Tony Dow used his fame to start an important conversation about mental health
Dow was an advocate.
While Tony Dow was able to achieve an enormous level of fame at a relatively young age, it doesn't mean that he was immune to every plight and issue that can affect a person. However, Dow was able to utilize his fame to put it to some good use and address an important issue: mental health.
Mental health problems afflict more people than you might think. Moreover, they're not something that is assigned to a set group of people; someone with mental health problems like depression can be of any age or class.
For someone like Tony Dow to struggle with his mental health is demonstrative of this fact. Fans' expectations might be that because Dow was a star, he ostensibly had nothing to worry about, and thus no reason to be depressed. Alternatively, a viewer of Leave It To Beaver might assume that Wally's upbeat nature and lifestyle was exactly how Dow existed when the cameras were off.
It's precisely these assumptions that should be forgotten, as the conversation would be better served hearing from brave speakers like Dow who are open about their struggles. In an interview with the Knight-Ridder News Service, Dow was able to make light of the assumptions. He stated, "I realize there's a perceived irony about this. You know, the fact that I was in a TV program that epitomized the supposed ideal world of the '50s, and here I'm suffering from depression." However, Dow wasn't alone. He continued, "I'm just one of millions."
While Dow was clear that his depression was a predominantly inherited issue and said, "It was an illness prevalent on my mother's side of the family," he was careful to explore the role of his famed series and its impact on his mental health. He said, "Certainly Leave It to Beaver had something to do with it. Certainly, it had something to do with raising one's expectations and establishing certain criteria that you could expect to continue in life."
Dow was involved in the mental health movement, including making an appearance during a congressional commission as an advocate for funding for the National Institute for Mental Health's D/ART program, which stands for Depression/Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment.
While speaking up about these issues can be jarring, Dow knew that it was his duty to become a speaker for the movement. In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, he said, "It's one of those subjects that has been kept in a closet and in dark corners."