“My mother had bipolar disorder, and she was one of the first to go public about her experience.” So says accomplished actor Sean Astin (Goonies, Rudy, Lord of the Rings) of his legendary mother Patty Duke in a People magazine interview this past week. Astin’s beloved mom wrote about her struggles with mental illness in a 1987 autobiography Call Me Anna and went on to play herself in the 1990 TV movie of the same name. In 1992, she wrote her second book A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depression Illness.

Sean has honored his mother’s legacy by continuing her mental health work through advocacy and education. “The pain that my family endured because we were living with someone with a mental health condition actually has become an important ingredient to my being able to offer support to other people,” he says.

Patty was not the first actress to battle mental health issues, and she certainly won’t be the last. Emma Stone, the effervescent starlet of La La Land, The Help, and Easy A fame, has spoken about her own mental and emotional challenges: “The first time I had a panic attack I was sitting in my friend’s house, and I thought the house was burning down. I called my mom and she brought me home, and for the next three years it just would not stop,” she shared. “I would ask my mom to tell me exactly how the day was going to be, then ask again 30 seconds later. I just needed to know that no one was going to die and nothing was going to change.”



And the actress Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, Jennifer’s Body, Les Miserables) had this to say regarding her mental health struggles and the medication she uses to combat depression, “I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness—it’s not a mass. It’s not a cyst, but it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.”


The multitalented Cara Delevingne confessed that at one point her depression was so debilitating she actually considered suicide. “I had very bad learning disabilities; I was just pushing past. So, I got to the point where I went a bit mad. I was completely suicidal. I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought that I was completely alone. I also realized how lucky I was and what a wonderful family I had, but that didn’t matter. I wanted the world to swallow me up and nothing seemed better to me than death.”



In 1962, Patty Duke won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress playing the deaf and blind author, Helen Keller, in The Miracle Worker. She was 16-years-old at the time, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar. She then starred in her own sitcom titled The Patty Duke Show in 1963 which ran for three seasons, and Duke was nominated for an Emmy Award. Being she played the dual roles of identical cousins Cathy Lane and Patty Lane, the young actress was in virtually every scene, which resulted in grueling 12-14 hour workdays. But Duke held up just fine, delivering a hilarious weekly show with gags and pranks and mishaps—but also with a moral throughline that tied the show together beautifully.


For his part, Sean Astin vows to continue his mom’s work and legacy. “I’m not speaking as an expert; I’m speaking from personal experience,” he says. And the Stranger Things actor goes on to speak of his own family life, of his wife and three daughters. “We’re a talky family, we share our feelings. If someone has an issue, there’s no judgment. These conversations don’t have to be laden with guilt or shame or fear or judgment.”

Concerning the current pandemic and plague of all nations, Sean had these words of wisdom: “The silver lining of COVID for my family is we’ve spent more time together than we ever would have. That is a gift.”



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