Jan Wong, Journalist and Author

EVENT DATE: May 8, 2013
TOPIC: Out of the Blue – A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness

Jan Wong, journalist and author, was the Canadian Club of Kingston’s speaker at its luncheon on Wednesday, May 8. Her topic was: “Out of the Blue,” the title of her latest book.

Jan Wong has written six books. Her latest, Out of the Blue: a Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness, was published in 2012 and recounts her struggle with depression. She spoke to the Club in 2007 about her previous book, Beijing Confidential.

Ms. Wong began her journalism career at the New York Times bureau in Beijing. She has worked for the Montreal Gazette, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, and Globe and Mail. She is currently an assistant professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton NB, and writes columns for Toronto Life and the Halifax Chronicle Herald. She has received numerous awards.

Born and raised in Montreal, Jan Wong is a third-generation Canadian and lives with her family in Toronto. She is a graduate of McGill University, Beijing University, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was one of only two Westerners at Beijing University during the Cultural Revolution. Returning to China in the late eighties as a journalist, she witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre and the tumultuous reforms under Deng Xiaoping.

Jan Wong: Her personal story on workplace depression, recovery, redemption and happiness.

May 8 2013 Kingston Canadian Club

Jan returned to address The Canadian Club of Kingston for a second time.

This time her subject was a much more personal and serious one. Jan was the Globe and Mail marquee investigative reporter, a company that employed her for more than 20 years. After writing an article about the gun attacks at Montréal’s Dawson College, she suffered public outcries, political condemnation and unfair publicity. She wrote a story that sparked a political backlash, her employer failed to support her and later silenced her, and after she became clinically depressed, they fired her.

The Globe and Mail turned on her, Doubleday her long time established publisher- within days of publishing – left her and an unresponsive bureaucratic claims department at Manulife Insurance – the holder of her group benefit plan—-kept after her to return to work and gave her ultimatums. She received no sympathy or understanding. Human resource officials at the Globe questioned her honesty.

More than any other journalist she was singularly qualified to comment on the Montreal shootings. Her ethnic background and her life in that province, unlike very few others, gave her an understanding of Quebec society and it pursuit of racial purity. Her family lived there for more than 100 years.

Peter Worthington a veteran journalist and editor in chief said that “She was an ace reporter, blending facts, analyses, perceptions and opinions arguably better than anyone in the business’ He never met Jan.

Jan made the point that depression can happen to even the toughest person. She was advised by her extensive professional medical support team that part of the road to recovery is to continue to do those things that provide some pleasure. This could be music, travel, reading or writing. Keeping busy with activities like these assist in one’s rehabilitation. Companies and the insurance companies that “insure” their employees have little understanding of depression. Jan has an engaging smile and even that was held against when she was accused of not being honest about her inability to continue to write. They questioned how she can smile if she is depressed!

Jan gave us a very expressive personal story of her depression. The Club members were impressed with the determination of this career woman and how well she was able to express her experience in the hope that others may benefit. Depression usually lasts 6 months. For Jan it was 2 years and there is often a 50% chance of a relapse.

Jan wrote a book about her experiences OUT OF THE BLUE. Because her publisher abandoned her she had to self-publish it. It is available at your popular bookstores.