Political Figures And Mental Illness

This post is part of Celebrity Health Week at the b5media Health & Wellness Channel. For more information about Celebrity Health Week posts here at Mental Health Notes, visit Introducing Celebrity Health Week: Celebrities And Mental Illness.

In this Celebrity Health Week post, we’ll take a look at some political figures who have a mental illness – or had, in the case of the deceased – as well as public figures who have a mental illness.

Please note that I am not an authority on anyone who may have a mental illness. For an person to be on this list, he or she or a spouse or reliable family member must have publicly discussed – verbally or otherwise – his or her mental illness, or, in the case of the deceased, professionals must have addressed it later on.

According to an article published by the Duke University Medical Center in 2006, 49% of US presidents had mental health problems.

49%.

That’s damn near half.

This post won’t focus solely on presidents, but will provide a well-rounded group of political figures and even their spouses.

Read on!

Abraham Lincoln spoke of his depression and was thought to have bipolar disorder.

Theodore Roosevelt was also thought to have bipolar disorder.

John Quincy Adams was thought to have clinical depression.

Calvin Coolidge was thought to have clinical depression.

Winston Churchill, a former British prime minister, was thought to have bipolar disorder.

Thomas Eagleton, a very short term running mate for 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, was removed from the ticket after the public discovered he’d undergone electroconvulsive therapy for what was called “nervous exhaustion.” (I’ve also read Eagleton actually had bipolar disorder.

Patrick Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s son and House Rep. for Rhode Island, announced he’d been diagnosed with and treated for clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Along with Senator Pete Domenici, Kennedy helped introduce legislation to place mental illness under the umbrella of health insurance. Kennedy has also won a plethora of awards in honor of his work, including: The Public Service Award from the Society for Neuroscience; Eli Lilly & Co. 2003 Helping Move Lives Forward Reintegration Awards; American Psychoanalytic Association 2003 President’s Award; American Psychiatric Association Alliance award; and the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Award from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Alma Powell, wife of Colin Powell, has talked openly about her depression.

Tipper Gore, wife of Al Gore, has talked about her depression and treatment as well as organized the first-ever White House Conference on Mental Health.

Kitty Dukakis, wife of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, has battled depression and substance abuse issues and wrote about her success with electroconvulsive therapy in Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.

Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife, experienced depression and a serious decline in her mental health after the deaths of Abraham and her son Tad. Her remaining son, Robert, placed her in Bellevue Nursing and Rest Home in Illinois after a juried trial declared her insane. Once she was released, another juried trial declared her sanity restored.

Note that this is not a comprehensive list of political and public figures who have or had mental illnesses; it’s merely a list of the ones for whom I’ve found information. If you know of any others – and can provide credible sources – feel free to leave them in the comments.

Until then, stay tuned for information about celebrities and schizophrenia, writers and artists and mental illnesses, and celebrities and suicide.

Alicia

Image: Newscom

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    • http://fightingmonsters.wordpress.com cb

      I know you are focusing primarily on US politicians but John Prescott (former deputy Prime Minister in the UK) recently admitted suffering from bulimia when he was in office which I think is quite an interesting one on the basis that he is male and middle-aged (being a bit generous to him) so is far from the ‘usual’ stereotype of a sufferer of bulimia.

    • http://www.xerosector.com xs4

      It is really a big number of US Presidents having Mental Health problems.
      Thanks for posting such a great and interesting article.
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    • http://mentalhealthnotes.com Alicia Sparks, Mental Health Notes

      @ cb – Yes, he definitely doesn’t fit the usual “mold,” and that just goes to show us how these things can strike almost anyone at any time, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing this bit of info!

    • http://mentalhealthnotes.com Alicia Sparks, Mental Health Notes

      @ xs4 – No problem. And yep, it’s a decent sized number. With statistics telling us that one in four Americans have a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, it’s not too surprising that our politicians would get caught up in the mix.