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Chiara de Blasio admits substance abuse

Chiara de Blasio, daughter of mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, describes her struggles with depression and substance abuse. Video courtesy of YouTube / Chiara de Blasio.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's 19-year-old daughter is a recovering alcohol and drug abuser who has battled clinical depression for her "entire adolescence," she and her parents disclosed Tuesday morning.

Chiara de Blasio reflected on her struggles in a five-minute-long video, titled "Chiara de Blasio Tells Her Story," posted Tuesday under her name on YouTube. The mayor-elect and his wife, Chirlane McCray, said in an emailed statement sent through his transition office that Chiara wanted to help "young people everywhere who face similar challenges."

Explaining her bad decisions as "bartering for equally bad outcomes," Chiara said: "I'd be like, 'Oh I won't drink,' and then I would just like smoke weed, and then I would be like, 'Oh, I'm not going to smoke weed,' and then I'd just drink." The video appeared to be professionally produced. Her comments are interspersed with piano music and graphics with statistics about substance abuse.

"It didn't start out as, like, a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me," she said.

Chiara, a student at a college in California, said she has attended an "outpatient treatment center" in New York City and sees a therapist. The outpatient treatment has been completed, a video graphic said.

"I've had depression, like clinical depression, for my entire adolescence, so that's been something that I've always dealt with," she said, and anxiety was also an issue.

"My mom was trying really hard to help me, just like any little thing she could, and my dad was doing the same, but obviously he was really busy," she said.

Although Bill de Blasio has made his family a centerpiece of his political campaigns, he has been somewhat circumspect about Chiara. There had been rumors for months -- and until Tuesday unconfirmed -- that Chiara had faced a substance abuse problem.

De Blasio aides did not respond to inquiries about the timing of the disclosure.

Veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said the revelation allows the de Blasios to tell the story on their terms -- before the beginning of the new administration and before the story surfaced in news media.

Also, it makes the family sympathetic.

"Here's a child making a comment, talking about the problems they face. Nobody kicks a kid. Therefore, this is a perfectly good thing to get in front of the story."

In the video, Chiara said: "Getting sober is always a positive thing, and it's not easy -- by no means is it easy: It's the hardest thing I've ever done."

Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, called the disclosure "quite the Christmas present."

"So many young people are struggling," Reynolds said. "For her to come out and put a human face on this is absolutely critical to what we're trying to do. It opens up the dialogue. It opens up the discussion."

Reynolds predicted that the soon-to-be first daughter's online confessional would trigger honest conversation among families during the holidays about substance abuse.

For their part, Bill de Blasio and McCray said: "Her courage to speak out demonstrates a wisdom and maturity far beyond her 19 years, and we are grateful every day for her commitment to lifting up those who need to know that they are not alone."

Within hours of the video's release, the family emerged from their Park Slope, Brooklyn, home to speak to waiting reporters. With his wife, daughter and 16-year-old Dante at his side, the mayor-elect reinforced how proud he was of Chiara. She said she hopes everyone watches the video and that it speaks for itself. They took no questions.

By early evening, the YouTube video has been viewed more than 34,000 times.

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