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."

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13 Comments

TVFF 4 months ago
Back in the late 1980's I walked in on my roommate trying to commit suicide with gas. Mental health was not talked about as much back then as it is now. Progress is being made which is nice to see.
GNOSTICTRACY 4 months ago
I met him at a pizza restaurant and he seemed sympathetic when someone asked me was my life like the Cleavers? I said no my mother was put in an asylum at my age of 5.My father divorced her after commiting her. I did not know at the time he was an advocate.
jholton30062 4 months ago
He's absolutely right: Millions of people have some kind of mental health issue, whether it's depression, bipolarity or something more serious. The thing to remember is that it can be treated with medication, and you can do a lot for yourself through getting enough sleep, eating a proper diet, exercise, sunlight, meditation etc. Your doctor knows your general health and can make recommendations.

There used to be a stigma associated with mental health issues, and as a result people didn't discuss them. It's still an issue, but as more people learn about it, it's not as prevalent.
obectionoverruled 4 months ago
If June Cleaver had been my mother, I’d have checked into a nuthouse myself! Good grief he the Beav couldn’t even enter the front or back door of their house without nosy old June blocking their way, pestering them with every question on earth about where they’d been, with whom they were, what are you doing next, how did you get that mud on your pants, and did you call Mary Ellen Rogers about taking her to the football dance Saturday night. Mom would take off that stupid cocktail dress, ditch the high heels and hang up the pearl necklace, for God’s sake - it’s Tuesday afternoon. You’re driving me crazy!
I thought I was the only one who thought Mrs. Cleaver was a bit of a "busybody" at times. The episode that sealed it for me. When she made Wally & Beaver stay home, after a planned day at the carnival with their friends, in order to entertain "Aunt Martha"
Runeshaper 4 months ago
Mental health is so important! Taking care of others is FANTASTIC, but taking care of oneself is very critical.
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legofonzie mhc 4 months ago
well put!! very glad to see someone actually educated on this matter :)
mhc 4 months ago
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pony obectionoverruled 4 months ago
I can think of worse "personal weaknesses."
This absolutely has to be the worst comment I've ever seen. You may be lucky enough to never have experienced issues of your own. However to minimalize this with such ridiculously simple solution to a complex problem makes you seem rude an uneducated. It's precisely these attitudes that keep mental issues and their sufferers from getting the attention deserved. Simple solution. Smh. You may have no mental illness but you're certainly mentally challenged.
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