On Christmas eve, while many people were with their families, the daughter of incoming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opened up about her past struggles with depression and abusive self-medication. And it was perfectly timed.
In a YouTube clip, Chiara de Blasio shares that she has been fighting mental illness her "entire adolescence" and explains that her use of drugs and alcohol were exacerbated by her choice to attend California's Santa Clara University, where she felt even more isolated.
"When I went away to college, I didn't really do the proper mental and emotional work to prepare myself," she says. "I kind of just thought that all my problems would go away if I just got on a plane and flew 3,000 miles."
During the de Blasio campaign — which heavily featured his interesting family — reporters repeatedly asked about Chiara's struggle with addiction, but never received comment. No outlet reported the story of her substance abuse — hardly any even mentioned the name of her college. However: As we get closer to de Blasio's swearing-in as the mayor of a city with over 8 million inhabitants, Chiara's reveal of her troubled past and road to recovery (she's seeing a therapist along with other steps) is brave… but not that surprising.
In the media, it's always better to tell your own story than have someone else report it for you, especially if the details may be unfavorable. But when dealing with teenagers — especially young people grappling with serious issues like addiction and depression — timing is everything. It's understandable that de Blasio camp was open about their family issues, but not so transparent so as to make Chiara's personal problems become a media circus. (It's worth noting that Chiara's paternal grandfather was an alcoholic and committed suicide.) Putting it out there at the end of the year — before the family is installed in Gracie mansion — is a smart move. New year, fresh start, no skeletons in the closet. Plus, as Liz Robbins points out in the New York Times, Christmas encourages people to be kind towards their fellow man. From a publicist's perspective, it's a good time to share not-great news.
As Chiara said in a press conference on the steps of her parent's Brooklyn home this week: "I hope that everybody watches the video. I think it speaks for itself." Because it's not just an expertly-timed admission and politically shrewd orchestration — it's a chance for families to draw strength from her example of struggle and redemption.