Bob and Lee Woodruff of ABC News Honored by McLean Hospital for Furthering Public Understanding of Brain Illness and Mental Health

May 16, 2008

Adriana Bobinchock

Belmont, MA - Former ABC World News Tonight co-anchor and current foreign correspondent Bob Woodruff and his wife Lee, will be honored by Harvard affiliate McLean Hospital for their work in raising awareness of psychiatric disorders, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as traumatic brain injury (TBI), on Monday, June 2 at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

Hear Lee's moving account of overcoming depression and anxiety in the wake of Bob's brain injury and of her family's journey to recovery. (Quicktime 30 min, 55 sec, 320x240 px, 44.2 MB)

High Quality Video Clip: (Quicktime, 30 min, 55 sec, 720x480 px, 280 MB)

Flash Video Clip: (Flash, 30 min, 55 sec, 720x480 px, 118 MB)

Two years ago, while on assignment in Iraq, the lives of Bob Woodruff and his family changed forever when an improvised explosive device detonated near the armored vehicle in which Bob was traveling. Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury and nearly lost his life. The bomb's devastation proved to be more than physical, however, and it had a life-changing impact on the entire Woodruff family.

After Bob's physical condition stabilized and he was able to return home, he embarked on a grueling mental and physical recovery from TBI and PTSD, while his wife Lee, an ABC News contributor, fought situational depression.

Lee recently began speaking publicly about the emotional roller coaster she experienced while Bob was in recovery and the depression that ensued as a result of living day-by-day in limbo, not knowing the final outcome of Bob's recovery.

David Barlow, Lee Woodruff and Scott Rauch, M.D.

Lee Woodruff, joined by David Barlow, Chairman of the McLean Board of Trustees (on left) and Scott Rauch, M.D., President and Psychiatrist in Chief of McLean Hospital and Chair of Partners Psychiatry and Mental Health (on right).

(click image to enlarge)

"While Bob was in the hospital, fighting for his life, I was running on adrenaline-my 'inner general' was in charge," Lee said. "Once he came home, and the long-term healing began, I would wake up everyday not knowing whether or not I would ever get my husband back. The stress of that uncertainty developed into depression for me."

Lee's depression manifested in midnight panic attacks.

"I knew I was in uncharted waters. I knew something was wrong; I was sobbing a lot and worried about what would happen to my little family. I felt the pressure of the world on my shoulders and I didn't know what to do," she explained.

Lee mentioned her anxiety attacks and feelings of despair to one of her husband's physicians, who diagnosed her with situational depression and prescribed an antidepressant. Soon after taking the medication and engaging in talk therapy, Lee began to feel relief. She openly talks about her experience in hopes of raising awareness so that others will not suffer in silence or with the fear of stigma.

"Even though it's a common problem, there's still a real fear about being labeled and about medication. That's what we're trying to get out there - that this is a problem that is manageable with proper therapy. That you're not alone."

The Woodruffs have become national advocates for veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI and their families. In their New York Times best-selling book "In An Instant," the couple provides a frank and compelling chronicle of their lives after the explosion and shed light on the epidemic of TBI and PTSD now experienced by many returning soldiers nationwide.

McLean Hospital President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott Rauch, MD, is impressed with the Woodruff's perseverance and willingness to reach out to others, both personally and through The Bob Woodruff Family Fund, a foundation that works with private industry and government to support excellence in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and resources for injured veterans.

"As a center for psychiatric excellence, McLean wanted to publicly recognize how greatly we value the Woodruffs for speaking openly about their personal experiences: Bob, about the psychological challenges he faced following traumatic brain injury, and Lee, about the depression she encountered after her husband's injury."

The McLean Award, bestowed annually to honor individuals who have made great strides in raising awareness of psychiatric illness, will be presented to the Woodruffs, with Lee accepting on their behalf, on Monday, June 2 during a cocktail reception and dinner at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

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