Newman Basketball Coach And Wife Recount His Struggle With Depression--And His Return To 'Normal'

Feb 17, 2017

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. Two-thirds of adults with depression do not receive any treatment, and depressive disorders are the cause of more than two-thirds of suicides each year.

The head basketball coach at Newman University in Wichita was able to successfully combat the disorder and get back out on the court.

Fifty-three-year-old Mark Potter has been coaching basketball for 30 years, almost as long as he’s been married to his wife, Nanette.

About 12 years ago, Mark experienced a significant dark episode that he couldn’t shake. He says he remembers feeling early symptoms of depression while he was eating out with his team.

"I didn’t feel the same as I normally would at the beginning of a season and something was bothering me more than normal," he says. "I [sat] there and nibbled at my food, and it was kind of a time I kind of lost my appetite, too, just did not have that same will to eat like I normally do, like a normal person does. And I remember like it was yesterday, sitting there thinking, 'Man, what’s going on here?'"

He says things spiraled out of control from there.

Mark Potter and his wife, Nanette, in a photo taken during a vacation.
Credit Courtesy

"I realized that something was wrong, but when you are a head coach, you are a husband and a father, the last thing you want to do is let somebody else know you may have a weakness. And I didn’t really know what was going on, I just knew it wasn’t right," he says. "My wife finally said, 'Wow, what’s going on with you? This is not like you to be at home.' That obviously made her a nervous wreck when she came home and saw me laying on the couch and that probably was a day before she decided, OK, it’s time to get you into the doctor and we’ve got to get this thing taking care of."

Dr. Matthew Macaluso.
Credit wichita.kumc.edu

Mark was diagnosed with depression. Specifically, his levels of serotonin--a chemical that helps maintain mood balance--were dropping.

Depression is no different than having diabetes or heart disease, says Dr. Matthew Macaluso, psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita. "It’s a medical condition and it's treatable with medication or psychotherapy," he says.

Mark has been on the same medication for 10 years; he says he was lucky to find one that worked on the first try. He says he's come back to "normal," and he and his wife encourage others experiencing depression that they can do the same.

"I know that there are so many people out there that if they will just go take the first step and get the help, that it will happen," Mark says.

Hear Mark's full story above.

--

Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.