Famous People and Depression

Written By: Butler Hospital on September 21, 2020

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain was one of the "Big Three" (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin) to lead the world in its defeat of Hitler in WWII. He told in his own writings of suffering from "black dog," Churchill's term for severe and serious depression.


Patty Duke The Academy Award-winning actress told of her bipolar disorder in her autobiography and made-for-TV movie Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness, co-authored by Gloria Hochman.


Linda Hamilton has gone public regarding her bipolar disorder, diagnosed at a young age. Hamilton, well known for her part with Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator movies, explains how helpful medication has been and that she understands she will have to be on medication for the rest of her life.


Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, suffered from severe and debilitating bouts of depression, which were described by Carl Sandburg in his biographical analysis of his life. Lincoln once wrote in a letter to a friend, "A tendency to melancholy…let it be observed, is a misfortune not a fault."


Isaac Newton, the most famous mathematician of the 17th Century, suffered from several “nervous breakdowns” and was known for great fits of rage towards anyone who disagreed with him. Some people suspect that he had bipolar disorder, which was unknown at the time.


Jimmy Piersall The baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who suffered from bipolar disorder detailed his experience in The Truth Hurts.


Brooke Shields talked about her disabling postpartum depression in her book Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression. She was able to gain a significant improvement in her mood through medication and the help of a skilled nurse who recognized her problem and encouraged her to get help.


Vincent Van Gogh, famous painter and artist was labeled peculiar with unstable moods most of his short life. Many people have tried to give a definitive diagnosis of his illness through reading his personal letters. It seems clear that his depressive states were also accompanied by manic episodes of enormous energy and great passion. Van Gogh committed suicide at age 37.


Ludwig Von Beethoven, composer, had bipolar disorder and wrote his most famous works during times of torment, loneliness and suffering psychotic delusions. He medicated himself with the only drugs available in that day to bring some relief – opium and alcohol – and died of liver disease.

The following famous people have been guest speakers at Butler Hospital’s annual Real Stories, Real Recoveries program.


Jane Pauley, A familiar presence on NBC for over twenty-seven years, Jane Pauley is one of the most recognizable newswomen in America today. Until the release of her book, “Skywriting,” people did not realize that she had accomplished so much while suffering from bipolar disorder, a common and serious mental illness.


Terry Bradshaw, the winner of four super bowls and a successful sportscaster, writer, singer, and actor, was diagnosed with depression seven years ago and has used a combination of positive thinking, therapy and medications to overcome the illness.