By Zach Arnold | April 11, 2011
Once upon time, he was a rat-faced commentator and heel in professional wrestling. Today, Mauro Ranallo is the lead MMA announcer (when Gus Johnson isn’t around) on Showtime broadcasts. Mauro knows a thing or two about managing, talking, and playing the role he’s given on television.
On Monday, a former wrestling manager named Larry Sweeney reportedly took his own life at age 29. He suffered from mental health issues that were covered extensively in media circles. The sad announcement of Sweeney’s death gave Mauro a chance on his Monday radio show to talk about a condition he has been managing for many years now – Bi-Polar Affective Disorder.
“I know that my nickname, and some people might think that it’s a joke but it is not, I call myself The Bi-Polar Rock ‘n Roller, I’ve actually been called that in the past and… it’s the truth. I am someone who suffers from Bi-Polar Affective Disorder. Any of you who have seen my interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani knows what I’ve had to deal with throughout my life and one of the reasons I did that interview in August of last year was to try to convey to people that, yes, mental illness is a reality and, yes, people can actually function and at a very high level while suffering from it. Has it always been easy? No. Have I gone through trials and tribulations? Have I hit proverbial rock bottom in my life? Yes. But I also had a very strong family background. Tremendous friends. And a love and understanding of not only what it is that I feel I’m put on Earth to do which is stuff like I’m doing right now and being afforded the ability and the opportunity to do what I would do for absolutely free. I’ve said it many times and I know not only my career has saved my life but, again, the fact that people who are close to me in my inner circle have gone out of their way to learn, to educate themselves on mental illness. Has society done a good job of educating people on it? Not necessarily. I think there is still very much a stigma attached and that is why there is a very high suicide rate for those who suffer from mental illness, and unfortunately today, it’s claimed yet another victim.
“I can’t say that I knew Larry Sweeney on any other basis other than professionally. I met him in person a few times. I always thought he was very similar to me in many ways, coming from a pro-wrestling background, beginning as a very young manager. He had the gift of the gab. Was a very creative person and unfortunately Larry Sweeney had his own personal demons. I know that he suffered from mental illness. I know that he suffered from Bi-Polar Affective Disorder.”
Mauro says he chose to speak out about the mental condition he tries to manage with medication in hopes that he can raise awareness and combat the negative stigma those who suffer from the condition have to deal with publicly.
“The fact that a lot of times because it is an invisible, for the most part, disease when I say that is we’re not in the wheelchair, and again this is not to malign, degrade anyone with a physical or mental handicap. I’m just saying that coming from all walks of life, everyone has a blue day. Everyone goes through a depression up-and-down. But there is a difference between that and being clinically depressed or being diagnosed with a chemical imbalance. It is like someone with Diabetes who has to take an insulin injection every day to survive. I now, for the past eight years, have committed myself to taking my medication in the morning. Did I want to at one time? No, of course not. None of us want to be labeled. No one wants to admit that there is a problem. But that’s the way it is and it’s a legitimate illness.
“And, to me, it really I guess because it does hit so close to home, it almost wants me to make me stand up on my soap box even here on this radio show that I have and tell people out there and I know that my interview with Ariel Helwani really did strike a chord with a lot of people. There is someone out there to help you. I wish I could help each and every person that is suffering with a form of mental health or Bi-Polar disorder. If it takes you e-mailing me, firstname.lastname@example.org, hit me up at Twitter at mauroranallo and let me see what I can do because one of the reasons I just, you know, started getting more involved in this is that, again, I was there. I was in the darkest moments, in a bed, in a psychiatric ward by myself, four concrete walls, no windows. I spent three months in a psychiatric ward in my 20s thinking that not only my career but my life was over. But again, by the grace of God or whatever entity you want to choose to believe in, I’m here and my career I cannot ask for more. I could not ask for more success. So, please, I don’t want this to turn into a melodrama thing or whatever, I’m just saying we’ve lost yet another one. If it takes you to reach out to me for help, I will do so. There are many, many different organizations around North America, wherever you’re listening. Mental health issue does not have to be a death sentence.”