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List of Famous People With Mental Illness; How It Affected Them and Their Contribution to Society

Updated on March 31, 2016

What is a mental illness? A lack of serotonin in the brain?

It is defined as: Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma. Also called emotional illness, mental disease, mental disorder.

What causes mental illness?

According to Wikipedia, there are many causes. NAMI, The National Alliance for Mental Illness states that 1 in 5 people experience some form of it in their lifetime. It can be brought on by a death in the family, drugs, genetics, diseases, injuries (for example head trauma), or could be a result of a traumatic experience including war or child abuse.

Whatever the cause of it is, mental illness can happen to anyone. What we must do is help and support one another in all stages of life. You'll also find it interesting to know that whether you're rich or poor, tall or short, black or white, you have just as equal a chance of getting it. If you become aware of it, you'll see it's as common as night and day. You probably have a friend, relative, co-worker, or acquaintance who has depression right now; who is experiencing difficulty from a loss in their life be it a job or loved one. Or it could be that they are having trouble in school, like being bullied which could in fact cause them to contemplate sucide. Or maybe they're all of a sudden experiencing too much stress and feel like they're having some sort of emotional breakdown.

All of these things and more are possible. What do we do about it? 1) We educate ourselves 2) We support each other 3) We try to avoid getting sick by avoiding stress...

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

Creativity interlinks with Illness

One of the really interesting and cool things about mental illness is that certain types of illnesses, mainly bipolar gives a person a creative edge, though other illnesses go hand in hand with highly intelligent people such as Professor John Nash, who won the Nobel Prize for mathematics, for one. I don't think that you have to be mentally ill to be genius but it seems mental illness and genius often do go hand in hand. And that is why I write this article on famous people who have contributed so greatly to science and art, and music while yet dealing with an illness and why if they have something valuable to offer, anyone can. It makes so much sense to me to shed light on the fact that no one needs to be ashamed. There is no one who is exempt from possibly "contracting" this invisible disease! Read on and share this page.

"It takes a little bit of crazy to make a genius." ~Anonymous

The contributions which the following people have given to the world will not forgotten, nor should future Abraham Lincolns, or Jim Carreys, or Charles Dickens be discouraged.

"A Beautiful Mind" starring Russell Crowe

The real life story of Nobel Prize winner John Nash portrayed in "A Beautiful Mind"

Some of the Greats...

You may want to check out McLean Hospital where many famous people went

  • ROSEANNE BARR, actress
  • John Nash - Mathematician / Nobel Prize Winner (Main character in A Beautiful Mind )
  • King George III of England
  • Lionel Aldridge:

    Played for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, he suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for two years. He now gives inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia.

  • Vivien Leigh: The actress who starred in" Gone With The Wind" suffered from mental illness, as documented in Vivien Leigh by Anne Edwards.

Charles Dickens: author of A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, suffered from depression

Leo Tolstoy: Author of War and Peace, Tolstoy told of his own mental illness in My Confession.

Ernest Hemingway, Writer 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.

John Keats, Poet The renowned poet's mental illness is documented in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr

Gaetano Donizetti, Singer and famous opera singer suffered from bipolar disorder

Abraham Lincoln: The 16th president, one of the greatest Americans, suffered from severe, incapacitating and occasionally suicidal depressions

Patty Duke: The Academy Award-winning actress told of her bipolar disorder in her autobiography and made-for-TV move Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, co-authored by Gloria Hochman.

Enjoy the video as you scan the names

More Famous Celebrities

  • ADAM ANT- MUSICIAN in the 80's
  • KURT COBAIN, musician. Kurt was diagnosed at a young age with ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER[ADD], then later with bipolar disorder
  • ROSEMARY CLOONEY-- singer and actress.
  • Richard Dreyfuss, actor
  • Mike Doughty, musician. First described himself diagnosed as bipolar in 2007 on his blog.
  • Carrie Fisher, actress and writer. "'I ended up being diagnosed as a bipolar II,' says Fisher."
  • Connie Francis, singer
  • Stephen Fry, actor, comedian and writer.
  • Alan Garner, novelist.
  • Paul Gascoigne, English footballer.
  • Mel Gibson, actor and director.
  • Macy Gray, musician and actor.
  • Jack Irons, drummer, formerly of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam
  • Kay Redfield Jamison, clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who profiled her own bipolar disorder in her 1995 memoir An Unquiet Mind and argued for a connection between bipolar disorder and artistic creativity in her 1993 book, Touched with Fire .
  • Daniel Johnston, musician: "Johnston's output in his late teens and early 20s proved to be a symptom of his worsening manic depression." The Guardian Unlimited, Saturday August 20, 2005: "Personal demons", review of film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston: [54]
  • Andrew Johns, Professional Rugby League Player. — has gone public about his condition.
  • Margot Kidder, actress — self-described: "I have been well and free of the symptoms that are called manic-depression for almost five years, and have been working steadily and leading a happy and productive life since then."
  • Neil Lennon Footballer with Celtic FC open about his battles with depression.
  • Jenifer Lewis, American actress, spoke about her diagnosis on Oprah in September 2007
  • Bill Lichtenstein print and broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker, profiled in Time magazine, October 10, 1994.
  • Michelle Lombardo, model and actress.
  • Florence Nightingale, nurse and health campaigner. BPW "Florence heard voices and experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20s - symptoms consistent with the onset of bipolar disorder", Dr. Kathy Wisner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
  • Sinéad O'Connor, musician. She discussed her diagnosis with Oprah Winfrey in October 2007.
  • Graeme Obree, Scottish racing cyclist.
  • Phil Ochs, musician.
  • Ozzy Osbourne, singer. Lead singer of Black Sabbath.Edgar Allan Poe, poet and writer.
  • Axl Rose, lead singer and frontman best known for Guns N' Roses."I went to a clinic, thinking it would help my moods. The only thing I did was take one 500-question test - ya know, filling in the little black dots. All of sudden I'm diagnosed manic-depressive."
  • Richard Rossi, filmmaker, musician, and maverick minister, revealed for the first time in a live interview on the Lynn Cullen show on June 5, 2008 the link between his artistic productivity and his depression to bipolar disorder, stating that "my father was bi-polar one, and I'm bi-polar two." He spoke of the relationship between creativity and the illness.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme, actor.
  • Mark Vonnegut, author
  • Brian Wilson, musician, founding member of The Beach Boys schzophrenic
  • Virginia Woolf, writer.
  • Jim Carrey- manic depressive
  • Robin Williams-manic depressive
  • Sting--has talked about being manic depressive--it is still elusive

Do you feel less prejudiced about mental illness knowing your fav celebs have it?

See results

Name the celebrity here you most love:

See results


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    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 4 months ago

      Afternoon Louise,

      Thank you. Yes many talented people have/had a mental health condition. Sometimes in cases of artistic talent, the two go hand in hand.

      Celebrating all the good in people and the good in people with mental health conditions,



    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 4 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou for writing such an informative article. I had no idea Abraham Lincoln suffered with depression. I loved Robin Williams.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 8 months ago


      Thank you very much for stopping by. And yes- I loved Robin Williams SO much. He's my favorite comedian. Boy when I needed/need a laugh still---He's one of my "go tos"

      I indeed pray he rests in peace. In a heavenly realm.

    • profile image

      Henry Cox-Paton 14 months ago

      RIP Robin Williams. You were always a favourite.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 17 months ago


      "A Beautiful Mind" was excellent. I liked how the main character, John Nash overcame. :)

      Yes mental illness is very common. I hope though that mental health will find more natural ways to treat it.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I liked that movie "A Beautiful Mind." This is quite a long list of those suffering with some type of mental illness. It is more common than we think. Interesting hub!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 19 months ago

      Thanks grand old lady. I just wanted to point out that we ALL have something to offer in this world, and having a disability or a mental illness does not make us worthless. In fact sometimes it is that very thing that makes us strong, empathetic, heroic, and creative!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 22 months ago from Philippines

      This is a very inspiring article. The fact that so many people were famous and contributed to the wealth of the world is amazing. Thank you for writing this:)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 3 years ago

      Hello Johnk282,

      Thank you, I appreciate it when anyone reads this article and comments on it. It is my most successful one, and one of the first I wrote!

      It is important, I feel, to notice how close intelligence and creativity are connected.....and to be open minded and know many famous "greats" had an illness....but Abraham Lincoln's suicidal depressions didn't stop him from NEVER GIVING UP and becoming one of or the best president we ever had!

      God bless ya!

    • profile image

      Johnk282 3 years ago

      you are in point of fact a just right webmaster. The site loading velocity is amazing. It sort of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you've performed a magnificent process in this subject! ddedadkekebd

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 4 years ago

      Thank you. I believe that many of our 'problems' manifest themselves as a result of stress, etc. Sometimes it takes a long time to realize :)

    • profile image

      shabana dar 4 years ago

      every preson have the ability for solve the own problem ad u also do very well

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 4 years ago

      Sorry to hear that , TheVeryTruth, it's often hard not only for the person but their family or spouse as well.

    • profile image

      TheVeryTruth 4 years ago

      now divorced, and having my wife Bi Polar was very hard on me.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Hi Forreal

      oh ok what did you have in mind?

    • profile image

      Forreal 5 years ago

      You may have 'raised awareness' about something here. However, that thing is not the entirety of what you summarise as 'mental illness' or pyschiatric disorder. There are some extremely serious consequences of such disorders which simply are not faced in this piece--it is about time to move on from the tribulations of the anti-psychiatry movement.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago


      those are some very cool points you brought up, I think I look up to them as well. It's very helpful. I have bipolar too. The mood swings are rough. Especially if you rapid cycle. I think I have to get on anohter mood stablilizer or something because it seems everyday I am happy and then I get depressed. Good advice and comment. Thanks for your input.

      Have a good one :) Best of luck to you as well with school ;)

    • profile image

      NC 5 years ago

      I feel that unfortunately, although hearing about celebrities suffering from mental illness helps to broaden some minds, others have a tendency to deem them as being attention seeking, over dramatic and are thought of as press stunts - which can often also be the case with none famous individuals.

      I think part of the problem is not only that mental illness is thought of as being less common than it really is, but also that many of those who're uneducated about such matters are quick to accuse sufferers of being dramatic, attention seeking or deluded. The fact that these are known as 'mental illnesses' leads people to believe that they are made up, or 'all in the sufferer's head', something that they can fix easily; when in fact, most are due to chemical imbalances that are in no way the sufferer's fault and are conditions that can only usually be managed with the use of medication.

      I personally feel that the BIGGEST benefit to celebrities being open about their experiences with mental illness, is not for the awareness of the general populace (although increasing awareness is a benefit), but rather giving sufferers hope for a brighter future with role models that they can look up to.

      As a 16-year-old girl who suffers from bipolar with severe depressive episodes, anxiety, asperger's syndrome and EDNOS, who also aspires to go to a prestigious university and have a full, meaningful career, individuals such as Stephen Fry, Abraham Lincoln and even Lady Gaga continue to inspire hope in me through some of my darkest days.

      Good article, thank you. :)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Hi James,

      I'm not really sure what sort of problems you are having. Write me an email if you want here and I should get it. What are your symptoms? Have you tried talking to a friend or counselor?

    • profile image

      james mocon 5 years ago

      hello i am aware i am mentally sick

      but i refuse to give in

      just need help,but to whom can i ask help.JAMES FROM PHILIPPINES

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Hi there crazybeanrider,

      Yes, it's strange isn't it? It's like maybe they didn't show it. They must have had good treatment I guess? I suppose like many celebrities get the best hair weaves and makeup perhaps they get the best mental health care? I know that the Olson twins, Ashley and Katie from FULL HOUSE show were at McCleans Hosp in Belmont, MA and were there for either bulemia or aneroxia.

      You mean does being a celebrity make it less stigmatizing? The answer there would be, "Do YOU look down on them yourself?" Like Catherine Zeta Jones for instance who recently went into a hospital for 5 days to get treated for bipolar- first of all 5 days is pretty quick....I'll say. But I was proud of her and the more open she was about it, the more I admired her and of course the fact she continued to function so well.

      Thanks very much, peace and blessings

    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 5 years ago from Washington MI

      So much good information, I hadn't realized there were so many celebrities, and public figures who suffered with a mental illness. I wonder if being a celebrity with a mental illness helps or puts negativity on it? They are fighting the stigma as well, but I would like to think by them coming out it would squish the negative about mental illness, not perpetuate the stigma. Nicely written hub, the information is good to know.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Hi Kira,

      I would not agree with that statement, because it's too broad and all encompasing.

      That would be like saying all people who are creative and intelligent "genius" are insane. That is not true. It may be true in some cases but not all.

      Just be careful how you word it, using the word "some" and not "all" and the like.

    • profile image

      kira 5 years ago

      Hi this website has helped me a lot because I'm currently writing an essay on wether creative and scientific geniuses are inherently insane. What's your views on this statement ? :)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      The biggest problem I've found, is being on the wrong medication or any at all for that matter. Too much overmedicating in some cases. People need to be "aware"


    • Anil and Honey profile image

      Anil 5 years ago from Kerala

      Mental illness is a big problem , Thank you for sharing this '

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Thank you alexis, I'm glad you made it here :)

    • profile image

      alexis 5 years ago

      hi my name is alexis and i love this web site

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago

      Thank you girishpuri, much appreciated :)

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 5 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      And it's a fact the cases of psychological disorders are on the rim of volcano, voted up

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Fantastic hub! voted up and shared. Best wishes.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago

      Oh thank you Nicki, but as you can see this is not a complete list! I'll look her up :)

    • profile image

      Nicki chapman 6 years ago

      You forgot about Phyllis Hyman! She was bipolar!

    • jeugenejohn profile image

      jeugenejohn 6 years ago from Kerala

      People who suffers from mental illness still shy away from treatments. They believe if mentally ill, you are branded as hopeless,non productive individual. Here, your article sheds light and is an eye opener for many. It is to be understood that mental illness affects the mind and like any other disease can be treated and cured.

    • J K Maas profile image

      Jennifer Kathleen Seigworth 6 years ago from Waterford, Pennsylvania

      You are so welcome! I suffer with anxiety and depression so I can relate!It can be disabling at times! I thank God for the good days and ask for strenghth for the bad days! I am so glad you are recovering well! Its great that you are able to help others through your writing with true understanding of the issues. I thank you for following my hubs and I will definitely be one of your followers too! Thank you for the great message!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago

      Thank you , J K Mass,

      It's always wonderful to get a comment especially on this topic. Yes...while silently suffering. I think back in the old days there wasn't much treatment and people though at the same time were not labled. Being labeled and feeling like you're a 'disease' is a horrible feeling. That's why in my recovery I'm encouraging all people to please realize you are a person who is suffering, not a diagnosis. There is a lot of hope too, for I am recovering very well, praise God!

      Thanks so much,Have a great weekend! :)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago

      Hello Angie! Thank you so much for your comment. I value this hub, it's been viewed over 9,000 times, my best hub of all time!! I think people like to know about this and how wonderful the contributions people have made who were presidents, authors, actors, etc. There is genius and creativity no doubt involved with some mental illness, and I try to prove that it's really "no big deal" to have a mental illness, that it can be dealt with, overcome, and anyone who uses their creativity for good....God bless!

    • J K Maas profile image

      Jennifer Kathleen Seigworth 6 years ago from Waterford, Pennsylvania

      Very interesting! Great hub! I never knew all of those famous people had mental illnesses. It is interesting how they were so creative while silently suffering.

    • angie ashbourne profile image

      angie ashbourne 6 years ago

      Hi! Awesome hub. Angie

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago

      Hello gsidley,

      Yes. I see many people with these ailments who are so low functioning and seem to be overmedicated, it's a shame. But there is, I believe, hope for us all who apparently have some sort of disorder: There are great medications out today, for example Lamictal instead of Lithium.....

      thanks for your comment and visit :)

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 6 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Voted up as useful.

      It is always helpful to hear about famous and talented people who have suffered with mental health problems. Such information helps reduce the stigma suffered by many people with these conditions.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago

      @Carolyn Moe,

      Thankyou so much! I appreciate that! :)

      Anyone who wants to help out people with disabilities (which this hub is about) is okay in my book!!

    • Carolyn Moe profile image

      Carolyn Moe 6 years ago

      you're worth following and I think I shall!

    • profile image

      christine 6 years ago

      I feel that famous people are looked at very differently to those of us that are not, it is unfortunate that they seem to be more accepted by having a mental illness, i am still afraid to share my depression as i am still judged by it, i have feelings just like those who are famous, i might not have the money that they do to get the help they get, but i get by and work and still hold my head up high, i feel the media need to spend time with someone that isn't famous to show how hard it is for those of us that are just struggling to get by in the day to day life..... a documentary of someone not famous that suffers from mental health issues not someone famous....

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago


      Thanks, yes, I agree. It's very inspiring to me to see famous people whom I admire who have battled and overcome the illnesses named. Especially if you suffer from it yourself, it just shows how much we are capable of. Thanks for your recommendation.

    • Little Kim profile image

      Little Kim 7 years ago from Any town U.S.A.

      Great hub. Puts a face on it when you know someone famous has battled it. Read Rick Springfield's book Late,Late At Night. He opens up about his battle still going on today. He refers to it as mr.d. Love him more for telling all in his book. He's only human and not always the Superman I think he is.

    • genwriter profile image

      genwriter 7 years ago from Singapore

      Interesting hub here, I've learned a lot about all this famous people with unfortunately their illness. We have to accept life as it is.

      Rated it and following you. Looking forward for your hubs. Don't forget to check my hubs too :)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago


      you make a very valid point.

      I hope people pay attention.


    • Geolina profile image

      Geolina 7 years ago

      It would be so nice if everybody could accept mental illness as what it is (an illness, nothing less and nothing more), and not make fun about it. You wouldn´t make fun of a broken leg or a flue, right?

      Good thing you rise awareness!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago


      Hi, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, it is amazing that people we look up to have bipolar and depression, etc. It just proves that these ailments can be overcome or dealt with like cancer or diabetes.

      We must not put people down who have these ailments, for our beloved and funny as hell (Like JimCarrey) celebrities have it as well, and btw Jim Carrey is not only funny as hell but quite a hottie!!!!

      Thanks for stopping in, I really am a fan of Jim Carrey myself. In fact, on another note, it is fame and craft -acting and singing, and stand up, that made and helped these TALENTS survived and UTILIZED their talent.

      We are all gifted in some way, let us be...and w/ out any stigma.


    • gauri1234 profile image

      gauri1234 7 years ago

      amazed to read the list..jim carry too!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago

      Thankyou! lambservant! I like your name :)

      I've read great books too , well the movie A Beautiful Mind is really good for one about John Nash. Oh, Girl Interrupted, the book and movie are good too.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Very interesting hub. I was glad you mentioned Kay Redfield Jamison and her book touched with fire. I read it recently and found it quite fascinating. Thanks for the great hub and great vids.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago

      I love that Sting video! :) Thankyou and please visit again :)

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 7 years ago

      Very interesting hub!!

      and thanks for making me listen to that wonderful song of Sting!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago


      Hi, I don't know if I mentioned Vincent van Gogh- though he prob had depression, he cut off one of his ears to prove some point i believe--Good observation thankyou for visiting, many more hubs of mine on mental health.

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 7 years ago from Philippines

      The painter Vincent van Gogh who cut off his ears? Yet it seems that there are more wrters than painters who suffer from manic depression resulting in suicde. just an observation.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago


      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I should have listed my two online sources, some may be surprising lol. Yes, a lot of creative people here! Thanks for stopping in :)

    • profile image

      ericsomething 7 years ago

      Schoolgirlforreal, a very interesting list. A couple of surprises that, in retrospect, shouldn't be so surprising. Like Richard Nixon ... I don't recollect it being publicly mentioned, but some accounts I've read of his behavior in the final days of Watergate should have been a clue. But a lot of massively creative folks on this list.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago

      I just updated this on July 22, 2010 with pictures and 3 videos. Please look it over again. :)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 7 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by :)

    • Angelllite profile image

      Angelllite 7 years ago from United States

      Interesting, WOW!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 8 years ago

      Thankyou,Rebecca! It's wonderful to be able to benefit from your hubs as well!

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 8 years ago from Canada

      a great well written hub, keep up teh good work here, I'll be responding you your comments on mine, I hope they will help more. Well written well linked-- I didn't know about Sting!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 8 years ago

      Thankyou very much! :)

    • JerseyGirl profile image

      JerseyGirl 8 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Great hub, very interesting info.


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