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Mental health continues to be a popular conversation in our world today as many work to create a more normal conversation around the subject and bring awareness to others. Over the years, there have been many different forms of mental health disorders that have been discovered and have allowed medical professionals to better treat those who suffer from them. One of these common disorders is schizophrenia, which often comes with hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and delusions.
In the entire population of the world, approximately 0.3 to 0.7 percent of people are diagnosed with the disorder in their lifetime. In fact, by 2022, there have been 24 million confirmed cases globally. From mild to severe, many of those cases of this version of mental illnesses have involved some of the most famous names in entertainment, academics, and more.
Here are 42 famous people with schizophrenia.
1. John Nash Jr.
It’s thanks to John Nash that we have such significant contributions to the world of mathematics as the famed mathematician made considerable contributions to differential geometry, real algebraic geometry, game theory, and partial differential equations. Even with all his smarts, however, he did struggle mentally, being diagnosed with schizophrenia after being admitted to the hospital in April 1959.
Nash, although he didn’t often talk about his personal life and illness, he did write about it. “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.”
2. Lionel Aldridge
Lionel Aldridge was a star player for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers for a number of years in the 1960s, even being inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and then going on to cover the team’s games as an NBC Analyst. Then, in his 30s, things started to change as he suffered from paranoia and hallucinations before ultimately being diagnosed with schizophrenia. While he had a hard time with it at first, even spending a while as a homeless man, he was able to control the disorder with medications and became a world-renowned speaker about the disease.
“When I started, I did it as a way to keep myself stable. But once I got well, it serves as a way to get the information out,” Aldridge once said during one of his public speeches about the disease. “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.”
3. Brian Wilson
Famed record producer and co-founder of the Beach Boys, known for his novel approach to pop composition, found himself being diagnosed with a similar form of schizophrenia known as schizoaffective disorder when he was still a young man. For him, his symptoms often include auditory hallucinations, which he has said inspired the writing of some of his songs. Because of that, he has called them “heroes and villains” that have caused “a life of scare.”
Related: Who Are the Beach Boys?
4. Darrell Hammond
Darrell Hammond is best known for being a regular cast member on the hit NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, with his tenure lasting from 1995 to 2009. Despite his knack for comedy, however, he had a troubled childhood. He told CNN in October 2011 that he suffered abuse as a child at the hands of his mother, which led to severe anxiety and even cutting. His several hospitalizations as a result later led to his diagnosis of schizophrenia, as well as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.
“I was on as many as seven medications at one time,” Hammond told CNN in regard to before he was diagnosed. “Doctors didn’t know what to do with me.”
5. Zelda Fitgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of St. Paul-born The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, is easily one of the saddest stories of those on our list of famous people with schizophrenia list. While doctors did ultimately diagnose her with schizophrenia after many years of mental issues, it was tentative as they believed her condition to be far worse. The diagnosis was later confirmed and official in November 1930. She was only 30. Sadly, her mental illness became an inspiration from her husband’s writings, as were letters she would write to him as she spent the rest of her life in and out of mental institutions.
“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,” she wrote in a 1931 letter.
6. Veronica Lake
Between her femme fatale roles in film noirs with Alan Ladd and peek-a-boo hairstyle, Veronica Lake was a Hollywood goddess in the 40s, 50s, and 60s before her unexpected death in 1973. She had a troubled childhood, however, before she made it big, even being diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young girl.
7. Peter Green
Peter Green, founding member and former guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, is one of the famous people with schizophrenia on our list who has not been afraid to talk about his struggles publicly.
“I was throwing things around and smashing things up. I smashed the car windscreen,” Green once told the Los Angeles Times about one of the hospital stays that resulted from the disorder in the early 1970s. “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.”
Although he said he got the help he needed, it took a while for him to relearn how to play guitar because of the aggressive treatments and plethora of medications. “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.”
8. Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh may be one on our list of famous people with schizophrenia who never had an official diagnosis simply because of how long ago he lived, but according to scholars, he exhibited typical symptoms of the disease, such as hallucinations and hearing voices. In fact, one account describes van Gogh hearing someone in his ear say, “Kill him,” as he was arguing with Paul Gaugin, a fellow painter. It was this that led him to cut off his own ear. These antics have also led to psychiatrists discussing possible depression and bipolar disorder as the source as well.
9. Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln is another one who lived before schizophrenia was officially recognized, but she is one of those historical figures who have caused psychiatrists and other experts to wonder. Some of the symptoms that she reportedly had include mood swings, a fierce temper, and even public outbursts throughout the presidency of her husband, Abraham Lincoln. It’s not surprising that she would have had some kind of mental illness no matter what, considering the things she suffered, including the death of three sons, witnessing her husband be assassinated, and then being committed to an insane asylum by her only living son left.
10. Bettie Page
The “Queen of Pinups” back in the day, whom Playboy founder Hugh Hefner himself called “a remarkable lady, an iconic figure in pop culture who influenced sexuality, taste in fashion, someone who had a tremendous impact on our society.”
Despite her gorgeous looks, she did suffer from mental illness later in life. She spent many of the latter years of her life in a state psychiatric hospital with paranoid schizophrenia, as she also suffered from depression and violent mood swings. This came after having a nervous breakdown after an altercation with her landlady in 1978.
11. Clara Bow
Clara Bow was one of the stars of silent film throughout the 1920s, for which she was considered the leading sex symbol of the decade and the personification of the Roaring Twenties. Sadly, things began to change as she began showing signs of a psychiatric illness later in life. Things then came to a head in 1949 when she checked herself into The Institute of Living seeking treatment for chronic insomnia and abdominal pains. Inconsistent reports from doctors continued to make things difficult after a battery of tests, with some calling her pains delusional. Because of this, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
12. John Hinckley Jr.
John Hinckley Jr. is considered one of the heartbreaking but unfortunate realities that can sometimes result from having a mental illness such as schizophrenia. Hinckley is best known for attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, in Washington, D.C. During the trial after, the man who diagnosed Hinckley with schizophrenia, William T. Carpenter, testified for the defense, saying that the former had united a number of personalities from real life and fiction. This, he claimed, meant that Hinckley couldn’t “emotionally appreciate” how wrong his actions were.
13. Tom Harrell
Jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell, best known for being voted Trumpeter of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2018, was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1967 after suffering multiple nervous breakdowns. To manage his symptoms, he takes a powerful tranquilizer and “speaks through his music.”
14. Buddy Bolden
Regarded as a critical figure in ragtime music in New Orleans style, aka “jass,” Buddy Bolden was just 30 years old when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia (called dementia praecox in 1907). As a result, he was eventually admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, where he remained until his death on November 4, 1931.
15. Skip Spence
Moby Grape’s own Skip Spence, a guitarist and singer-songwriter, was working with the band on one of their albums when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Some have wondered if some of his later songs were outlets to speak on his condition, although critics often dismissed it as “crazy music.” “Little Hands” is just one of those examples.
16. Rufus May
Rufus May’s diagnosis of schizophrenia is one on our list of famous people who are famous because of it. The British clinical psychologist went on after his diagnosis (1986) and becoming a psychologist to use his own experiences of being a psychiatric patient to bring attention to other recovery approaches.
17. Aaron Carter
Aaron Carter was a teen pop heartthrob of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but as he grew up and out of the spotlight, several health issues continued to plague him. One of those included schizophrenia, which he disclosed to The Doctors in 2019. Sadly, he seemed to continue to struggle as he died of an accidental drowning after inhaling difluoroethane and taking alprazolam on November 5, 2022.
Related: What Happened To Aaron Carter?
18. Elyn Saks
Talk about using your own experiences to bring awareness to an often misunderstood mental illness. That’s precisely what Elyn Saks, associate dean, and Orrin B. Evans, Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Gould Law School, did. The MacArthur Foundation Fellowship winner came forward to write about her own struggle with schizophrenia in her best-selling autobiography, The Center Cannot Hold, in 2007. If that weren’t enough of a reason to look up to her, the fact that she is also a cancer survivor is the icing on top of this inspirational cake.
19. Eduard Einstein
Eduard Einstein, the second son of Albert Einstein, was 21 when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was soon spending the rest of his life in and out of mental institutions. Sadly, he became estranged from his famous father, and after his mother died in 1948, he lived the rest of his life in a psychiatric clinic in Zurich until he died of a stroke in 1965.
20. Jim Gordon
Like an earlier entry on our list of famous people with schizophrenia (John Hinckley Jr.), Jim Gordon is one of the tragic examples of the negative things that can come out of being diagnosed with the disorder. In 1983, the former drummer of Derek and the Dominos murdered his 71-year-old mother, claiming that a voice told him to kill her. He was later arrested and adequately diagnosed with schizophrenia, although it was suspected prior to the murder. He spent the rest of his life in prison, passing away on March 13, 2023.
21. Nathaniel Ayers
Musician Nathaniel Ayers, skilled on the double bass, violin, cello, drums, and piano, whose life has been commemorated in newspapers, books, and film, was never officially diagnosed with schizophrenia, but many have noted that he exhibited classic signs. He had a mental breakdown during his second year at Juilliard School and was even institutionalized. He eventually ended up homeless, playing music on the streets, which became the inspiration for the 2009 biographical film The Soloist.
22. Estelle Bennett
Estelle Bennett, best known for being a member of the Ronettes alongside her sister Ronnie and their cousin Nedra Talley, didn’t have her suffering from schizophrenia revealed until after her 2009 death. According to reports, she was diagnosed in the years following the breakup of the Ronettes. Her struggle with schizophrenia, as well as with anorexia nervosa, led to her eventually living homeless in New York City for a time.
23. Butch Warren
Jazz bassist Butch Warren, who was primarily active in music during the 1950s and 1960s, was at the height of his career when mental illness began to plague him. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while a patient at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, D.C. Following his diagnosis, his time playing professionally was on rare occasions.
24. Kat Bjelland
Kat Bjelland was the face of Babes in Toyland, an alternative rock band, during its tenure (1987-2001; 2014-2017). Noted for her unusual vocal style, which included whispering, shrill screams, and speaking in tongues, it seems, in her case, the writing was on the wall for her diagnosis of schizophrenia. She publicly revealed her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder in 2007, noting that she was even institutionalized for a period of time.
“I don’t know how I’ve progressed musically as such, but a major influence in my writing was dealing with my whole schizophrenia episode. I actually haven’t spoken to anyone much about this,” Bjelland once commented on her struggle. “Dealing with multiple personalities was extremely difficult because some days I didn’t know who I was or where I was at. I was very lucky that Adrian (Johnson, her partner and manager) stuck by and helped me through it all. So obviously, that was going to affect some of what I wrote about.”
25. Roky Erickson
Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson, best known for being the founding member and leader of the 13th Floor Elevators, as well as for being a pioneer of psychedelic rock, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the late 1960s. The diagnosis came after he began speaking gibberish during a performance at HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas. He was subsequently sent to a psychiatric hospital in Houston, where he was forced to receive electroconvulsive therapy.
26. Wild Man Fischer
Wild Man Fischer was one of those on our famous people with schizophrenia list whose diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia came at a young age as he was in and out of mental institutions as a teenager. The highly regarded street performer known as “the godfather of outsider music” found himself being committed to the Camarillo State Hospital in 1963 after threatening his mother with a knife. It was there that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as well as manic depression.
27. Donny Hathaway
“Soul legend” Donny Hathaway was a master soul singer with such popular songs as “This Christmas,” “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” “The Ghetto,” and “Little Ghetto Boy,” just a few of many that are still remembered. Despite his talents, just like all the others on our famous people with schizophrenia list, he was not without personal struggle.
Hathway was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1971, which he treated with multiple medications, which at times included up to 14 different medications taken twice a day. Although they helped for a while, he did struggle between 1973 and 1977 as he became less strict about his medication. As a result, he was hospitalized several times.
Paul D. Hudson, aka H.R., aka Human Rights, is best known as the leader of Bad Brains, a hardcore punk band of which he is considered instrumental in the development of the genre. While the famed musician has confirmed his diagnosis of schizophrenia, as well as a neurological disorder that causes excruciating migraines, it is unclear just how long he has suffered from either disease.
29. Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnston, a significant figure in outsider, lo-fi, and alternative music, spent extended periods in psychiatric institutions throughout his life thanks to his schizophrenia as well as bipolar disorder. His mental illness struggles were chronicled in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
30. Sasha Lane
Actress Sasha Lane, best known for her roles in the film American Honey and the Disney+ series Loki, is another of our famous people with schizophrenia who has a milder subtype of the disease. She was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
31. Jake Lloyd
Jake Lloyd, famous for portraying Anakin Skywalker in the 1999 prequel Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, saw a lot of issues when it came to his struggle with schizophrenia. In March 2015, police were called to his home following an alleged assault by Lloyd on his mother. His mother, Lisa, however, declined to press charges due to his previous schizophrenia diagnosis.
After finding himself in trouble with the law again in June 2015, he was eventually sent to a psychiatric facility in April 2016. Later, in January 2020, his family released a statement saying that he was now living closer to his family again and that he had officially been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
32. Audrey Munson
Audrey Munson, considered to be “America’s first supermodel,” was known by many monikers, including “Miss Manhattan,” the “Panama-Pacific Girl, “American Venus,” and the “Exposition Girl.” The model and inspiration for more than 12 New York City statues was committed to a mental asylum by her mother on June 8, 1931. On Munson’s 40th birthday, she was admitted to St. Lawrence State Hospital for the Insane. It was there, for the next 65 years until she died at the age of 104, that she was treated for schizophrenia and depression. It is unclear exactly what led to her mother making the petition, although on May 27, 1922, Munson reportedly attempted suicide by swallowing a bichloride of mercury solution.
34. Michael O’Hare
Michael O’Hare, best known for his leading role as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in Babylon 5, saw his issues with serious mental illness forced him to leave the show after just one season. While filming the show, he reportedly began experiencing paranoid delusions as well as hallucinations.
Producers worked with O’Hare as best they could, with creator J. Michael Straczynski even promising to keep the former’s condition secret “to my grave.” When O’Hare changed the promise to “keep the secret to my grave,” Straczynski shared the reasons for O’Hare’s departure from the show following the actor’s 2012 death to honor his wishes that fans be given a reason for his departure in hopes that his experience would also raise awareness and potentially help someone else.
35. ODB (Russell Tyrone Jones)
Rapper Russell Tyrone Jones, better known as influential rapper ODB (Ol’ Dirty [expletive]), made his mark as one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, but his legal issues and mental health struggles quickly dampened his career. Jones was diagnosed with schizophrenia around the same time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003.
Prior to his death, many speculated about his eccentric behavior, with music writer Steve Huey stating, “It was difficult for observers to tell whether (Jones’) wildly erratic behavior was the result of serious drug problems or genuine mental instability.”
Related: The 21 Best Rap Songs of All Time
36. John Ogdon
English pianist and composer John Ogdon is one of the famous people with schizophrenia whose diagnosis was actually changed later in his life. Although his personality issues were diagnosed as schizophrenia, particularly after suffering a severe breakdown in 1973, the conclusion was later changed to manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder. It is believed, no matter which condition he truly had, that it was inherited from his father, who also suffered from psychotic episodes and mental breakdowns.
37. Bud Powell
Bud Powell, a pioneer of bebop, was known for his playing style that “greatly extended the range of jazz harmony.” While he seemed to have a handle on his schizophrenia for many years with the help of the medication Largactil, it began to affect his health and piano playing in other ways.
Related: 29 Best Drummers of All Time, Ranked
38. Wesley Willis
Underground singer-songwriter and favorite of Music in Minnesota managing editor Erik Ritland, Wesley Willis was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the late 1980s and spent two months in a mental institution because of it. His diagnosis came after he began hearing voices during a time when his mother’s abusive boyfriend held a gun to his head and stole $600 that Willis had been saving.
Willis didn’t let the struggle get him down, however. After receiving the proper treatment, he pursued his musical career and has become a major influence in a plethora of media, including Nullsoft’s Winamp, whose slogan is “It really whips the llama’s [expletive]!” which is inspired by Willis’ song of a similar name.
Some of Willis’ classic bangers include “I Wupped Batman’s (expletive),” “Rock n’ Roll McDonalds,” and, heartbreakingly, “Chronic Schizophrenia.”
39. Joey Ramone
Joey Ramone, lead vocalist and founding member of punk rock’s Ramones, is a countercultural icon thanks to his image, tenure with the band, and unique voice. He became that despite his struggles with mental illness, having been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia when he was just 18.
Ramone’s mental illness struggles are said to have inspired some of the band’s songs, such as “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and was heavily featured in his younger brother Mick’s memoir I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir. In it, Joey Ramone was quoted as saying, “I enjoyed my life when I had nothing .. and kinda like the idea of just being happy with me.”
40. Nancy Spungen
Nancy Spungen, best known for being a prominent figure of the 1970s punk rock scene as well as the girlfriend of Sid Vicious, was only 15 when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, having been described as an “emotionally disturbed child.” She later found herself involved in severe drug problems and was eventually found murdered by a single stab wound to the abdomen in October 1978. Rumors have suggested Vicious’ involvement in the murder as well as that of a drug dealer who frequently visited Spungen and Vicious.
41. Valerie Solanas
Radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who self-published SCUM Manifesto in 1967 and became famous in 1968 after her attempted murder of artist Andy Warhol, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the process of the charges brought against her in the aftermath. After pleading guilty to “reckless assault with intent to harm,” she spent three years in prison and also was ordered to undergo treatment in a psychiatric hospital. She later died in 1988 of pneumonia.
42. Gene Tierney
To round out our list of famous people with schizophrenia, we have Gene Tierney. The actress, acclaimed for her great beauty and a Hollywood leading lady of the 1940s and 50s, had a long struggle with mental health issues, including schizophrenia and manic depression. The way she was forced to undergo treatment for her issues was less than ideal, too.
According to a 1979 article in People magazine written by Kent Demaret: “At the urging of her brother, Gene entered a sanitarium in New York City. ‘And there, to my eternal regret,’ she says, ‘I received my first electric shock therapy. … It was the most degrading time of my life. I felt like a lab rat.’”
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