I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Patty Duke recently… She was an incredible woman, actress, and was an inspiration to many – especially those within the mental health community. As many know, Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo by becoming one of the first celebrities to speak candidly about her struggles with bipolar disorder and she had been advocating and lobbying for mental health ever since. She became one of the greatest mental health pioneers of all time and for that I thank her from the bottom of my heart.
As a teenager, around the time I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know much about Patty Duke. I had seen some of her films such as The Miracle Worker and a few Lifetime movies in which she had starred, but I didn’t know much else honestly. It wasn’t until a few years later that I found out that she also lived with bipolar disorder. I immediately became drawn to her because I felt so alone and isolated during those years. I felt as if I was the only one living with this condition and that I was severely flawed. The more I researched about her, the less I felt alone and the less I felt abnormal and strange. Her vulnerability, openness, and compassion provided me with hope regarding my future. I kept fearing that I might not amount to anything because of the devastating obstacles I faced everyday with this disorder, but the fact that she was successful and also lived with bipolar presented me with great comfort and reassurance about my own strengths and abilities.
Thank you Patty for your courage and efforts in educating the public on mental health, for sharing your story, and for inspiring me and others to do the same. Even though you didn’t know it, you saved me.
Patty, you will be greatly missed and will never be forgotten. May you rest in peace.