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Facts & Myths
Throughout history, famous people who have had a serious mental illness have enriched our lives.
A defensive end for Vince Lombardi’s legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, Aldridge played in two Super Bowls. In the 1970’s, he suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for two and a half years. Until his death in 1998, he gave inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia. His story is the subject of numerous newspaper articles.
Ludwig van Beethoven
The brilliant composer experienced bipolar disorder, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.
“Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished,” wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill’s bipolar disorder in Churchill’s Black Dog, Kafka’s Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.
One of the greatest authors in the English language suffered from clinical depression, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb, and Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph by Edgar Johnson.
The famous opera singer suffered from bipolar disorder, as documented in Donizetti and the World Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century by Herbert Weinstock.
The Academy Award-winning actress told of her bipolar disorder in her autobiography and made-for-TV movie Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, co-authored by Gloria Hochman.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s suicidal depression is examined in the True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him by Denis Brian.
The renowned poet’s mental illness is documented in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Broken Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry by Nancy Andreasen, M.D.
The Gone with the Wind star suffered from mental illness, as documented in Vivien Leigh: A Biography by Ann Edwards.
The revered sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating depression that occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies by Carl Sandburg.
The mental illness of one of the world’s greatest artistic geniuses is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.
The scientist’s mental illness is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.
The dancer’s battle with schizophrenia is documented in his autobiography, The Diary of Vaslov Nijinksy.
The famous playwright, author of Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, suffered from clinical depression, as documented in Eugene O’Neill by Olivia E. Coolidge.
The “inspired poet of human suffering” experienced bipolar disorder, as discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.
Author of War and Peace, Tolstoy revealed the extent of his own mental illness in the memoir Confession. His experiences is also discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Inner World of Mental Illness: A Series of First Person Accounts of What It Was Like by Bert Kaplan.
The baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who suffered from bipolar disorder detailed his experience in The Truth Hurts.
The poet and novelist ended her lifelong struggle with clinical depression by taking own life, as reported in A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath by Nancy Hunter-Steiner.
Vincent Van Gogh
The celebrated artist’s bipolar disorder is discussed in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb and Dear Theo, The Autobiography of Van Gogh.
The playwright gave a personal account of his struggle with clinical depression in his own Memoirs. His experience is also documented in Five O’Clock Angel: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just, 1948-1982; The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto, and Tennessee: Cry of the Heart by Dotson.
The British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando experienced the mood swings of bipolar disorder characterized by feverish periods of writing and weeks immersed in gloom. Her story is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.