We all know that there is a great deal of stigma still surrounding mental illness. Who are some famous people who overcame the adversity of severe mental illness, and persevered in spite of it?
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain, who guided Britain to victory through World War II, had episodes of severe depression, which he called the “Black Dog”, and which he self-medicated with alcohol.
Virginia Woolf, the famous British novelist, experienced Bipolar disorder. Because of very supportive family and friends who gave her great care, she was never institutionalized, which was the only available mental service for many patients during that time period. Despite her mental disorder, she was highly creative, writing such timeless novels as Mrs. Dalloway, and was a pioneer in her creative writing style. Ultimately she took her own life by drowning.
John Nash, Nobel Prize winner for mathematics, had Schizophrenia. His struggle was made into the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Nash published 23 scientific studies.
Isaac Newton was a famous scientist of the 17th century. Highly educated and wealthy, he suffered from “nervous breakdowns” and fits of rage. It is felt he may have had Bipolar Disorder, which led to incredible periods of creativity and innovation. Newton discovered the theory of Gravity and formulated the laws of motion.
Ludwig van Beethoven also had Bipolar disorder. Even when he was suffering from psychotic delusions and was totally deaf, he was able to complete the 8th Symphony. He self-medicated with opium and alcohol as there were no psychiatric medications available at the time, and died later of liver disease.