Schizophrenia is a long-term (chronic) mental health disorder that can affect nearly every aspect of your life. It can affect the way you think, and may also disrupt your behavior, relationships, and feelings. Without early diagnosis and treatment, the outcome is uncertain.
Due to the complexities surrounding schizophrenia, celebrities with the condition have come out to talk about their own experiences. Their stories serve as inspiration, and their actions help to fight stigma about the disorder.
Discover seven of these celebrities and what they’ve had to say about schizophrenia.
1. Lionel Aldridge
Lionel Aldridge is perhaps best known for his role in helping the Green Bay Packers win two Super Bowl championships in the 1960s. He went on to retire from playing to work as a sports analyst.
Aldridge started noticing some changes in his 30s that disrupted his life and relationships. He got divorced and was even homeless for a couple of years in the 1980s.
He started speaking publicly about schizophrenia shortly after receiving a diagnosis. He now focuses on giving speeches and talking to others about his experiences. “When I started, I did it as a way to keep myself stable,” he has said. “But once I got well, it serves as a way to get the information out … My accomplishment is that people are hearing what can be done. People can and do recover from mental illness. The medication is important, but it doesn't cure you. I won with the things I did to help myself and people who may be suffering now or people who may know someone who is suffering can hear that.”
2. Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald was most famous for being married to American modernist writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. But during her short life, Fitzgerald was a socialite who also had her own creative pursuits, such as writing and painting.
Fitzgerald was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1930, at the age of 30. She spent the rest of her life in and out of mental health facilities until her death in 1948. Her battles with mental health issues were publicly known. And her husband even used them as inspiration for some of the female characters in his novels.
In a 1931 letter to her husband, she wrote, “My dear, I think of you always and at night I build myself a warm nest of things I remember and float in your sweetness till morning.”
3. Peter Green
Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, Peter Green, has discussed his experiences with schizophrenia publicly. While he was seemingly on top of the world with his band, Green’s personal life started to spiral out of control in the early 1970s.
He told the Los Angeles Times about when he was admitted to a hospital. “I was throwing things around and smashing things up. I smashed the car wind screen. The police took me to the station and asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said yes because I didn't feel safe going back anywhere else.”
Green went through aggressive treatments that included multiple medications. He eventually left the hospital and started playing guitar again. He has said, “It hurt my fingers at first, and I am still relearning. What I have discovered is simplicity. Back to basics. I used to worry and make things very complicated. Now I keep it simple.”
4. Darrell Hammond
Hammond is known for his spoofs on “Saturday Night Live” of celebrities and politicians like John McCain, Donald Trump, and Bill Clinton. But the public was surprised when he publicly discussed the very serious subjects of mental health and abuse.
In a CNN interview, the actor detailed childhood abuse inflicted by his own mother. During his early adulthood, Hammond explained how he was diagnosed with schizophrenia along with other mental health conditions. He stated, “I was on as many as seven medications at one time. Doctors didn't know what to do with me.”
After leaving “Saturday Night Live,” Hammond began speaking out about his addictions and personal battles and wrote a memoir.
5. John Nash
The late mathematician and professor John Nash is perhaps most famous for the depiction of his story in the 2001 film “A Beautiful Mind.” The film chronicles Nash’s experiences with schizophrenia, which is sometimes credited as fueling some of his greatest mathematical breakthroughs.
Nash didn’t give many interviews about his personal life. But he did write about his condition. He is famous for saying, “People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better.”
6. Skip Spence
Skip Spence was a guitarist and singer-songwriter best known for his work with the psychedelic band Moby Grape. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the middle of recording an album with the band.
Spence later debuted a solo album, which critics dismissed as “crazy music.” But despite one’s opinion on Spence’s music, perhaps his lyrics were an outlet for speaking about his condition. Take, for example, the lyrics from a song called “Little Hands”: Little hands clapping / Children are happy / Little hands loving all ‘round the world / Little hands clasping / Truth they are grasping / A world with no pain for one and all.
7. Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson, the leading member of the Beach Boys, is another musician who has schizophrenia. And Wilson’s life has admittedly been wrought with struggles.
In 2016, the singer-songwriter sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone and spoke about a history of abuse, conflict with his brothers, and problems with drug abuse.
Wilson attributes his mental health issues to LSD, saying, “I've told a lot of people don't take psychedelic drugs. It's mentally dangerous to take. I regret having taken LSD. It's a bad drug … The struggle for mental health is the result of bad drugs.”
Wilson has also released a memoir detailing his life and mental health struggles.