Celebrities and Bipolar Disorder

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • Speculation about bipolar disorder in celebrities has been in the news lately, and we at DBSA are often asked by the media if we think so-and-so could have this illness. We don't support speculation about anyone's diagnosis, believing that this is a matter best discussed in the privacy of a doctor-patient relationship. Bipolar disorder is a very tricky illness, and while it may seem clear to us, there could be many, many reasons for someone's behavior which are completely unrelated to any mental illness.


    There are celebrities who have spoken openly about their diagnoses: Maurice Benard, Patty Duke, Jane Pauley, Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, Margot Kidder. Actor Maurice Bernard came out about his bipolar disorder and actually had the writers put that in his character's story line on General Hospital. The decision that celebrities make to speak publicly about their illness is a difficult one. It took 25 years for anchorwoman Jane Pauley to talk publicly about her bipolar disorder.

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    Recovery is personal for everyone, celebrity or not, and is built on our own journey to wellness. Our family and friends may help push us along the road, but the consumer community as a whole objects strongly to forced treatment of any kind. Pushing a diagnosis in the media ends up being a kind of forced treatment in the minds of most mental health leaders I know. Consumers working on the national and international policy level are all in agreement that forced treatment is not a good way to help anyone move towards recovery.


    Public speculation about a diagnosis can be as hurtful to the individual and his/her wellness as any other negative media coverage. It may actually keep him/her from a diagnosis and treatment. The majority of people I talk to say it took a long time before they built up the courage to seek a diagnosis—and then, an even longer time to get treatment. This was true for me as well. Once in treatment, we usually feel a tremendous weight lifted, but the process of getting there is very private and fraught with emotion. It may actually be that public speculation about someone's diagnosis could result in his/her not seeking, or accepting, treatment.


    What is your opinion on public speculation, especially in the media, about whether someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness?


Published On: February 21, 2008