In his first public statement since March, the former Florida gubernatorial candidate admitted he struggled with his mental health after losing the election to Republican Ron DeSantis in 2018.
“I had totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had had on my life and on the way those impacts started to show up in every aspect of my life,” Gillum said. “I didn’t want to talk emotionally or really deeply about what had happened in the race for governor because it was a constant reminder of failure and my own personal failures. It was a reminder that I had let so many people down.”
Gillum, 40, “numbed” the pain from depression with alcohol and threw himself into his work. It all came to a head on the morning of March 13, when he was found heavily intoxicated in a South Beach hotel with two other men. Police seized three bags of crystal meth from the scene. No one was arrested. Two days later, Gillum announced he was going to rehab.
In this week’s video, Gillum expressed a desire to break a cycle of addiction that started with his father.
“Having grown up in a household where my father battled addiction to alcohol and later died from complications from that deadly addiction, I know well the toll that alcohol can take on not only the individual, but also on the family,” Gillum said.
“I know well the toll it took on my father’s dreams, on his hopes, on his ambitions,” he continued. “And I knew that if I didn’t want to recycle some of those same issues for my children that I had to do something about it and I had to do it now.”
Gillum credited support from his loved ones and therapy for helping him with his journey. He praised his wife R. Jai who “knows what I am and knows what I am not,” but she “chooses to love me anyhow.”
The former Tallahassee mayor addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and revealed his mother fought the virus “for over a month.” He also spoke on the racial tension sweeping across the country due to the high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
“I know as a Black man, you know, what it means just to have to convince people that your life has meaning, convince people that your life has purpose,” Gillum said. “Not to be set above anybody but just to be treated on a level that’s equal with everybody else around you.”
Gillum highlighted the effect systemic racism can have on mental health and encouraged the community to seek help to avoid his same mistakes.
“That’s a lot of pressure and I think it sometimes causes us to look for other ways to try to numb and put ourselves in a different mindset and do some mind shift. Y’all this thing is killing us. Depression is killing us. Suffering in silence is literally taking so many of our lives.”