WASHINGTON — As more Americans struggle with depression and anxiety, the cast of “The West Wing” teamed up with the Biden administration on Thursday to share a simple message: You are not alone.
The all-star cast of the drama series who, even years after it aired, maintain a strong fan base, joined a panel discussion with the White House to share their stories of childhood abuse, isolation during COVID-19, and struggles to help their children navigate the anxiety-provoking world of social media.
Through it all, five ‘The West Wing’ cast members said talking to friends, family and even each other helped them get through their darkest moments.
“Community is the key to all of this,” said actor Martin Sheen, who served as president of the United States on the drama series.
Actor Bradley Whitford, who played the president’s deputy chief of staff on the TV show, has spoken publicly about a female teacher he said was “physically, grossly inappropriate” with him decades ago when she was in the sixth grade. .
“I knew it had happened, but I didn’t know how to talk about it,” Whitford said. “I was able to find a very, very safe space to talk about it. I’ll never get rid of the fact that this thing happened to me, but giving it a name, giving it a perspective, has allowed me not to be a prisoner of it yet.
Whitford and her castmates urged other Americans who are struggling with their mental health to also lean into their tough times. About 4 in 10 US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression last year, a trend that took a turn for the worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zooming in from the set of ‘The Wonder Years’ reboot, actor Dulé Hill said he has struggled with isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important that we all continue to be committed to each other, to see each other and our humanity,” Hill said. “I can still feel isolated and alone. But I want you to know that you are not alone. I am not alone and together we will lead the way to our brightest tomorrow.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reminded those who tune in to the talk that they can also call the newly launched 988 hotline to speak to someone when they’re grappling with thoughts of suicide, crisis or depression.
The three-digit 988 line connects callers with qualified mental health counselors. The federal government has provided more than $280 million to help states build the system.