Former Local 10 reporter shares mental health story to help others

Mark Joyella blogs about issue, recently hosted TED Talk

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The stigma of mental illness can carry so much shame that many are forced to suffer in silence. Add that to someone in public life, and the fear is compounded.

No one knows that better than former Local 10 News reporter Mark Joyella, who spoke to Local 10's Neki Mohan for the latest installment of our weeklong series, "To Save a Life."

In the late 1990's, Joyella often led our newscasts, reporting on the big story. 

He was always polished and professional, but under that on-air facade, he was dealing with a dark reality.

"At that time, I was sick," he said. "I had mental illness that was undiagnosed and untreated, and I didn't fully understand what was wrong. But I knew something was wrong, and I tried to get it out and keep going."

Joyella also worked side by side with Local 10's Todd Tongen, who took his own life this month.

"Having known Todd and worked with him for several years and treasuring the time I was able to know him, it broke my heart," Joyella said. 

Joyella is speaking about his own struggle so we can have some understanding of how someone so put together on TV, like Todd, could be falling apart inside and keeping it secret. 

Joyella said fear of being called weak or crazy controlled him.

"If I say I am just paralyzed by fear all the time, I am terrified everyday all day long, they are going to think I am the person that shouldn't be put as the lead story for the 6 p.m. news. That's not what I wanted. I had to keep it all to myself," Joyella said. 

The toll from keeping it all in led him down a dark road.

"I did things and had experiences that could have killed me, but I would not have asked for help," Joyella said. "It was a secret -- a secret I kept from everyone, including my family, and it just got worse."

Eventually, a news story about mental illness made him get help. It's a subject he now blogs about and recently discussed on a TED Talk.

Joyella speaks especially to journalists, who are often side by side with first responders on tragic stories.

"If you work long hours and a few days later you can't shake the sadness, we don't feel it's OK to say, 'I'm going to go talk to somebody,'" Joyella said.

Now a respected writer and corporate communications expert, the father of two girls has long left the shame of his disease behind and hopes talking on his struggle and Todd's helps save others.

"Call me crazy if you want, but I am not going to live in a closet of mental illness," Joyella said. "The sadness is you will always look back and think about 'what could I have done for someone like Todd?'"