What is it about famous people with our illnesses? It’s always amazing to me how reassuring we seem to find it when we can hold up a list of famous people and say "See, they have it too." Somehow, we feel more "normal"… more "acceptable."
Research actually shows that knowing someone “like a neighbor or friend” is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate the stigma associated with our illnesses. So, we actually do more good by just being ourselves than by associating with famous people. Research also shows that stories of normal people overcoming illnesses are more effective than stories of celebrities doing the same. After all, celebrities"”it is to be assumed"”have more access to the best treatment, no matter the cost. But normal folks like you and me… that’s more hopeful.
But, for what it’s worth, I too am thrilled to know I have something in common with someone famous"”even if it is the thing I struggle with the most in my life. So, here’s a list of my 10 favorite famous people who have also struggled with a mood disorder (in no particular order):
- Patty Duke, actress
I actually got to meet her, and she is the nicest person in the entire world. So gracious and so committed to doing what she can to help others with our illnesses.
- Buzz Aldrin, U.S. astronaut
C’mon… an astronaut? How cool is THAT
- Tennessee Williams, writer
Every time I see one of his plays, I am just enthralled for days afterwards. How did he portray so much in so few words?
Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne and actress
Rosie O’Donnell, comedienne and actress
Love these women. Smart, funny and brave… what could be better?
Gordon Sumner (Sting), musician
Has to be the coolest of the cool.
- Abraham Lincoln, U.S. president
The more I read about him, the more I respect him.
- Danny Kaye, comedian
Jim Carrey, actor and comedian
I couldn’t decide between these two funny, smart, creative men so I chose them both!
- Harrison Ford, actor
Carrie Fisher, actress
Hey, I had no choice here… Star Wars is my all-time favorite movie.
If understanding celebrities’ journeys and how they coped with their illnesses is something that interests you, you may want to join me to listen to Kathy Cronkite talk about her book, On the Edge of Darkness: Conversations about Conquering Depression. It has received wide acclaim for its informative and eloquent treatment of mental illness. In writing the book, Cronkite interviewed celebrities who suffer from depression including Mike Wallace, Joan Rivers, Dick Clark, Kitty Dukakis, Rod Steiger and Rona Barrett. She’ll be keynoting this August at the DBSA 2007 National Conference, Making the Recovery Connection.
In the meantime, for more insights on famous people, you may want to journey over to John McManamy’s website (he’ll also be speaking at the conference in August). He has some wonderful essays posted at http://www.mcmanweb.com/famous_people.htm.
John’s book, _Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder,_is one of my all-time favorites on our illnesses. Which I guess makes him another name to add my list of favorite famous people!
To read about more about celebrities and mental health, check out Celebrities and Depression.