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First lady Chirlane McCray details daughter's bout with mental illness, drugs

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waves

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waves to the crowd on the day he took his oath of office with his family Chiara de Blasio, second from left, Dante de Blasio, center, right, and Chirlane McCray on the steps of City Hall in New York. Credit: AP

New York City's first lady Chirlane McCray in a TV interview described the revelation two years ago that her daughter was struggling with mental illness and substance abuse as a "painful moment."

"Even now when I think about it, I just -- it just fills me with, with sadness," McCray told WABC-TV in a segment that aired Sunday. "I wanted to cry because I knew she was suffering, but I had no idea that it was so serious and there was . . . an actual diagnosis."

McCray said she was sitting on a bed next to Chiara, now 20, when the college student told her, " 'Mom, I've been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and addiction.' "

The first lady, who this year has stepped up her advocacy of mental health awareness, spoke on WABC-TV's "Up Close" with anchor Sade Baderinwa in one of her most extensive interviews since her husband, Bill de Blasio, became mayor in January 2014. Chiara, a student at Santa Clara University in California, went public with her struggles in a video her parents put out on Christmas Eve 2013.

De Blasio added $78.3 million in new funding in his executive budget for mental health initiatives in the city, including services at shelters for runaways and homeless youths.

McCray said she and her daughter never discussed which drugs the teenager was taking. "I think there are some things she doesn't tell Mom. . . . Certainly, marijuana was one of them," McCray said.

Chiara had dramatic mood swings, McCray said. "I didn't know which Chiara I would greet in the morning," she said.

McCray, chair of the nonprofit Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, said she sought help and treatment for her daughter by making calls and doing Internet research because there were "no established steps to follow."

Chiara is now on the path to recovery, McCray said. The first daughter has received awards for spreading mental health awareness.

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