When Andrew Solomon, then 31, fell into a deep depression in 1994, his father's life changed immediately and immeasurably. Howard Solomon, the head of a modest drug company in New York City called Forest Laboratories Inc. (FRX
), brought Andrew to live with him the day his son started taking medication. At first, says Howard, "I didn't understand what Andrew was suffering, that he was really ill. I told him, `Cheer up, hang in there, it will pass.' Andrew made me understand. We were fortunate that he could articulate his terror." Howard, 67 at the time, became Andrew's nurse, advocate, companion. He woke Andrew every morning, assuring his son the hopelessness would fade; he ate dinner with Andrew every night, cutting up his son's food when Andrew couldn't.
In this way, the Solomons could be any parent and child brought together by a serious illness. What sets them apart is how the experience transformed both them and the company that Howard Solomon has run for the past two and a half decades. Solomon is remarkably reserved, a lawyer by training, a man used to going about his business unnoticed. But now his professional and personal lives, once as separate as any chief executive's could be, are intertwined. All too familiar with the harrowing nature of depression and impressed by the efficacy of some medications for it, Howard sought to license a popular European antidepressant that was unavailable in the U.S. It was a decision that would change the fortunes of Forest. Andrew, who emerged from the worst of his melancholy after several months, went on to write an agonizingly intimate book about the disease. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression was published in June, 2001, and won the National Book Award for nonfiction. He concludes with this thought: "Curiously enough, I love my depression. I do not love experiencing my depressionI love who I am in the wake of it."