While recording for comic Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast in front of a live audience, English actor Stephen Fry revealed a shocking story: last year, he attempted to kill himself after a long struggle with drastic mood swings from bipolar disorder.
While shooting on location, Fry swallowed several pills and drank alcohol in his hotel room, but was fortunately saved when a producer found his unconscious body on the floor.
“It was a close-run thing. I took a huge number of pills and a huge amount of [alcohol]. The mixture of them made my body convulse so much that I broke four ribs – but I was still unconscious.
“Fortunately the producer – I was filming at the time – came into the hotel room and I was found in an unconscious state and taken back and looked after.”
After being taken to the hospital, Fry was administered medical treatment and made a full recovery. Now, he is speaking out about his experience.
“You may say, ‘How can anybody who’s got it all be so stupid as to want to end it all?’ That’s the point, there is no ‘why?’ That’s not the right question. There is no reason. If there was reason for it, you could reason someone out of it.
“I am the victim of my own moods, more than most people are perhaps, in as much as I have a condition which requires me to take medication so that I don’t get either too hyper or too depressed to the point of suicide.”
This all came after the 12-year-old son of one of the producers asked what it was like to be Fry. The actor explained how life is with a serious mood disorder.
“If unmedicated there are times when I am so exuberant, so hyper, that I can go three or four nights without sleep and I’m writing and I’m doing stuff and I’m so grandiose and I’m so full of self-belief it’s almost impossible to deal with me. I can’t stop speaking. I go on shopping sprees. One of the common signs of mania, or hypermania, is sexual exhibitionism – fortunately I don’t have that.
“There are times when I’m doing QI and I’m going, ‘Ha ha, yeah, yeah,’ and inside I’m going ‘I want to fucking die. I … want … to … fucking … die.’…
“The whole point of my role, as I see it, is not to be shy about the morbidity and the genuine likelihood of death among people with certain mood disorders if they don’t look after it.”
It is always astoundingly brave when people reveal deeply personal details about themselves and their health. Mental illness carries a particular stigma that is shockingly misunderstood in our society. People call those who attempt or commit suicide “selfish,” entirely devoid of any comprehension regarding the reasons they are pushed to that extreme of an action. I respect Stephen Fry so very much for speaking out about his struggle the way he did. Just as with Angelina Jolie‘s double mastectomy op-ed, having a well-respected celebrity discuss something as serious, yet taboo, as being suicidal can increase understanding while lessening the stigmatization.
Photo: Getty Images.