Cara Kahn’s lifelong struggle with depression has prompted the former Real World Chicago cast member to become a national spokesperson for the disease.
Friday afternoon, Kahn spoke in the University Lecture Hall as part of her nationwide educational campaign about depression. Kahn spoke to raise awareness about the disease and to inform students that there are options for treatment.
Kahn said before her treatment, she tended to push people away and was not likely to take part in activities such as hanging out with friends. She said she was more likely to lock herself in her room and hang out alone.
Kahn, a recent graduate from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., said she accepted the role as spokeswoman because of her past experience and dedication to the cause.
“I got involved in the program because it was something I feel passionate about, and the fact that I was lucky to be diagnosed early stresses the importance of this campaign,” Kahn said.
The lack of programs that supported this issue was also one of the factors that led her to accept the position, Kahn said.
“I did some research and found that there are no programs like this on college campuses,” Kahn said. “It made me think that we needed to get the message out there, that depression is nothing to be embarrassed about and that there are options for people.”
There are various options for treatment of the disease such as group discussion, professional counseling and medications, said Kahn. She said that a combination of medications and professional therapy have worked best for her.
There are some who have criticized Kahn’s role in the program. Critics say that Kahn is simply a spokesperson for Wyeth, which produces the antidepressant Effexor that Kahn takes for her depression.
Kahn explained the company’s participation in the campaign.
“To be honest, you need someone to sponsor something like this, and their role is simply that of a sponsor,” said Kahn. “The nonprofit organizations such as the Mental Health Association don’t have the funds to put on something like this.”
Kahn said that being on The Real World helped her cope with the disease.
“Being on the show I always kept busy, so there was no real time to think about my disease,” said Kahn.
Kahn said the most difficult part of taping the show was when it was revealed that she suffered from depression. She said as a result of this, fans began to write her letters about their struggles with the disease.
“(The fans) told me that as a result of the show, they felt more comfortable once they realized that I was diagnosed with depression,” said Kahn. “That was the point that I saw the positive effect that the show could have.”
Freshman Nicole Schiavo said she wished Kahn would have revealed more about her struggle with the disease.
“I know it’s a touchy subject, but I wish she talked more about her personal experience,” Schiavo said. “It just seemed as if she was used to draw in people (to this event).”
Schiavo said the most important thing she learned in the lecture was that USF has a lot of programs to help those who are suffering from the disease.