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 famous writers and artists who have a mental illness – or had, in the case of the deceased. I’ve covered several music artists throughout the series, so I think I’ll keep this post to writers and artists who were painters, sculptors, etc.
Unless I find one that interests me – say, a historical musician or someone like that.
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.
The following writers and artists have either reportedly spoken about their mental illnesses, or professionals have talked about the possibility of mental illness after their deaths.
Art Buchwald, deceased American humorist and well known for his column in The Washington Post, reportedly had bipolar disorder.
Patricia Cornwell, author, was quoted in The Times as admitting to taking a mood stabilizer because she was “wired differently” and that even though her “diagonosis goes back and forth” she’s “pretty sure” she has it. “It” being bipolar disorder. She also mentioned that it’s “not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder.” Hmm.
Hart Crane, deceased American poet, reportedly experienced episodes of both manic euphoria and deep depression, as well as struggled with alcohol abuse.
Dorothy Day, deceased American journalist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, reportedly experienced depression.
Theodore Dreiser, deceased American author, reportedly dealt with clinical depression.
George Eliot, deceased British author who was really Mary Anne Evans, reportedly had clinical depression.
Jules Feiffer, New York cartoonist, novelist, and playwright, has spoken of his depression.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, deceased American author, reportedly had clinical depression.
John Gibson, Irish pianist-composers, reportedly has bipolar disorder.
Amy Heckerling, writer, director, and genius behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, has spoken about her struggles with eating disorders.
Ernest Hemingway, deceased American writer, reportedly suffered from either clinical depression or bipolar disorder (probably bipolar disorder, as Patricia Cornwell’s so sure it’s not unusual for great artistic people to have it), and committed suicide in 1961.
Hermann Hesse, deceased German-Swiss writer and painter who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, reportedly had clinical depression.
Jack Kerouac, deceased American writer and artist of the Beat Generation who became widely influential after his death, reportedly suffered from clinical depression and struggled with alcohol and substance abuse.
Norman Mailer, deceased American writer, reportedly dealt with clinical depression.
Kate Millett, American feminist writer and activist, discusses her bipolar disorder in The Loony-Bin Trip.
Spike Milligan, deceased British writer, reportedly had bipolar disorder.
Robert Munsch, American-born Canadian children’s writer, reportedly has obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Georgia O’Keeffe, deceased American artist, reportedly suffered from clinical depression.
Eugene O’Neill, deceased American playwright who looked a whole lot like a younger version of the actor who played Barty Crouch in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, struggled with depression and alcoholism.
Walker Percy, deceased American writer, reportedly had clinical depression.
Pablo Picasso, deceased Spanish painter and sculptor, reportedly had clinical depression.
Sylvia Plath, deceased American poet, suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide in 1963. (Lively Women’s Kristen King contributed Sylvia Plath: Glimpse Into The Writer’s Mind to Mental Health Notes back in November.)
Edgar Allan Poe, deceased American writer, reportedly suffered from clinical depression and alcoholism.
Jackson Pollock, deceased American painter, reportedly dealt with clinical depression and substance abuse.
Cole Porter, deceased American lyricist and composer, reportedly had clinical depression, paranoid delusions, OCD, and alcoholism.
Mark Rothko, Latvian-born Jewish American painter, reportedly suffered from clinical depression.
Charles Schulz, deceased American cartoonist and mastermind behind Peanuts, reportedly suffered from clinical depression.
Anne Sexton, deceased American poet and writer, reportedly had clinical depression and committed suicide in 1974.
Neil Simon, American playwright and screenwriter, reportedly has clinical depression.
Paul Simon, Grammy-winning musician and composer and the man I can thank for the chills every time I hear “Hello darkness, my old friend…,” reportedly has clinical depression.
Joey Slinger, Canadian journalist and author, reportedly has clinical depression.
William Styron, deceased American novelist and essayist, reportedly had clinical depression.
Tracy Thompson, American journalist, talks about her depression and aims to bust stigma with her book The Beast: A Journey Through Depression.
Leo Tolstoy, deceased Russian writer, reportedly had clinical depression as well as struggled with alcohol and substance abuse.
Vincent van Gogh, deceased Dutch Post-Impressionist artist, reportedly had both clinical depression and bipolar disorder.
Kurt Vonnegut, deceased American author, reportedly had clinical depression.
Tennessee Williams, deceased American playwright, reportedly suffered from depression and alcohol abuse.
Note that this is not a comprehensive list of famous writers and artists who have or had mental illnesses; it’s merely a list of the ones for whom I’ve found information. As a matter of fact, you can check out the Home Based Family Services Network article on Famous People with Mental Illness, which undoubtedly includes writers and artists I haven’t mentioned here.
And, if you know of any others – and can provide credible sources – feel free to leave them in the comments.
In the meantime, stay tuned for information on celebrities and suicide as well as letters from me to a few famous folks!