Living with mental illness can be challenging, there’s no doubt about that. However, everyone experiences each diagnosis and condition very differently. For example, living with mental illness might lead you to believe or others to observe you’re more empathetic, more attuned to other people’s feelings, more aware of how difficult life can be and more aware of the strength it takes to be human.
People in the public eye are often celebrated for their acting skills, leadership qualities, musical abilities, artistic prowess or sporting achievements. But ahead of World Bipolar Day (30 March), MQ would like to celebrate celebrities and historical figures who’ve gone public with their diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
One of the most famous examples of a celebrity with bipolar disorder and one all the Jedis out there will know and love, is British actress and writer Carrie Fisher. Fisher, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early 1980s. She first went public with her diagnosis in the mid-1990s and was a vocal advocate for mental health awareness and treatment throughout her career. Fisher’s struggles with bipolar disorder informed her work positively, as she wrote several books and one-woman shows that explored her experiences with the condition. If you, like Carrie, experience mental health distress, may The Force be with you in your ongoing journey of mental well-being.
Music is well-known to help with mental health distress so it’s no wonder some musicians have experience of mental illness. Demi Lovato, an American singer and actress, has also been open about her struggles with bipolar disorder. She was diagnosed in 2011 and has used her platform to advocate for mental health awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding the condition.
Fans become fans of public figures for different reasons, and one reason could be the inspiration they give to others to seek help. Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Welsh actress who first went public with her bipolar II disorder diagnosis in 2011. She sought treatment at a mental health facility in Connecticut and has since been an advocate for mental health awareness, speaking publicly about the importance of seeking treatment and getting support.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Action heroes take action, but when those heroes also go public about their mental illness, it inspires others to take action towards improving their mental health management too. Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has spoken about his experiences with the condition in interviews and has credited medication and therapy for helping him manage it.
While the condition may include emotional highs and lows, not many can contend with the highs and lows of the vocal range of our next celebrity. Mariah Carey is an American singer, songwriter, and actress who has been open about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001 and had been receiving treatment ever since. Carey has been an advocate for mental health awareness and has encouraged others to seek help if they are struggling with mental health issues.
One of the most well-known personalities in the public eye to be open about his mental health challenges is Stephen Fry. The English actor, writer, and comedian has been open about his bipolar disorder diagnosis. Fry was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the 1990s and has since become a prominent advocate for mental health awareness. He has written and spoken extensively about his experiences with the condition and has encouraged others to seek help if they are struggling with mental health issues.
Vincent Van Gogh
We’ve noted a few celebrities with diagnosed bipolar disorder, but looking back historically a number of impressive and exciting figures may have had the condition as well. Artist Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh, who lived in the late 19th century, was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his lifetime, but many historians and medical experts believe that he exhibited symptoms of either bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or a combination of both. Van Gogh’s work often displays intense emotional expression, which some researchers have attributed to his potential bipolar diagnosis.
Named as the most important Britain in a survey in recent years, Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He is also well-known for describing ‘The Black Dog’ of depression and seems to have experienced bipolar disorder throughout his life. His episodes of mania and depression fuelled his creativity and helped him make some of the most important decisions of his political career.
Another famous leader and political mind who is widely believed to have had bipolar disorder is the French military strategist, Napoleon. Known to be highly intelligent with a strong personality he won victories on the battlefield and won the admiration of people away from war too with his knowledge of geography, history and mathematics. Many historians believe he may have had bipolar disorder for many reasons including a potential connection between the condition and high levels of intellect.
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Other musicians have been named in this list but a less recent example of musical ability potentially linked to bipolar disorder is the incredible mind of Beethoven. Known to have experienced deafness from an early age which did not hold him back from creating musical works of genius, historians believe he also experienced bipolar disorder. He is widely known to have had suicide ideation and intense experience of emotions which can be felt through his compositions.
While bipolar disorder affects an estimated 2.8% of adults worldwide, these celebrities and historical figures are just some examples of people living or who are thought to have lived with the condition. So if you or someone you know live with this or any other mental health condition, with the right support and treatment, you or they may just achieve whatever it is you believe you can.
For more on personal stories about what’s it’s like to live with Bipolar Disorder please take a look at these further MQ articles:
The post World Bipolar Day: 10 Notable People With Bipolar Disorder first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.