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Dr. Bennet Omalu on His Relationship with Depression

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An interview with Bennet Omalu, M.D., M.B.A., MPH, CPE, DABP-AP, CP, FP, NP

Music by Expwy

A transcript of the video is below.

So growing up, I struggled with depression and low self-esteem, very, very low self-esteem. It was unbelievable. And so, in the darkness of my loneliness, I discovered the power of education and knowledge. So to make up for my sense of inadequacy, I became very intellectually competitive.

I was 15 when I began medical school, but I turned 16 like two, three months later. But I was too young. I couldn't cope with medical school. The structure was too rigid for me. It was torture for me. So I actually dropped out of medical school. My depression got worse. But you know, sometimes in our lives, the most difficult times of your life may be your best opportunity for self-discovery.

My residency training did not expose me sufficiently to neuropathology.. So when I began forensic pathology, I discovered that a significant part of my practice as a forensic pathologist involved neuropathology. And I was a total buffoon in neuropathology, so I did not know it. I felt stimulated. And I said, you know what? Why don't I go study it? And that's what brought me to neuropathology.

And I'm glad I did that because practicing neuropathology and forensic pathology has enhanced my practice. I've given over 100 talks all around the world. And it's amazing. The single aspect of my talks, people come to me later, is the issue of depression. I was shocked.

Some come to me crying. "That you know what, I so much admire, respect you for standing on such a public platform and admitted your vulnerability. And I too am suffering from depression, but I'm so ashamed of it."

The moment I began recovering from depression was the moment I told myself, "Bennet, there is nothing wrong with you. Depression is a disease, like every other disease. It's not your fault. You most respect that and embrace it for what it is. Anybody who believes is your fault that you suffer depression is a big fool.

That was the moment I began turning around. You don't need to be ashamed of depression. You don't need to be ashamed of low self-esteem. Talk about it openly. And I think, as a society, traditionally, society is more likely to empathize with a physical disease, a physical ailment, than a psychological ailment.

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