Former KCAL Reporter Melissa McCarty opened up about her teenage years and her brother’s mental illness in a new book called “News Girls Don’t Cry.”
McCarty spent five years writing the book while working at CBS KCAL 9. The process was time-consuming but also therapeutic, she said.
“I knew the story had to be told because it was unique,” she said.
McCarty said there was a lot of darkness in her relationship with her brother growing up in the East Bay area. Her brother was bipolar and an alcoholic and had severe social phobias. At a young age, he started hanging out with the wrong people and became involved in a gang.
One reason McCarty wrote the book was to raise awareness about mental illness. Her brother was not diagnosed bipolar until he was almost 30.
“When he was diagnosed, he was relieved. It was like a burden had lifted because he had answers and solutions,” she said.
McCarty, who dedicated the book to her brother, had to deal with the guilt of not recognizing her brother’s struggles earlier in life.
“My brother gave me clear warning signs growing up of some of the turmoil he was going through,” she said. “When I look back on those, I’m ashamed I was so dumb and naive to not pick up on what he was saying.”
McCarty said she also was lost for much of her teen years, and she had to overcome personal loss. Before she turned 19, she attended the funerals of two friends who were murdered.
“Two of my friends were murdered, and on my 19th birthday, someone was stabbed at my birthday party,” she said. ‘That’s when I realized – literally scrubbing this stranger’s blood off my floor at a birthday party – it’s not possible this is my life.”
McCarty said she began exploring her life and what she needed to do to change its direction. She realized she had to make dramatic changes to turn her life around, and eventually, her brother did as well.
She believes her experiences have made her a more compassionate storyteller. When talking to people who feel trapped in their environment or who are dealing with a mentally ill loved one, she can relate and knows what questions to ask.
In the book, she writes about receiving a suicide attempt call from her brother as she was walking in the room to interview the mayor. She said reporters have to put aside their emotions.
“You have to know that what’s happening when you show up, especially at the level of Southern California, is always bigger than you,” she said. “You just need to bury whatever you need to bury to shed light or tell this story.”
McCarty speaks to aspiring journalists regularly at CSUN. She tells them about the dead bodies she has seen and the importance of remaining emotionally strong when arriving at a crime scene or talking to victims’ families. Despite the long hours and emotionally draining stories, it can also be exciting, she said.
er book is available on Amazon