Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Great Depression: Famous Figures Who Battled Mental Illness

J.K. Rowling

She's a billionaire author whose wildly popular Harry Potter books, movies, and theme park have enchanted millions around the world. But while living as a single mother in a cramped apartment after separating from her first husband, J.K. Rowling suffered from suicidal thoughts and was prescribed cognitive behavioral therapy. It was shortly after starting that therapy that Rowling began writing the series that would make her famous. In fact, her emotional struggles even provided inspiration for some of her characters: She claims that the Dementors (the dark hooded creatures in Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban who detect their victims’ secret fears and then suck out their personalities) were based on her experience with depression.

Princess Diana

It’s no secret that the fairy tale that began with Diana’s royal wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 ended tragically. She openly spoke about the depression she felt following their separation and divorce. During a tell-all interview she gave the BBC in 1995, however, she revealed shocking details of postpartum depression, bulimia, and self-inflicted injuries. "When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen," she said. "You have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for… I didn’t like myself; I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures." Diana said she went through "diverse treatments" to overcome the depression she experienced during her marriage and divorce. She went to become a celebrated humanitarian before dying in a car crash in 1997.

 Richard Dreyfuss

He’s starred in hits such as Jaws and American Graffiti, but Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss has struggled with mental health issues for most of his life. In the 2006 documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, Dreyfuss revealed that he lives with bipolar disorder, which he says has led him to be known as outspoken and eccentric. But the actor turned to medication and attributes it for dramatically changing his mood. Dreyfuss has said that with treatment, “I have become a person I admire… I have wept more, I have said ‘I’m sorry’ more, I have succeeded in endeavors that were impossible.”

Dolly Parton 

The bubbly country music star struggled with depression for several months in the 1980s, when she was going through menopause and regretting that she never had children. It became severe enough that she contemplated suicide. “It was an awful time for me,” Parton has said. “Every day I thought, ‘I wish I had the nerve to kill myself.’” She has said that working with Sylvester Stallone, with his charming sense of humor, on the movie Rhinestone helped pull her out of the depression, and Parton eventually found comfort in relationships with other children: "I thought, 'Maybe God didn't want me to have kids so that everybody else's kids could be mine."

Owen Wilson
Everyone, including his closest friends, was shocked with the news that funnyman Owen Wilson attempted suicide in August 2007. It then came out that the actor had been silently battling depression and drug addiction for years. Following the attempt, Wilson immediately sought treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. and has taken antidepressants. His struggles with depression have not held back his comedy career, though -- Wilson’s continually cranked out hugely successful movies such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and the upcoming Meet the Parents sequel, Little Fockers.

Jim Carrey

Despite headlining some of the biggest comedy blockbusters of the ’90s, Carrey fell into depression after two failed marriages (the second to actress Lauren Holly), which he discussed during a 60 Minutes interview. "I was on Prozac for a long time,” he said. “It may have helped me out of a jam for a little bit, but people stay on it forever. I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that, you know, everything's just okay." Carrey attributes a healthy diet and supplements for helping him improve his mental health, and has said, "You need to get out of bed every day and say that life is good. That's what I did, although at times it was very difficult for me.” While working through his depression, Carrey has maintained a steady career of hits, including the recent Horton Hears a Who! and Yes Man.

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