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Here's her story: Maureen McCormick on her mental illness

May 20, 2009 |  1:15 pm

Personal and family secrets are contributing factors toward poor mental health, says Maureen McCormick, a star of the 1970s sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Appearing at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Assn. on Tuesday in San Francisco, McCormick described discovering her family’s history of mental illness as a child and her own reluctance to tell her daughter, now 20, about her own battles with drug addiction, bulimia and depression.

“Secrets are no good," said McCormick. "I was brought up in a family where we had so many secrets. It felt so good to let the world know I was human and suffered from depression and I wasn’t that perfect person everyone thought I was."

MMMcCormick, 52, appeared on “The Brady Bunch” from 1969 to 1974 as the sweet and popular Marcia Brady. But after the show ended, McCormick battled severe drug addiction (cocaine, quaaludes), bulimia and depression. She re-entered the TV world in 2007 appearing as a contestant on “Celebrity Fit Club,” which follows celebrities as they try to lose weight. McCormick won the contest, and talked about the link between her weight gain and depression. After the show, she realized she wanted to publicly address her mental health and addiction problems. The result was a book, published late last year, titled “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice,” and a commitment to fighting the stigma and silence that can surround mental illness.

McCormick has a horrifying family history of mental illness, from suicidal grandparents to a mentally ill mother to brothers who are schizophrenic. In her appearance at the APA, she described feelings of emotional pain and sadness that began early in her life, even before she discovered her family’s turbulent mental health history.

“I felt alone and had this deep down sadness, that I didn’t know what it was," she said. "It was this pain that didn’t go away."

McCormick appeared at the event as part of the annual "Conversations" series at the APA conference that showcases unique perspectives on mental illness from well-known people. "Conversations" is in its eighth year and, by now, it should be apparent that being wealthy and famous and admired isn’t protection against mental illness. Past speakers have included Patty Duke, Brooke Shields, Mariel Hemingway, Greg Louganis, George Stephanopoulos, Tipper Gore and Carrie Fisher.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Maureen McCormick / American Psychiatric Assn.