A Beautiful Mind, Abraham Lincoln, Bill MacPhee, Charles Bolden, depression, Elyn Saks, Jeremy Oxley and Sunnyboys, John Nash, Lionel Aldridge and Green Bay Packers, Peter Green, schizophrenia and recovery, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, SZ Magazine, Tom Harrell, Vaslav Nijinsky
For years I have seen lists of famous people who suffered from depression, but only recently have I found lists of famous people suffering from schizophrenia. The names of the individuals with depression include many historical figures, such as: artist Vincent Van Gogh, church reformer Martin Luther, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who called depression his “Black Dog”), author Leo Tolstoy, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president.
The names of famous people with schizophrenia might not sound familiar to you, especially since their fame is more recent, but their ability to live with schizophrenia will hopefully encourage you. Because of the 2001 movie, A Beautiful Mind, the name of John Nash is more well-known. The movie represents the biography of Nash written by Sylvia Nasar. Nash, a mathematician, received the Nobel Prize in math in 1994, decades after his diagnosis of schizophrenia.
He lived with symptoms of schizophrenia for 50 years. Though he continued to suffer from hallucinations throughout his life, he chose to live in spite of them. “I take the newer medications,” his onscreen character said, “but I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind. I do not indulge certain appetites, like my appetite for patterns.”
On May 23, 2015, at age 86, he died in an automobile accident after returning from Norway where he received a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters. The New York Times obituary for Nash includes a quote from 1996: “I emerged from irrational thinking, ultimately, without medicine other than the natural hormonal changes of aging.”1 He was 68 at the time.
Other famous persons include:
- Lionel Aldridge, a Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame inductee. “I’m completely symptom free. I have no reminders of my illness,” he said.2
- Tom Harrell, jazz musician and composer who has released 24 albums. He states that the combination of music and medication enables him to persevere. See 9/4/14 article in The Voice at http://www.voicenews.com/articles/2014/09/04/life/doc54089439df253009104974.txt?viewmode=default
- Elyn Saks, legal scholar and mental health expert, who wrote the 2007 memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. (See other posts about her in the “Elyn Saks” category of this blog. You can also listen to an online interview.)
- Peter Green, blues guitarist and songwriter from England, former member of Fleetwood Mac. http://schizophrenia.com/newsletter/buckets/newsletter/197/197fmac.html
- Will Elliott, Australian author who also wrote the 2009 memoir, Strange Places, about his battle with schizophrenia.
- Jeremy Oxley, frontman for Australian music group Sunnyboys. A documentary about his life, The Sunnyboy, aired on ABC1 in Australia in Nov. 2013.3
- Bill MacPhee, founder and CEO of Magpie Media which publishes three magazines: Anchor, Balance, and SZ Magazine, covering the topics of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.4 You can listen to Bill discuss his recovery at http://billmacphee.ca/interview-one-hour/ or read an interview at http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1305029-ceo-shares-insight-into-life-with-schizophrenia .
These men also created art while struggling with the illness:
- Vaslav Nijinsky, world renowned Russian ballet dancer (1889-1950).
- Ralph Blakelock, American landscape artist referred to as the “American Van Gogh” (1847-1919).
- Charles Bolden, named the “King” of New Orleans jazz (1877-1931).
- Syd Barrett, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of Pink Floyd (1946-2006).
Though lists of “famous people with mental disorders” usually worsened my pitiful mood when I read them through the years, I feel compelled to show the names of individuals living with schizophrenia today. Their perseverance and ability to work and create, in spite of their anguish, overturns the stereotype of schizophrenia that continues in our culture. Those who live with ongoing symptoms of visual and auditory hallucinations, and have found ways to manage or accept the problem, show that a diagnosis of schizophrenia does not predict a ruined life.
May God grant you hope and strength to rise up today and move past your fears and confusion. In the areas where you have failed and have given up, I pray he will fill you with a renewed desire to live, by Him and with Him. May you learn ways, both small and great, to manage your symptoms. Grace and peace to you, in abundance.
4 http://www.mentalwellnesstoday.com Names of individuals with schizophrenia (except for Bill MacPhee and Jeremy Oxley) came from http://healthgrades.mm-health.com/schizophrenia/famous-people-with-schizophrenia and from Surviving Schizophrenia by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.