Famous Faces, Mysterious Minds

Famous Faces, Mysterious Minds

What comes to mind when you hear the word “schizophrenia”?

According to Healthy Place, schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses (Oberg, 2014), but why is that? Medication and therapy are beneficial in relieving the symptoms experienced by those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There are three individuals that are helping fight this stigma and some of these individuals are quite renowned, such as John Nash, Darrell Hammond, and Tom Harrell. These three men have been through the troubles of this disorder, yet they didn’t let it stop them from living their lives, evidently proving the stigma wrong.

A Beautiful Mind, a film, is based on John Nash’s experiences living with schizophrenia while also achieving his goals as a mathematician and economist. He was successful in his career, so much so that he won the Nobel Prize for his contribution of game theory. He later shares that he was experiencing schizophrenic delusions while working on this theory (Living With Schizophrenia, 2017). Delusions were not the only symptom he experienced, he also experienced hallucinations. While he was in and out of hospitals all throughout his adulthood, he persevered. His symptoms were troubling, but he managed to overcome them, saying they eventually “disappeared” with age (Rettner, 2015). Nash had many accomplishments while his symptoms were at an all-time high, yet he rose above them through medication and therapy.

Tom Harrell, a jazz musician, is also affected with schizophrenia. Rebecca Leung, writer for CBS news, stated that Harrell would often disappear suddenly, attempted suicide, and had hasty mood swings (Leung, 2003). Forbes claims that Tom Harrell was bouncing around different medications, constantly struggling with either the symptoms of his mental illness or side effects from the medications. Harrell still claims to see a grey figure every so often, but when he plays his trumpet or flugelhorn, it all goes away. He battles his illness every day, but doesn’t let it stop him from living his life to the fullest and pursuing what he loves. According to his official website, he has recorded 27 albums as well as performed in thousands of concerts (Tom Harrell, n.d). He’s living his dream, despite the obstacles life has thrown at him.

Often, those who don’t seem like they are in need of help are those who need it the most. Darrell Hammond, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, severely struggled with schizophrenia. CNN held an interview with him where he described his childhood and the horrific abuse he grew up with (Simon, 2011). He was diagnosed with multiple disorders, schizophrenia being one of them. He would inflict wounds upon himself while backstage of the show. In the interview, he even stated that he was once taken to a hospital in a straitjacket after filming (Simon, 2011). Towards the end of the interview, he says, “I don’t feel ashamed of falling down, because I got hit by a Mack truck…The fact is, I kept trying to get back up, and then I did” (Simon, 2011). This statement proves to those who are currently suffering that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hammond was able to put a smile on millions of fans faces while dealing with his own problems. Through it all, he fell off the horse, but he got right back on.

While schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, Nash, Harrell, and Hammond were able to prove this stigma wrong and they did not withstand the obstacles they were faced with. All three men were all successful in their careers and didn’t let their illness define them. Mental illnesses do not define you, you define them. Through their work, these men were able to send this message to those struggling as well.


Famous People and Schizophrenia. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.schizophrenia.com/famous.htm

Herper, M. (2005, June 15). Jazz, Schizophrenia And Side Effects. Retrieved September 14, 2017, from   

Leung, R. (2003, August 20). A Beautiful Note. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-beautiful-note/

Living With Schizophrenia. (2017, September). John Nash. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from https://www.livingwithschizophreniauk.org/john-nash/

Oberg, B. (2014, October 28). Are Some Mental Illnesses More Stigmatized Than Others? Retrieved September 14, 2017, from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2014/10/are-some-mental-illnesses-more-stigmatized-than-others/

Rettner, R. (2015, June 4). “Beautiful Mind” John Nash’s Schizophrenia “Disappeared” as He Aged. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/beautiful-mind-john-nash-s-schizophrenia-disappeared-as-he-aged/

Shipkowski, B. (2015, May 24). John Nash: A life of great struggle and greater success.
Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.detroitnews.com/story/obituaries/2015/05/24/john-nash-life-great-struggle-greater-success/27887233/

Simon, M. (2011, October 25). ‘SNL’s’ Darrell Hammond reveals dark past of abuse. Retrieved    
September 14, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/24/showbiz/celebrity-news-gossip/darrell-hammond-abuse/index.html

Tom Harrell. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.tomharrell.com/about.php

Victoria Radesco

My passion for psychology began when I was home with a fever in middle school and I spent my day off researching mental illnesses and what in the brain causes it. Whenever I had an opportunity, I would choose psychology as a topic for all my school assignments. For example, I did my Biology project in 10th grade on the symptoms and risk factors of Schizophrenia and I wrote a research paper on how music affects the brain. As a psychology major, I am constantly looking for courses that have to do with mental illnesses and which parts of the brain cause it. After taking Biopsychology last semester, I am currently taking Abnormal and Clinical Psychology and I’m able to learn about each mental illness more in depth. This course can be very beneficial to everyone because I believe the way to help destigmatize mental illnesses is to educate those who encourage the stigma. You can probably either find me at the mall feeding my shopping addiction or in bed watching Netflix.

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