Mental Health Awareness

Famous people with mental illness…
December 24, 2008, 1:02 pm
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Famous People with Mental Illness

Mental Illness is not confined to any particular ethnic, racial, religious, or financial group. Anyone can get it, at any time.

Even though most mental illnesses have devastating effects on the lives of those affected, many have found that these illnesses can produce extraordinary clarity, insight, and creativity as well.

Below you will find the names of many famous people who felt not only the devastation, but also the extraordinary creative potential, as well as the courage to use it. It’s quite a list. Please take the time to browse it thoroughly.

Abraham Lincoln
The admired sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating clinical depression which sometimes led to thoughts of suicide as well.
Virginia Woolf
The British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando experienced the severe mood swings of bipolar disorder which included feverish periods of writing and weeks spent in the gloom of depression. Anthony Storr wrote about her story in The Dynamics of Creation .
Lionel Aldridge
As a defensive end for the legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, he played in two Super Bowls. During the 1970’s, he suffered from schizophrenia and spent two and a half years homeless. Before he died in 1998, he gave many inspirational talks concerning his battle against paranoid schizophrenia.
Eugene O’Neill
The famous playwright, author of Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, is documented as having suffered from clinical depression.
Ludwig van Beethoven
The brilliant composer is documented as having suffered from bipolar disorder, in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.
Gaetano Donizetti
The famous opera singer suffered from bipolar disorder.
Robert Schumann
The “inspired poet of human suffering” lived with bipolar disorder, as one of many creative people discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.
Leo Tolstoy
Author of War and Peace, Tolstoy revealed the depth of his own mental illness in the memoir Confession. He suffered from clinical depression, hypochondriasis, alcoholism, and substance abuse. His experiences are discussed in both 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.
Vaslov Nijinsky
His autobiography, The Diary of Vaslov Nijinksy, documents the dancer’s battle with schizophrenia.
John Keats
This renowned poet’s mental illness is documented along with the illnesses of many others in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Broken Brain: The biological Revolution in Psychiatry by Nancy Andreasen, M.D.
Tennessee Williams
The playwright wrote about his personal struggle with clinical depression in his own Memoirs, and 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.
Vincent Van Gogh
The bipolar disorder that this celebrated artist suffered from 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.
Isaac Newton
The English mathematician and scientist who formulated the theory of gravitation is suspected of suffering from bipolar disorder, as 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.
Ernest Hemingway
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s bouts with suicidal depression are examined in the True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him by Denis Brian.
Sylvia Plath
The suicide of this poet and novelist was caused by her lifelong struggle with clinical depression, as discussed in A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath by Nancy Hunter-Steiner.
The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr discusses the mental illness of one of the world’s greatest artistic geniuses.
Winston Churchill
The quote “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,” was written by Anthony Storr about Churchill’s bipolar disorder in Churchill’s Black Dog, Kafka’s Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.
Vivien Leigh
The British actress of the 1950’s & 60’s, star of Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire suffered from the mental illness bipolar disorder, as documented in Vivien Leigh: A Biography by Ann Edwards.
Jimmy Piersall
The Truth Hurts, written by the baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, detailed his experience with bipolar disorder.
Patty Duke
The Academy Award-winning actress revealed her bipolar disorder in her autobiography and made-for-TV move Call Me Anna, and in A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, co-authored by Gloria Hochman.
Charles Dickens
The clinical depression of one of the greatest authors in the English language is 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.
John Forbes Nash
Mathematician, author of the game theory of economics, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics, he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He was also the subject of the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind” <!–
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Smoking and Mental Illness
December 22, 2008, 11:51 am
Filed under: awareness, Education | Tags: , , , ,

A new report from Australia provides striking evidence that individuals with mental illness smoke at four times the rate of the general population.

The study notes that, despite a reduction in smoking by 50 percent among Australia’s general population, there has been little change in smoking rates among people with psychiatric disabilities.

Study author Kristen Moeller-Saxone from the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Population Health, says smoking rates remain high even though three quarters of those involved in the study said they wanted to quit or cut down on cigarettes.

Ms Moeller-Saxone’s study surveyed 280 clients of a psychiatric support service — most of whom had schizophrenia — in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

It found that found that more than six in 10 (or 62 per cent) of those surveyed smoked, compared to fewer than two in 10 (16 per cent) members of the general population.

It also found that:

Smokers with mental illness consumed 50 per cent more cigarettes a day than the general population, averaging 22 cigarettes a day;
The heaviest smokers in the group smoked up to 80 cigarettes in a day;
Almost three in five (59 per cent) said they wanted to quit smoking;
Almost three quarters (74 per cent) said they wanted to cut down;
One in 10 (12 per cent) had successfully given up smoking; and
Smokers with mental illness were almost three times more likely to consume illegal tobacco.
Ms Moeller-Saxone said the study showed the need for specialist services to help people with mental illness stop smoking.

She said previous research by SANE Australia and ACCESS economics showed smoking among people with mental illness cost Australia more than $30 billion a year.

“Smoking compounds many of the health problems already experienced by people with mental illnesses,” she said. “Combined with drug therapies that often make them overweight, they are at even greater risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes if they smoke.

“The biggest cause of death among people with mental illness is not suicide, it is cardiovascular disease.”

Ms Moeller-Saxone said smoking also placed a big financial imposition on many people with mental illness, some of whom spent more than 20 per cent of their income on cigarettes.

However, governments had provided very little support for quit programs among the mentally ill.

“This is typified by the current Victorian Tobacco Control Strategy which doesn’t specifically recognise the mentally ill as a group to be specifically targeted,” she said.

“We really need to focus on people with mental illness as a specialist sub-group which needs tailored support rather than just including them with other socially disadvantaged groups.”

Ms Moeller-Saxone said her study also showed that helping people with mental illness to cut down, rather than quit straight away, may also be a good strategy for reducing smoking rates.

The study was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.


Violence and mental illness
December 21, 2008, 1:28 am
Filed under: awareness, Education, Resources, stigma | Tags: , , , , ,

Violence and Mental Illness: The Facts

The discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses largely stem from the link between mental illness and violence in the minds of the general public, according to the U.S. Surgeon General (DHHS, 1999). The belief that persons with mental illness are dangerous is a significant factor in the development of stigma and discrimination (Corrigan, et al., 2002). The effects of stigma and discrimination are profound. The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health found that, “Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders – especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment (New Freedom Commission, 2003).”

This link is often promoted by the entertainment and news media. For example, Mental Health America, (formerly the National Mental Health Association) reported that, according to a survey for the Screen Actors’ Guild, characters in prime time television portrayed as having a mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence. Also most news accounts portray people with mental illness as dangerous (Mental Health America, 1999). The vast majority of news stories on mental illness either focus on other negative characteristics related to people with the disorder (e.g., unpredictability and unsociability) or on medical treatments. Notably absent are positive stories that highlight recovery of many persons with even the most serious of mental illnesses (Wahl, et al., 2002). Inaccurate and stereotypical representations of mental illness also exist in other mass media, such as films, music, novels and cartoons (Wahl, 1995).

Most citizens believe persons with mental illnesses are dangerous. A longitudinal study of American’s attitudes on mental health between 1950 and 1996 found, “the proportion of Americans who describe mental illness in terms consistent with violent or dangerous behavior nearly doubled.” Also, the vast majority of Americans believe that persons with mental illnesses pose a threat for violence towards others and themselves (Pescosolido, et al., 1996, Pescosolido et al., 1999).

As a result, Americans are hesitant to interact with people who have mental illnesses. Thirty-eight percent are unwilling to be friends with someone having mental health difficulties; sixty-four percent do not want someone who has schizophrenia as a close co-worker, and more than sixty-eight percent are unwilling to have someone with depression marry into their family (Pescosolido, et al., 1996).

But, in truth, people have little reason for such fears. In reviewing the research on violence and mental illness, the Institute of Medicine concluded, “Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small,” and further, “the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Other risk factors have more to do with violent behavior such as past violent victimization, lack of social supports, and substance abuse,. (Hiday, 2006; Swanson, J. et al., 2002).

In addition:

  • “Research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).”
  • “. . . [T]he absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is still very small and . . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill (Mulvey, 1994).”


People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). Researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University found that people with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population (Hiday, et al., 1999).

People with mental illnesses can and do recover. People with mental illnesses can recover or manage their conditions and go on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives. They contribute to society and make the world a better place. People can often benefit from medication, rehabilitation, talk therapy, self help or a combination of these. One of the most important factors in recovery is the understanding and acceptance of family and friends.

  • “Most people who suffer from a mental disorder are not violent — there is no need to fear them. Embrace them for who they are — normal human beings experiencing a difficult time, who need your open mind, caring attitude, and helpful support (Grohol, 1998).”


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Appleby, L., Mortensen, P. B., Dunn, G., & Hiroeh, U. (2001). Death by homicide, suicide, and other unnatural causes in people with mental illness: a population-based study. The Lancet, 358, 2110-2112.

Corrigan, P.W., Rowan, D., Green, A., et al. (2002) .Challenging two mental illness stigmas: Personal responsibility and dangerousness. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 28, 293-309.

DHHS. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999.

Grohol, J. M. (1998). Dispelling the violence myth. Psych Central. Available:

Hiday, V. A. (2006). Putting Community Risk in Perspective: a Look at Correlations, Causes and Controls. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 29, 316-331.

Hiday, V.A., Swartz, M.S., Swanson, J.W., et al. (1999). Criminal victimization of persons with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 50, 62–68.

Institute of Medicine, Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, 2006.

Mental Health America. American Opinions on Mental Health Issues. Alexandria: NMHA, 1999.

Monahan, J. & Arnold, J. (1996). Violence by people with mental Illness: a consensus statement by advocates and researchers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 19, 67-70.

Mulvey, E. P. (1994). Assessing the evidence of a link between mental illness and violence. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 45, 663-668.

Pescosolido, B.A., Martin, J.K., Link, B.G., et al. Americans’ Views of Mental Health and Illness at Century’s End: Continuity and Change. Public Report on the MacArthur Mental health Module, 1996 General Social Survey. Bloomington: Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research and Joseph P. Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 2000. Available:

Pescosolido, B.A., Monahan, J. Link, B.G. Stueve, A., & Kikuzawa, S. (1999). The public’s view of the competence, dangerousness, and need for legal coercion of persons with mental health problems. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1339-1345.

New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. Final Report. DHHS Pub. No. SMA-03-3832. Rockville, MD: 2003.

Swanson, J.W., Swartz, M.S., Essock, S.M, et al. (2002).The social-environmental context of violent behavior in persons treated for severe mental illness. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 1523-1532.

Wahl, O. (1995). Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wahl, O.F., et al. (2002). Newspaper coverage of mental illness: is it changing? Psychiatric Rehabilitation Skills, 6, 9-31.

For more information about how to address discrimination and stigma, contact the SAMHSA Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services at, e-mail, or call 800–540–0320.


Meeting your match!
December 20, 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: awareness, Education, stigma | Tags: , ,

Mental Health Stigma Meets Its Match

by Kathi Stringer

It was a cloudy day as the silver bird emerged from the clouds into a flight pattern. The aviator flipped the switches to prepare for landing. He checked his altimeter, leveled out the machine and touched down after a smooth decent. It was a perfect landing. The engine sputtered as he taxied down the runway. With experience and ease the aviator manipulated the rudders until the plane swung next to a hatch.

This story took place in a small peaceful town. Most of the residents knew each other on a first name basis. However, that day there was a problem. The sheriff responded to a call concerning a vagrant loitering on a city bench. He had seen his kind before on routine patrol. On occasion his task was clear up the bothersome vagrants when they appeared. The city just didn’t put up with the unsightly trash and his job was to keep the city safe.

The man looked disheveled and worn. His face sprouted wiry hairs in contrast to his sunken eyes. It appeared he was dazed or perhaps lost in thought. Either way, he looked impaired and that made him dangerous. He had to go.

The law inquired as to the identity of the demented. He responded, “Howard, my name is Howard Hughes.” The sheriff chucked, “Yeah right, I’m the Easter Bunny.” He opened the rear door of the squad car and ran him in. The man continued his resolve as to this identity. It wasn’t going to well. He must be drug addict or completely psychotic. The man was put behind bars to keep the town safe.

A few hours later a sheriff’s friend rang his office for a friendly chat. In passing the sheriff rolled his eyes and said, “You won’t believe who I have here today, Howard Hughes.” It was a good chuckle for both of them. On the uptake his friend thought he might have a look at the stranger anyway. I mean after all, he was the junior vise president for a small satellite division of Hughes Aircraft, which was the main employer in town. It should be entertaining regardless.

Art Kemper, the Hughes executive arrived. Nicely groomed and professionally dressed, he looked at what appeared to be a homeless nobody. His wrinkled clothes matched the man’s foul appearance. Art introduced himself as a Hughes Aircraft executive and the inquired as to his name. The lost soul glanced up from this bunk and replied, “I’m Howard Hughes.” Art admitted he had never seen Howard Hughes before, but he did have one additional question that would clear things up. Art humorously asked, “Well now Howard Hughes, that is if you are really Howard Hughes that is, who do I work for? The vagrant’s eyes became focused and steely as he replied, “You work for Dan Ferguson, and Dan Ferguson works for Hal Thomas, and Hal Thomas works for Ed Mason, and Ed Mason works for Noah Dietrich, and Noah Dietrich works for me.” The sheriff grinned as he turned to look at Art. However, Art was not smiling. Something looked wrong. He looked financially terrified in response to stranger’s reply. The words did not come as his eyes motioned to the sheriff there may be hell to pay. “My God Mr. Hughes,” said Art in all sincerity. “It was an oversight. I’m so sorry! Sheriff, you had better let this man out of jail. If he wanted to, he could lay this whole town to waste with the flick of a pen.” Stunned, the sheriff was stunned.

The vagrant climbed into his plane and with the turn of the switch power surged into the engine. He was Howard Hughes, a record-breaking aviator, inventor, playboy and billionaire. He was one of us.

Jan 9, 2003

Compliments of Kathi Stringer
Kathi’s Mental Health Review


NAMI Walks
December 18, 2008, 10:32 pm
Filed under: awareness | Tags: , ,


Every journey begins with that first step. In 2008, thousands of concerned citizens in more than 70 communities across the nation will join NAMI’s Campaign for the Mind of America and walk together to raise money and awareness about our country’s need for a world-class treatment and recovery system for people with mental illness. Won’t you join us?

NAMI depends on generous volunteers to raise funds and awareness at each of our Walk sites. View upcoming Walks or click your state on the map above to find out what you can do, or to make a donation in support of NAMIWalks.

The Deadly Duo
December 17, 2008, 3:44 am
Filed under: depression | Tags: , ,

The Deadly Duo: Depression and Depression Fallout   Anne Sheffield

Excerpted from Depression Fallout: The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond (Quill/HarperCollins, New York, 2003)

Love and depression speak different languages. Every man and woman in a relationship touched by depression comes face to face with this unpleasant truth. Although each believes that he or she is living through a unique situation, the behavior of both parties conforms to a predictable pattern. One participant acts according to the dictates of his or her depression: Be critical, unpredictable, sullen, illogical, angry, touchy, put-upon, distant yet occasionally tender, and deny there is anything wrong with you. The other follows the rules governed by depression fallout: Be confused and bewildered, blame yourself for the relationship’s problems, become thoroughly demoralized, then get angry and resentful, and, finally, yearn to escape.

Few people are well informed about the dynamics of depression and its companion, depression fallout, despite the unhappiness they cause. Ask most people to conjure up the image of someone who is depressed and they will envision a huddled figure sitting passively in the corner and murmuring about how sad he or she feels. No wonder, since most lists of depression’s symptoms begin with “a persistent sad, ’empty,’ or anxious mood,” followed by “loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, including sex.” While these symptoms do describe how depression sufferers feel, they are not matched by the expected passive behavior. Indeed, the depressed often become unpleasantly aggressive, argumentative, and faultfinding without provocation. This disconnect causes innumerable depression-clouded relationships to unravel and become mired in conflict and misunderstanding. When previously attentive, warm, demonstrative partners turn irritable, distant, and thoughtless, mates are unlikely to attribute the change to a psychiatric illness, even though they may have read about depression in the abstract. Instead, they jump to what seem to be more likely explanations: a waning of affection, dissatisfaction with the marriage or love affair, a clandestine liaison with somebody else, a selfish preoccupation with work, or a reluctance to share deep, dark secrets that concern both partners.

Since the true culprit is an illness that afflicts no less than nineteen million Americans at any given moment, why don’t depressed partners speak up and explain what is going on in their minds and hearts? Surely anyone whose life has turned inexplicably gray and hopeless would choose to talk about it with his or her intimates, thus paving the way for answers and solutions. But that is not depression’s way. Indeed, depression’s most insidious trait is the ease with which it seduces its sufferers into blind alleys signposted Lousy Relationship, Bad Karma, Weak Character, Stress Overload, and other misleading names.

All those battered by depression fallout are convinced that their situation is unique and their reactions to it aberrant. Having enjoyed a gratifying and seemingly solid partnership beset by no more than the usual ups and downs, they find themselves living with an unwelcome stranger masquerading behind a familiar face. Not only does this newcomer no longer behave as expected, but he or she appears to have undergone a personality change for the worse. Tenderness and support have been traded in for grumpiness and irritability; sharing for secretive distance; patience and reason for volatility and antagonism; and good habits for bad ones. Threatening though this is, fall-out partners do not seek solace or advice from family and friends. Convinced that they are somehow responsible for the transformation, or that its explanation is perhaps embarrassing and best kept hidden from others, they guard their secret. This extracts a costly price.

Isolated in self-imposed solitary confinement, unable to coax explanations or apologies from their mates, fallout sufferers start shelving their lingering suspicions of personal responsibility and take to building protective ramparts in the form of negative reactions to and feelings for their partners. Loosening the knot of love, loyalty, and companionship formed over time takes a toll, and that toll is at least partially paid by fallout partners in guilty self-recriminations for being a “bad” or selfish person who can be counted on for support in good times but not in rocky ones. They indulge in tit-for-tat, parrying criticism with criticism, and although this temporarily relieves their feelings of frustration, it brings them no closer to an understanding of what is happening to the relationship.

The first gift the Message Board [This refers to Anne Sheffield’s website Message Board. Link below] delivers to new arrivals is assurance that they are neither malcontents nor misfits. They quickly learn that even those Board posters whose partners have been diagnosed and are being treated for depression share the same problems and are subject to the identical negative thoughts. Even in the presence of such empathetic company, first-time Board visitors often lace their posts with “I know you won’t believe this, but … “ or “He [or she] said the strangest thing to me … ” and are instantly welcomed and reassured that what they had thought unbelievable and strange is commonplace. When oldtimers respond like a well-rehearsed chorus — “Oh, yes, we know, we’ve been there, too, and we understand” — the dam of reticence gives way, allowing pent-up emotional turmoil to flow freely. In short, the single most important fact for a depression fallout sufferer to grasp and take to heart is that his or her particular brand of misery, far from being unique, is shared by a minimum of nineteen million others in the United States alone, and so are their far-from-aberrant emotional reactions.

Excerpted from: Depression Fallout: The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond by Anne Sheffield (Quill/HarperCollins, New York, 2003).

(c) 2003 Anne Sheffield. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

In addition to Depression Fallout (Quill/HarperCollins, 2003), Anne Sheffield is the author of two other well received books on depression, How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed (Harmony, 1998) which won a a Books for a Better Life Award as well as the 1999 Ken Award from the New York City affiliate of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and Sorrow’s Web (Free Press, 2000) which deals with the topic of motherhood and depression. She has worked as a scientist at the Population and Development Program of the Battelle Memorial Institute and has run her own consulting firm. She lives in New York City. Her official website is located at 


A couple links..
December 15, 2008, 9:10 am
Filed under: Resources, stigma | Tags: , , ,


For a Pdf. of more posters and banners like this.. go here..

For a confidential depression screening.. go here..