Faces of Schizophrenia You May Know

vincent van gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Today he’s one of the world’s most celebrated painters, but van Gogh struggled with mental illness throughout his life. Different stories of his behavior make some scholars think he had schizophrenia. According to one account, van Gogh, during an argument with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, heard someone in his ear say, “Kill him.” Instead, he took a knife and cut part of his own ear off. Other psychiatrists think he might have had depression or bipolar disorder instead.

jim gordon

Jim Gordon

For about 2 decades, Gordon was one of the most in-demand drummers in the rock world, working with John Lennon, Frank Zappa, and Jackson Browne, to name a few. He won a Grammy for co-writing Eric Clapton’s hit, “Layla.”  But in 1983, while he had symptoms of schizophrenia, he killed his mother. Gordon remains behind bars and is taking medication for the disorder. His attorney, Scott Furstman, called the case “tragic,” adding, “He truly believed he was acting in self-defense.”

veronica lake

Veronica Lake

The movie star, who turned millions of heads in the 1940s, was known for her roles in “Sullivan’s Travels,” “This Gun for Hire,” and “Blue Dahlia.” She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, according to the biography Peekaboo. Her parents thought acting would help control the condition. But in Hollywood, she was known for her difficult nature on-set: A 1944 magazine article speculated about “what precise moment her time-bomb mind will explode.” But Lake shrugged it off, saying, “Women are always trouble to unimaginative men.”

john nash jr

John Nash, Jr., PhD

Nash’s life was portrayed in the book and movie A Beautiful Mind. By age 30, he was known as one of the world’s best mathematicians. Then delusions and other schizophrenia symptoms took hold. He lived with them for 20 years before he slowly improved and went back to work at Princeton University. In 1994, he won the Nobel Prize in Economics. After Nash and his wife died in a car crash in 2015, New Jersey Sen. Richard Codey said, “He was very candid about his illness and we’re all better off for it.”

lionel aldridge

Lionel Aldridge

After a stellar football career in the 1960s, Aldridge made it into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, then covered the game as an analyst for NBC. But in his 30s, he became paranoid, had hallucinations, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. For a while he was homeless. But with the help of medications, he regained control. He spoke publicly about his condition for many years before his death in 1998. His message: “People can and do recover from mental illness.”

peter green

Peter Green

Green, a rock guitarist and founder of the group Fleetwood Mac, struggled with symptoms of schizophrenia. After he was admitted to a mental hospital, he began a slow recovery. Green now focuses on the basics in life: “I used to worry and make things very complicated. Now I keep it simple.”

woman being comforted in talk therapy

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