Patty Duke, Miracle Worker for Mental Health

MAR. 31, 2016

By Mary Giliberti, J.D.

                        Patty Duke with Ann Pincus after receiving an award from NAMI. 

Patty Duke was a successful and talented actress who used her fame to highlight the hidden issue of mental illness. In the late ‘80s Patty opened up about living with bipolar disorder, making her one of the first celebrities to disclose a diagnosis of mental illness. She brought power to the issue and paved the way for others to use their celebrity to advance the cause.

She was a dedicated advocate and frequently spoke at press conferences to raise awareness of mental illness. After NAMI released the first report grading state mental health in 2006, I had the opportunity of being present while she spoke at the National Press Club. She addressed the failures documented in the report and used her story to highlight the importance of accessible and effective mental healthcare. She moved the audience with her personal experience and strongly conveyed the message of needing to bring the issue of mental health out of the shadows.

We honor her life's work as an accomplished actress who entertained millions of people and as a mental health advocate who pioneered talking publicly and openly about her struggles and road to recovery. She brought hope to many individuals and families in our community, and we are eternally grateful.

People like Patty advance our mission to break down stigma and the barriers it creates for people who live with mental illness. She once said, “Stigma is born of ignorance and fear. The more that we can teach people, the less frightened they will be. Most important is that those who need help, who are feeling the way I felt when I was lying in bed for three months at a time, will know that I’m not inventing this, that it is real, that hope exists for them.”

To honor Patty’s legacy, we invite you to join NAMI in striving to replace stigma with hope by taking the stigmafree pledge.

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