5 Celebrities with Schizophrenia

by Mike Veny Patient Advocate

In the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” Russell Crowe does a phenomenal job of depicting John Nash, a brilliant mathematician with schizophrenia.

In one scene he is sitting at the kitchen table across from his wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). His doctor sits at the head of the table leading the conversation. You can see on his face that John is confused, and his mind reeling as he tries to take in the depth of the conversation they are having. As Dr. Rosen questions him to see if he is currently seeing the people that are purely his hallucinations, his wife's eyes shift to him. She is filled with disbelief and frustration as he admits that he does. John explains that he no longer wants to be on medication for his illness because he wants to be a participant in his own life and those of his wife and baby. He believes it's possible. He cannot be convinced otherwise. You can see John’s mind processing to find a solution and his wife’s eyes searching for hope. This is the reality of schizophrenia for many.

While Crowe did a phenomenal job of acting as if he suffered from schizophrenia, he doesn't suffer from the condition in life. There are, however, many celebrities who do. Here's a quick list:

1. Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson is well-known as the genius behind the Beach Boys. In 2010 Rolling Stone listed them as #12 on their list of “100 Greatest Artists.” Most people have heard of the Beach Boys before, but not everyone has heard about the struggle that Brian Wilson had with schizophrenia.

It is believed that his schizophrenia was triggered by his use of drugs like LSD. His auditory hallucinations began while using LSD, however, they continued after his drug use stopped. This is when his doctor gave him an official diagnosis of schizophrenia. There's some debate in the medical world about whether drug use can cause schizophrenia or if it simply triggers a condition that is already present.

2. Darrell Hammond

You might know Darrell Hammond as the comedian and actor that spoofed celebrities on “Saturday Night Live.” He's played the parts of Bill Clinton, Sean Connery, Donald Trump, and Al Gore. Behind the scenes, he was fighting a battle that most people didn't know about. In an interview with CNN, he talked about being abused as a child, the source of many problems later in life. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He openly discusses the different medications he was on throughout his SNL career and that he would cut himself backstage. At one point he was taken directly from the set to a psychiatric hospital. He isn't ashamed to share his story because, as he said in the interview, "The fact is, I kept trying to get back up, and then I did."

3. Dr. John Forbes Nash

While he isn't your typical "celebrity," his name was made known through the book and movie "A Beautiful Mind," which I mentioned above. Dr. Nash was a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician. Many of his theories are still used today. He was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After being treated medically for years, Dr. Nash decided to take another approach that he describes in his autobiography. He writes, "I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation." After learning how to reject parts of his thinking that were related to schizophrenia, he claimed that he was thinking more rationally, as a scientist would think.

4. Lionel Aldridge

Former NFL player Lionel Aldridge played on defense for the Green Bay Packers and won two Super Bowls. After his NFL career ended, he became a sports broadcaster and things seemed to be going well. But when he was 33, he started to experience symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

He lost everything, including his marriage and his Super Bowl rings, and lived as a homeless man for several years. However, he eventually returned home, where friends supported him in getting the treatment that he needed. He was able to beat the mental challenges he had experienced and started speaking out to help others as well.

5. Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake was well known back in the 1940s for her role in "Sullivan's Travels." An article on Fox News called her, "one of the most sought-after pinups of World War II." It would seem that she had it all, but things fell apart for her rather quickly. She was diagnosed as a child with schizophrenia and her mental state continued to deteriorate throughout the years.

The pressure of Hollywood got the better of her. She turned to alcohol, which only added to her problems. By the age of 47, she looked decades older and had been through multiple failed marriages. In fact, the day she got her star on the Walk of Fame, there were only three people there to witness it and according to the New York Times, her memorial was not well attended.

Creating a Different Ending

As you can see, not everyone got the same ending as John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind." Some of the celebrities mentioned were able to overcome the mental health challenges and other problems that came along with it like drug abuse, homelessness, and self-harm. However, others, like Veronica Lake, could not. There are many options for treatment for disorders like schizophrenia. Getting proper treatment is the beginning of a successful recovery and living the best life possible.

Mike Veny
Meet Our Writer
Mike Veny

Mental health speaker and best-selling author Mike Veny delivers engaging presentations with raw energy and a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. He shares how he went from struggling with mental health challenges to being a thought leader that travels the globe telling his story to help transform stigma. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, corporate drumming event facilitator, author, and luggage enthusiast. Seriously, you’d completely get it if you did all the traveling he did! Mike is the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, he is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry for his work as a patient advocate.