Famous Peers of the Present & Past






The following information comes from the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website.

Abraham Lincoln
The revered sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe depressions that occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies by Carl Sandburg.

Virginia Woolf
The British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando experienced the mood swings of bipolar disorder characterized by feverish periods of writing and weeks of gloom. Her story is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Lionel Aldridge
A defensive end for Vince Lombardi's legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960's, Aldridge played in two Super Bowls. In the 1970's, he had schizophrenia and was home
less for two and a half years. Until his death in 1998, he gave inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia. His story is the story of numerous newspaper articles.

Eugene O'Neill
The famous playwright, author of Long Day's Journey Into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, had clinical depression, as documented in Eugene O'Neill by Olivia E. Coolidge.

Ludwig van Beethoven
The brilliant composer experienced bipolar disorder, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.

Gaetano Donizetti
The famous opera singer had bipolar disorder, as documented in Donizetti and The World Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century by Herbert Weinstock.

Robert Schumann
The "inspired poet of human suffering" experienced bipolar disorder, as discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Leo Tolstoy
Author of War and Peace, Tolstoy revealed the extent of his own mental illness in the memoir Confession. His experiences is also discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Inner World of Mental Illness: A Series of First Person Accounts of What It Was Like by Bert Kaplan.

Vaslav Nijinsky
The dancer's battle with schizophrenia is documented in his autobiography, The Diary of Vaslov Nijinksy.

John Keats
The renowned poet's mental illness is documented in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Broken Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry by Nancy Andreasen, M.D.

Tennessee (Thomas Lanier) Williams
The playwright gave a personal account of his struggle with clinical depression in his own Memoirs. His experience is also documented in Five O'Clock Angel: Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just, 1948-1982; The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto, and Tennessee: Cry of the Heart by Dotson Rader.

Vincent Van Gogh
The celebrated artist's bipolar disorder is discussed in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman & Julian Lieb and Dear Theo, The Autobiography of Van Gogh by Irving Stone. .

Isaac Newton
The scientist's mental illness is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr and The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman & Julian Lieb.

Ernest Hemingway
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist's suicidal depression is examined in The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him by Denis Brian.

Sylvia Plath
The poet and novelist ended her lifelong struggle with clinical depression by taking own life, as reported in A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath by nancy Hunter-Steiner.






Michelangelo (di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni)
The mental illness of one of the world's greatest artistic, scientfic, and medical geniuses is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Winston Churchill
"Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished," wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill's bipolar disorder in Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.

Vivien Leigh
The Gone with the Wind star, directed by Victor Flemming, had a mental illness, as documented in Vivien Leigh: A Biography by Ann Edwards.

Jimmy Piersall
The baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who experienced bipolar disorder detailed his experience in The Truth Hurts by Jimmy Persall with Richard Whittingham.

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

Charles Dickens
One of the greatest authors in the English language had clinical depression, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman & Julian Lieb, and Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph by Edgar Johnson.

Photographs Courtesy of Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com)




From the Knoxville News Sentinel February 9, 2015



When the phone on Toby Lopez’s desk rings, she never knows who will be on the other end, or how they’ll be feeling. But she’s fairly confident she’ll be able to relate to them. Lopez, 57, works five days a week at the Mental Health Association of Greater Knoxville’s Peer Recovery Call Center. She talks to people who need resources, referrals or who are simply struggling with mental illness — as she did for more than a dozen years. The mental health hotline, which usually runs from about 8:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m., is staffed by peer recovery specialists with state training — but they’ve all seen their own struggles as well. For Lopez, a former preschool teacher, it’s chronic depression. “It’s not the same walk, but it’s a similar walk,” she said. “I’m not going to be dismissive or judgmental. I don’t give advice; I give support and encouragement. … I know what it’s like when it looks like that phone weighs 100 pounds.” Everyone who works at the call center has a mental health diagnosis. Its other function is to provide employment for a population that sometimes struggles with keeping a job. On average, call center employees have lost five or more jobs.

“You’re looking for mental health or addiction treatment, you’re scared, you don’t know where to go, you think nobody’s going to understand you or believe you, but our staff has been through all those wars themselves,” said MHA Director Ben Harrington. “They got help, and, courageously, they got on the road to their recovery. They know how to help you.” The MHA operated the hotline for several years before noticing its potential to make more of a difference, Harrington said — by asking one simple question: “Can I call you back?”

That follow-up has made all the difference, said call center manager Amy Rogerson, also a peer recovery specialist. The hotline receives about 300-400 calls a month, but employees make about 900 calls out to check on previous callers. Rogerson said about 88 percent of those follow through on making some sort of progress toward recovery — even if, in the beginning, those are very small steps. “I think people don’t realize that being able to get out of bed when you have a mental health diagnosis is really a wonderful thing,” Rogerson said. “You can get out of bed, and then you can move to making a list. And then, if you can do one of the things on that list, yea for you! How great is it that you did that today? And if you didn’t make it today, let’s try again tomorrow.”

The hotline has some state and United Way funding and small grants from private foundations. With it, the MHA has purchased rack cards and posters for public places bearing the phone number, 865-584-9125, and website, http://mhaet.com/, where people can send messages after hours.

Lopez said her own experience allows her to build a relationship with callers, most of whom welcome a return follow-up call. “What once was a curse turned out to be a gift,” she said. “It’s empowered me to help others.” She also enjoys the camaraderie with fellow employees, like Janice Prince, who works three days a week and struggled with long-term depression.“Going through the recovery process is not easy,” Prince said. “You gotta know the language. … I teach people how to advocate for themselves.”After referring someone to a service, she’ll call to make sure they made it to their appointment and to see if they were satisfied with the help they received.“My recovery took 20 years,” she said. “That doesn’t have to happen anymore.”

Peer Recovery Call Center What: Support, information, referrals to services When: Weekdays 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Call: 865-584-9125

Online: http://mhaet.com


Annie Lauri of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) Madison (TN) - 2014 Outstanding Leadership Award

Annie has been a leader of DBSA Madison for three years and was integral in growing the chapter into one of the most active in Tennessee. Starting with an average group attendance of six people at a monthly meeting, the group now welcomes more than twenty participants at biweekly meetings thanks in large part to Annie’s efforts. In addition, she started a family and friends support group.

Annie developed the chapter website and spoke about DBSA in radio interviews and at local health fairs. Understanding the vulnerability many people feel at their first support group meeting, Annie created the role of hospitality ambassador to warmly welcome each person to the meeting and send handwritten notes inviting them to return. She coordinated a holiday party complete with elaborate food, door prizes, and a photo booth.

Beyond DBSA Madison, Annie is active with the state organization DBSA Tennessee as an inspiring speaker at nursing panels where she shares her journey to wellness and educates the students about peer support. She also helps other chapters in the state when they are having events. Annie acts as a mentor to new chapter leaders and assists chapters during leadership transitions. Annie gives from the heart, lives her compassion, and is a worthy recipient of this award.