tae kwon do for a long, long time, and I’m a gymnast, so I wasn’t too worried about the stunt. I had done some stunts before. I was more excited than worried.

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Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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2 Responses to Mad Men Cast Interviews: Jon Hamm Suffered from Chronic Depression and Took Antidepressants

  1. Crystal says:

    As someone who has suffered from depression on and off for years and has been on and off meds for years, Singapore has been the hardest place for me to get the proper mental health care.

    In the US, there is dr/patient confidentiality. The government can not get information about your care without letting you know and (unless extreme circumstances are happening, and even then, I’m not sure) getting some kind of consent from you. In SG, the government can get your records without your knowledge if they want them. That freaks me out.

    There seems to be a very small number of doctors, and that I have to see a specialist instead of just a regular doc to get them is a huge pain in the ass.

    There are HUGE cultural gaps between Asian psychiatrists and American patients (especially those of us who are liberal, identify as bisexual-or LGBT at all, parenting philosophies, female identity and work/motherhood…etc…I could keep going).

    Personally, I recently chose to go off my meds now, rather than next March (when I would need to in order to start trying to get pregnant in June, which is our current game plan) largely because I just didn’t feel comfortable working within SG’s mental health community. I’m currently searching for an American therapist who can do Skype sessions, thereby ensuring that I’m covered under US dr/patient confidentiality and have someone of the same cultural background treating me.

    I was very surprised that our insurance (which is a world-wide plan, not an Asian or SG specific one) did not cover mental health. Our US plan covered therapy (with a co-pay), meds (with a co-pay), hospitalization and basically any and all treatment related to mental health.

    You are also right that the stigma here is very different. In the US, there’s a small stigma, but I know a great many people on anti-depressants and we can easily have a convo about which one had which side effect or what was more effective for us.

    The drug dosages are different here, so that was an issue as well. US doses lithium (for example…since I know from personal experience) in doses of 300 mg pills…here it is 400. I had to shift my dosage more than I wanted to just to make it fit the pills available to me…yet one more reason to go off them.

    Life without them is far harder. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t up against a deadline to go off them regardless. Lithium is lethal to pregnancy, so I don’t have a choice. I also can’t be on it and breastfeed. But at some point I am going to have to ask the tough questions weighing being treated by a system I don’t trust versus not taking medication that makes my day to day life (and that of those who deal with me) far easier.

    • bookjunkie says:

      thanks for sharing your experience. You hit the nail on the head. We are reluctant to seek any kind of treatment or therapy because we feel that our records are not safe somehow. I resort to eating a whole pint of ice cream just to feel better (it works!! but temporarily), when I think that a pill might be the real cure or perhaps therapy. I really hope our mental healthcare system gets up to speed. I am sure there are tons of people out there suffering from depression and anxiety who just have no where to turn to. In other parts of Asia it’s probably much worse.

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