Monday, we had the pleasure of speaking with actress Patty Duke about her journey through mental illness. Ms. Duke will be speaking at our annual Breaking the Cycle Conference next Tuesday, but was willing to answer questions prior to that event for individuals who would not be able to attend. Below are highlights of the interview with her.

When asked about what prompted her to finally get help, she responded that she could no longer function the way that she had been. She knew that she had to do it for herself, her family, and for her children. She felt “compelled” to feel good. She went on to say that after she did get help, she had a great deal of “debris” to clean up. She said she has never used her mental illness as an excuse, and she still wanted to be held accountable for any hurt that she may have caused during her manic and depressive stages. She is very clear that mental illness can be dealt with, and that people need to get through the fear and denial that impedes them from seeking help. She feels that taking medication and going through talk therapy actually improved her creativity, and also improved her stability in terms of relationships. She knows she has the support of her husband of 25 years, as well as a network of children, grandchildren, and friends. She stresses that those who are living with mental illness should have the support of loved ones to help them through the initial fear and denial, as well as through the process of getting help.

Ms. Duke also wanted to convey that people living with mental illness are still going to be human. Even after they seek help, they are going to go through all of the normal human emotions that everyone has to face…fear, happiness, anxiety, sadness, joy. She commented that after getting help though, individuals will be able to have and express those emotions in a much more balanced fashion.

Again, we wish to thank Ms. Duke for speaking with us, and for speaking out about this very important issue.

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