Richard Dreyfuss on Living with Mental Illness

Bravo, Richard Dreyfuss. Not only one of the best actors of our time, but he is speaking openly about his experience with bipolar. As reported last week in the Herald Tribune in this article by Barbara Peters Smith, Richard recently appeared in Sarasota, FL  to speak on “Living With Mental Illness” for the Mental Health Community Centers. The event was sponsored by the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation.


In the accompanying interview, Richard says,

Dreyfuss:On an airplane the Delta magazine had an article about corporate executive depression. It said, “If you have any four of the next 14 …” and I had all 14.I got off the plane and called my psychiatrist and said, “we have to kick this into high gear. We have to start and get a solution. If we don’t, there really is no reason for me to go on.”

Herald-Tribune: About what time was this?

Dreyfuss: This was in the middle ‘90s. He said the wisest thing I’d ever heard. He said, “Richard, somewhere in your head is a faucet that is dripping either too quickly or too slowly, and we can help you.”  I can’t tell you the relief that lifted off my shoulders at that moment.

He goes on to share a lot of his experience, and his feelings about how the disorder has affected his life – from birth. Richard has joined the ranks of those of us – people affected by mental illness as well as those who love them – who refuse to feel shame or blame because of a physical illness of the brain. Someday, mental illness will receive the same respect (especially in research and availability of treatment and services) as other disorders. Each story, we hope, bring us closer to replacing stigma with understanding and a vow to improve the way things are.

Here is the comment I left on the site:

Thank you Richard, for sharing so honestly and openly. The fact that the medication that helped you the most was discontinued due to “lack of profit” is appalling. As the mother of a son who has schizophrenia (and I am so very proud of both my children, too!) I can tell you that while his medications are far from perfect, it is that  certain combination that has enabled him to stabilize enough to become an A college student and a valued part-time worker. As for our love? He always had that – but it is easier when psychosis is kept at bay.  The right medication can begin the process. Add love, support, purpose, community and understanding instead of stigma, and we’ve got a chance at realizing potential. I love your work – always have. And now I can appreciate what you may be going through as a person. Thanks for telling.
best, Randye Kaye
author of “Ben Behind His Voices:One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”

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