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Famous Depressed People: You're in Good Company

Are you feeling ashamed of your depression? Feeling like you’re the only one who is depressed? You’re not alone. More than 20 million people are depressed during at any one year. Depression knows no boundaries. It affects people from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, young and old, rich and poor, men and women -- even celebrities.

Here is just a sample listing of famous depressed people (alive and deceased). (Many more pages could be filled with other well-known depressed people.) This brief list is categorized by actors, musicians, athletes, writers, artists, political/public figures and other celebrities. Many of these famous individuals were able to cope successfully with their depression with appropriate support and treatment.

Actors/Entertainers

  • Mike Wallace – News journalist and correspondent of TV show “60 Minutes.” He was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1984 (after being sued for libel). Wallace had experienced severe depressive episodes, but has overcome them with therapy and antidepressant medication.
  • Brooke Shields – Calvin Klein jean model and actor in movies and shows such as “The Blue Lagoon,” “Endless Love,” “Suddenly Susan.” Shields had suffered from post partum depression after the birth of her son.
  • Jim Carrey – Starred in movies such as “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” “The Mask,” “The Truman Show,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” On 60 Minutes (November 2004), Carrey openly discussed his history of depression and being on Prozac.
  • Ellen DeGeneres – Comedian, actor in TV show “Ellen,” movie “Finding Nemo” and star of popular talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” DeGeneres went through depression for about a year shortly after the cancellation of her show “Ellen” and publicly coming out in 1997.
  • Lorraine Bracco – Best known for her role as a psychiatrist on “The Sopranos.” Bracco has spoken out publicly about her depression and has worked toward ending stigma around mental illness. Bracco overcame her depression through antidepressants and talk therapy. She is no longer on medication, but continues to find therapy helpful.
  • Drew Barrymore - Actor in films such as “The Wedding Singer,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and director/producer (e.g. “Charlie’s Angels,” “Ever After”). Barrymore has a depression history that includes a suicide attempt and being hospitalized.
  • Rosie O’Donnell – In movies such as “A League of Their Own,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Flintstones” and starred in her own talk show, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” O’Donnell first felt depressed as a child and experienced periods of depression as an adult. At 37, her depression started to improve when she began taking medication.
  • Dick Clark - Host of “New Year's Rockin' Eve,” “American Bandstand.” Clark was interviewed about his experience with depression in the book, “On the Edge of Darkness” by Kathy Cronkite.
  • Roseanne Barr – Comedian and actor best known for her role in the sitcom “Roseanne.” She had openly announced being diagnosed with depression (among other disorders) in 1994. Barr has been hospitalized and her treatment has involved both psychotherapy and antidepressants.
  • Rod Steiger – Academy Award winner, starred in “Doctor Zhivago,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “On the Waterfront.” Steiger became depressed for eight years after having triple bypass surgery in 1976. He was also interviewed in Kathy Cronkite’s book, “On the Edge of Darkness.”
  • Others include Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Joan Rivers, John Cleese, Dick Cavett, Marilyn Monroe.

Musicians/Singers/Songwriters/Composers

  • Sting (Gordon Sumner) – Former lead singer, bassist of the rock group The Police and successful solo artist. While writing his memoir, “Broken Music,” Sting fell into a depression that lasted for two years.
  • Elton John – British pop singer, songwriter, pianist with hits like “Your Song,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Crocodile Rock,” etc. In the early 1990s, John battled with depression (as well as bulimia and drug abuse) which he later overcame. John went into another period of depression after the death of his two friends (Princess Diana and Gianni Versace).
  • Billy Joel – Musician, singer, songwriter. Some of his well known hits include “Piano Man,” “Just the Way You Are,” “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me,” “My Life.” In the 1970s, Joel experienced serious depression and admitted himself into a hospital for treatment after attempting to end his life by drinking furniture polish.
  • Sheryl Crow – Singer, musician with hits such as “All I Wanna Do,” “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” In an interview with “Ladies’ Home Journal” magazine (April 2003), Crow discussed having chronic depression since she was a child. In the late 1980s, Crow had a period of depression after touring with Michael Jackson. Her depression was helped by antidepressants and therapy.
  • Tammy Wynette – Country singer, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, most famous for her song, “Stand by Your Man.” Wynette received ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for her depression.
  • Ozzy Osbourne – Lead singer of Black Sabbath, star of his own reality TV show, “The Osbournes.” Osbourne had periods of depression early on in his life as well as during his career and after the death of Randy Rhoads, his friend and band mate.
  • Robbie Williams – British pop singer and songwriter (“Millenium,” “She’s the One,” “Eternity / The Road to Mandalay,” “Radio”). Williams has struggled with reoccurring episodes of depression. In September 2006, Williams cancelled part of his tour to Asia to receive treatment.
  • Marie Osmond – Country singer, starred in the “Donny and Marie Show.” Osmond describes her bout with postpartum depression in her book, “Behind the Smile.”
  • Others include Alanis Morissette, John Denver, Cole Porter, Beethoven, Irving Berlin.

Athletes

  • Terry Bradshaw – Former quarterback for the football team, Pittsburgh Steelers. In the late 1990s, Bradshaw was diagnosed with clinical depression and began taking antidepressants (Paxil). (Bradshaw also had panic attacks after games.)
  • Monica Seles – Professional tennis player, winner of nine grand slam single titles. In her biography, “Monica: From Fear to Victory,” Seles describes falling into a depression after she was stabbed in the back during a match in 1993.
  • Greg Louganis – Diver and multiple Olympics medal winner. Louganis first experienced depression when he was 12 and attempted suicide twice.
  • Ty Cobb – Profession baseball player for the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia A’s and Baseball Hall of Fame member. Cobb was hospitalized for depression during his first year with the Detroit Tigers.
  • Ilie Natase – Number one professional tennis player in 1973. As described in his autobiography, “Mr. Natase,” Natase fell into a depression shortly after he retired in 1984, but was able to overcome it that same year.

Writers/Poets

  • Art Buchwald – Writer, humorist known for his column in “The Washington Post.” Buchwald was hospitalized for depression in 1963. He has talked openly about his depression (e.g. Larry King Live) and the need for treatment and decreasing stigma.
  • William Styron – Author of “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner.” Styron’s first episode of depression occurred in mid-1980s and he continued to have bouts of depression from there on. Styron wrote about his experience with this illness in his memoir, “Darkness Visible.”
  • John Keats – 19th Century English Romantic Poet most famous for his poetry series of “Odes.” Keats experienced periods of severe depression.
  • William Faulkner – Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature (1949), novels include “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying” and “Absalom, Absalom!” Faulkner struggled with depression (and alcoholism).
  • Leo Tolstoy – Writer of novels such as “War and Peace,” “Anna Karenina.” Tolstoy started to experience depression while writing the latter book.
  • Other include Lord Byron, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway.

Artists

  • Claude Monet – French impressionist painter of “The Woman in the Green Dress,” “Impression, Sunrise,” “Water Lily Pond.” Monet entered a depressive episode after the death of his wife, Alice Hoschedé.
  • Georgia O'Keeffe – Prominent American artist, painter since the 1920s (died in 1986 when she was 98). After her husband’s affair, O'Keeffe became depressed and was hospitalized for a short period of time.
  • Jackson Pollock – Abstract expressionist painter. Pollock suffered from depression and alcoholism.
  • Edvard Munch – Norwegian artist most famous for his painting “The Scream.” After his father’s death (1889), Munch went into a deep depression. At age 45, he was hospitalized for eight months.
  • Others artists include Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo.

Political/Public Figures

  • Princess Diana – Ex-wife of Charles, Prince of Wales and greatly involved in AIDS charity work. Princess Diana had suffered from post-partum depression (after her first son was born) and also experienced depression from her transition to Princess of Wales and marital problems.
  • Abraham Lincoln – 16th President of the United States. President Lincoln’s first major episode of depression began in his 20s and he struggled with this illness for the remainder of his life (in addition to anxiety attacks).
  • Tipper Gore – Wife of Vice President Al Gore. (Also Tipper Gore’s mother was chronically depressed, was on antidepressants and hospitalized twice.) In 1989, Gore experienced depression after her son’s near fatal car accident. She was officially diagnosed with clinical depression two years later and fully recovered with medication and therapy.
  • Kitty Dukakis – Wife of former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis has a history of severe depression, hospitalizations and began ECT in 2001. She has stated that ECT helped her taper off antidepressants and improved her work in therapy. Dukakis has written about her experience in a book called “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.”
  • Calvin Coolidge – 30th President of the United States. Coolidge fell into a deep depression after the death of his son.
  • Menachem Begin – 6th Prime Minister of Israel. Begin’s depression was triggered by the Lebanon war and death of his wife.
  • Others include Barbara Bush, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon.

Other Celebrities

  • Buzz Aldrin – Astronaut (along with Neil Armstrong) who walked on the moon in 1969. Aldrin’s depression began shortly after going to the moon and eventually was hospitalized. He recovered with the help of psychotherapy and depression medicines. Aldrin describes his depressive experience in his book, “Return to Earth.”
  • Stephen Hawking – Physicist, wrote popular best selling book, “A Brief History of Time,” known for his contributions to theoretical physics, cosmology, black holes. In the early 1960’s, Hawking became depressed shortly after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotropic lateral sclerosis). In 1976, he also succumbed to depression after being hospitalized for medical reasons.
  • Yves Saint Laurent – Fashion designer. Early in his career after being enlisted in the French Army, Saint Laurent experienced a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized and given electroshock therapy after 20 days of active duty. Later in life, he became vulnerable to alcohol and drug use because of his depression.
  • Salvador Luria – Microbiologist, 1969 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. In his autobiography, “A Slot Machine, a Broken Test Tube“, Luria discussed his experience with depression and psychotherapy.
  • Vaslav Nijinsky – Russian ballet dancer. In the book, “Vaslav Nijinsky: A Leap Into Madness,” the author described Nijinsky as having bouts of depression and hospitalizations.

 

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