Historical Figures And Their Mental Health Disorders

Posted on October 16, 2017

Crazy Sharing

Portrait of Beethoven as a young man by Carl Traugott Riedel (1769–1832)

Mental health disorders when you look back through the annuals of history are common place amongst those who possess great minds and talent. Certainly if there’s one thing that has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt it’s that we can be, no sorry are some of the most intelligent, thoughtful and creative people in our society. Possibly you’ll ever have the fortune or misfortune as the case maybe to meet. If there’s anything the last 7 years has taught me, it’s never to underestimate those in this community of ours. It never ceases to amaze me just how many talented individuals there really are. Indeed it is quite staggering, whether that be musicians, artists or those who have a more philosophical or creative standpoint on the world.

Could there be a semblance of truth in that age old saying there’s a fine line between genius and madness?. Perhaps we’re all part of some crazy gene pool, one and all possessing a latent genius within just waiting to emerge from the deep recesses of our mind. And for that matter our bodies and souls (if you believe in such things). Wouldn’t it be nice to think given our tendency to have such low self esteem that this were true, even if it does forever remain dormant Do we really need to be so self critical, feel so alien to the world when so many great people in recent history and in the decades indeed centuries passed have had such great minds and talent. People whom have had as we do a mental illness. Should we not actively encourage each other to share and embrace our pearls of wisdom, be unafraid of who we are out there demonstrating our many talents.

And we’re in esteemed company my friends as this ongoing series will help establish, as we take a look through some of the most prominent figures in history who had a mental illness.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Mental Health Condition: Depression & Speculated Bipolar Disorder

Born: December 16, 1770 Ludwig was known to have suffered throughout his adult life with depression and was speculated to have bipolar disorder. Yet despite these handicaps and the fact in his late 20‘s his hearing deteriorated to such a degree he was virtually deaf, he went on to write some of his most beloved symphonies.


The Beethoven Monument, Bonn, was unveiled in August 1845, in honour of his 75th anniversary. It was the first statue of a composer created in Germany, and the music festival that accompanied the unveiling was the impetus for the very hasty construction of the original Beethovenhalle in Bonn (it was designed and built within less than a month, on the urging of Franz Liszt). A statue to Mozart had been unveiled in Salzburg, Austria in 1842. Vienna did not honour Beethoven with a statue until 1880.[99] His is the only name inscribed on one of the plaques that trim Symphony Hall, Boston; the others were left empty because it was felt that only Beethoven’s popularity would endure.[100]

There is a museum, the Beethoven House, the place of his birth, in central Bonn. The same city has hosted a musical festival, the Beethovenfest, since 1845. The festival was initially irregular but has been organised annually since 2007.

The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies serves as a museum, research center, and host of lectures and performances devoted solely to this life and works.

The third largest crater on Mercury is named in his honour, as is the main-belt asteroid 1815 Beethoven.

Peter Cook

Mental Health Condition: Depression and Alcoholism

Comedians are as we all know renowned indeed have become somewhat synonymous for having depression or some form of mental illness. The choices are practically endless therefore with the likes of Robin Williams, Stephen Fry, John Cleese and the mighty Bill Hicks to choose from. So somewhat controversially you could say given these choices I’d like to put forward Peter Cook as my next entrant. As well as being a great writer he was truly a natural comedic genius with a razor sharp wit. And like all the comedic greats had an imagination an eccentricity that was virtually unrivalled amongst his peers. Sadly alcoholism and depression eventually deprived the viewing public of this man’s once great talent… More’s the shame

I just wish we had both been wiser then,’ Wendy Cook his first wife told The Observer. ‘He really suffered. Nobody as sensitive as he was could help but suffer. Genius is also torture.’

‘He had gone way, way away from his original idealism,’ she said. ‘He was a very upright sort of person when I was first with him. At that point he even thought he had a career in the Foreign Office ahead of him, but something started to rot inside. I hear it was drugs too.’

‘If you are a genius, then people will go on wanting to understand you,’ she said. ‘I knew him like nobody else did. Each person brings a different symphony out of someone.’

Vincent van Gogh

Mental Health Condition: Psychotic Delusions and Depression

As so many are familiar with, mental illness can and will make a person feel disconnected to the world and to the people around you. And there’s no better evidence for this than with Vincent Van Goth, a man who’s genius was only discovered and appreciated in death. He typified the tortured soul of the artist blighted by psychotic delusions and depression. Vincent spent many of his days in psychiatric hospitals or living in solitude using his god given talents that largely went unnoticed and unappreciated.


The portraits gave Van Gogh his best opportunity to earn. He believed they were “the only thing in painting that moves me deeply and that gives me a sense of the infinite.”[223][226] He wrote to his sister that he wished to paint portraits that would endure, and that he would use colour to capture their emotions and character rather than aiming for photographic realism.[227] Those closest to Van Gogh are mostly absent from his portraits; he rarely painted Theo, Van Rappard or Bernard. The portraits of his mother were from photographs.[228]

In December 1888 he painted La Berceuse – a figure that he thought as good as his sunflowers. It has a limited palette, varied brushstrokes and simple contours.[219] It appears to be a culmination of portraits of the Roulin family completed in Arles between November and December. The portraits show a shift in style from the fluid, restrained brushstrokes and even surface of Portrait of the Postman to the frenetic style, rough surface, broad brushstrokes and use of a palette knife in Madame Roulin with Baby.[229]


Issac Newton

Mental Health Condition: Anxiety, Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Sir Issac Newton possessed one of the foremost scientific minds of not only his own generation but in history. A mathematician, physicist and astronomer he revolutionised our thinking in the field of mechanics the laws of motion i.e. principles of inertia, force, action and reaction and universal gravitation. Newton built the first reflective telescope and later developed the mathematical theory that became what we know today as calculus. And yet having achieved so much over such a prolonged period of his life, that which helped lay the foundations for many of today’s greatest inventions. Was known to be a long term sufferer of anxiety, manic depression and bipolar disorder. He feared and loathed himself throughout his life and was largely known to be a loner having alienated his peers with his tendencies towards a violent temper.


Published in his lifetime

Published posthumously

Abraham Lincoln

Mental Health Condition: Clinical Depression

Serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865 Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States was one of the single most significant in US history. During his tenure in office he oversaw the American civil which ended in his successful attempts to abolish slavery, the 13th amendment. All of which was made more astonishing still by virtue of the fact he had what was described at the time as melancholy, commonly known today as clinical depression.. And yes yes he was a vampire slayer, he was a bit of everything old Lincoln

Mental health

Lincoln was contemporaneously described as suffering from “melancholy,” a condition which modern mental health professionals would characterize as clinical depression.[33]

It was during his time as an Illinois legislator that Joshua Speed said Lincoln anonymously published a suicide poem in the Sangamo Journal; though he was not sure of the date, a suicide poem was published on August 25, 1838, making Lincoln 29 years of age. The poem is called The Suicide’s Soliloquy; historians are still divided on whether or not Lincoln was the author.[34]

Whether he may have suffered from depression as a genetic predilection, as a reaction to multiple emotional traumas in his life,[35] or a combination thereof is the subject of much current conjecture.[36]

Lincoln suffered depressed mood after major traumatic events, such as the death of Ann Rutledge in August 1835,[37] the cessation of his (purported) engagement to Mary Todd Lincoln in January 1841 (after which several close associates feared Lincoln’s suicide),[38]and after the Second Battle of Bull Run.[39] However, it is not clear that any of these episodes meet modern medical criteria for depression.[40]

Mary Lincoln felt her husband to be too trusting, and his melancholy tended to strike at times he was betrayed or unsupported by those in whom he put faith.[41]

Lincoln would often combat his melancholic moods by delving into works of humor, likely a healthy coping mechanism for his depression.[42]

It has been proposed that Lincoln took “blue mass” pills to improve his mood.[43] There is, however, no support for this in the written record.[44] (See “Medication” section, below.)

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