BOSTON — Sen. Bob Antonioni, of Leominster will soon be talking about a secret he has been keeping for years– that he has been battling depression. A 18 year politician and well-respected member of the Senate Antonioni also serves as chairman of the education committee. The revelation came after a family tragedy seven years ago when his brother, John, 29, committed suicide. Antonioni said his family had no warning. “Everybody loved him and I think it was all the more reason it was a shock. What I think many had believed was moodiness, was really more than that,” Antonioni said. The incident forced Antonioni to look inside himself, and others noticed periods of debilitating lows. “Just after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, I got Sports Illustrated and I got the video of the season, and I could remember looking back at each game and remembering how I felt on that game, at the time of that game,” he said. “You just didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning or you would find yourself wanting to breakdown, you know.” Antonioni takes daily medication and sees a therapist each week. “I’m great but I’ve learned there are things I’ve got to do. I don’t drink much alcohol. I’ve learned that is a depressant. I’ve also learned that I’ve got to get my sleep,” he said.
Antonioni has also turned the illness into activism. One year after his brother’s death, he persuaded legislators to appropriate $500,000 in suicide prevention money. But he said there is much more to do. “As a senator, I probably have one of the best health care plans in the state, and I’ll tell you what — counseling for me, long term, isn’t covered by my insurance plan, so that should tell you something,” he said.
Antonioni said he’s participating in the announcements for the National Alliance For the Mentally Ill hoping if people see him step forward, maybe they can begin to talk about their struggles, too. “There’s such a predisposition not to want to discuss it, to hide it. The problem is, when you hide it, you don’t deal with it and it just compounds the problem,” Antonioni said.
Antonioni is currently running unopposed for re-election. He will be taking part in a walk to raise awareness for mental health issues on May 6 at Artesani Park in Brighton.