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Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
Though there’s been progress made in bringing awareness to this very treatable condition, 50 percent of Americans living with depression still do not seek therapy.
Left untreated, depression makes day-to-day living a seemingly impossible task. It can cause a host of physical symptoms, such as loss of appetite, lack of energy and insomnia.
In the midst of a depressive episode, feelings of hopelessness and despair can cast a dark shadow and cause mood swings ranging from anger to suicidal thoughts.
Because depression affects so many people, it’s no surprise that notable personalities, both from history and our current culture, have dealt with this mental illness.
Because May is Mental Health Month, this is an ideal time to take a look at some notable people throughout history who have suffered with depression, to give hope to others that greatness can still be had, and there’s no shame in being depressed.
Did You Know They Suffered With Depression?
1. Abraham Lincoln
Though it’s rarely taught in history class, President Lincoln fought clinical depression his entire life. Even as a young man, he talked of suicide more than once. As an adult, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked,” said his law partner, William Herndon.
2. Queen Victoria
A 2010 study and psychiatric analysis of Queen Victoria’s journal concluded that while she suffered from depression in earlier life, a severe late-life depressive episode in the last 5 months of her life contributed to her death.
3. Sir Isaac Newton
While discovering and cataloguing some of science’s most fundamental discoveries, such as gravity and the three major laws of motion, Newton lived with severe manic depression. His illness caused intense mood swings that made him difficult to be around and isolated him further. His college notebooks are filled with descriptions of personal anxiety, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem and bouts of fear.
4. John Quincy Adams
The 6th President of the United States watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from a hillside near his home at 8 years old. He went on to live an extraordinary life, but examinations of the diaries he left behind reveal a man plagued by a lifelong struggle with depression.
5. Georgia O’Keeffe
The celebrated artist with amazing talents suffered sometimes-crippling depressive episodes. At the age of 46, O’Keeffe was admitted to Doctors Hospital in New York City with symptoms of anxiety and depression that included insomnia, weeping uncontrollably and not eating.
6. Jessica Lange
An Academy Award winning actress twice over, Lange has spoken out about her severe depression in interviews, stating that she isn’t a believer in therapy for the problem. Instead, she claims that being a practicing Buddhist has helped her during these difficult periods.
7. Jim Carrey
A man famous for being funny, he had a difficult childhood that included dropping out of school and caring for his sick mother while his father looked for work. Carrey’s been very public about his battles with chronic depression and has taken medication for it at least once.
8. J.K. Rowling
Author of the “Harry Potter” novels, Rowling says that her first bout with major depression occurred during the early ’90s while she wrote “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Feeling suicidal, Rowling sought out treatment and came through that episode. She has since received treatment a second time, saying, “I’m a big fan of it [treatment]. It helped a lot.”
9. Mike Tyson
“Iron” Mike Tyson, dubbed the baddest man on the planet said in an interview, “I’ve had self-loathing my entire life.” As early as 1988, one psychiatrist prescribed lithium for Tyson in an effort to control his mood swings. His struggles in marriage, addiction and serving time in jail for rape have been very public.
10. Mike Wallace
What most people don’t know about this hard-hitting newsman on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” is that in 1984, after being sued for libel, Wallace attempted suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills. He continued to receive therapy off and on throughout the rest of his life, attributing these treatments to his recovery.