Quick disclaimer: it’s arguably safe to say that practically everyone can benefit from therapy. Although some people might need it more than others in pursuit of mental wellness, many people can benefit from professionally-guided introspection and emotional support.

With that said, it can be enticing to take a closer look at famous people and mental health. Given their displayed celebrity, using famous people as examples of how mental health struggles get internalized is a fairly universal way to understand anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues.

Authors are especially interesting to evaluate because we get a particular peek into their feelings and emotions via their stories, tone, imagery, and characters. Nowadays, as conversations around mental health become destigmatized, we might not need to evaluate the mental health of today’s authors. But what’s stopping us from taking a look into the old-school literary giants? Let’s do it.

Famous Authors and Their Struggles

1. The Fitzgeralds

Yes, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald had their fair share of mental health struggles, public and private. Known for The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald is often hailed as one of the best American authors to date.

Both the novelist and the socialite (according to their media labels) experienced primarily depression and disordered substance use, and their seemingly charmed lives slowly unraveled due to their inability to confront and manage some of their issues.

2. Sylvia Plath

Her poetry precedes her reputation, but that’s not all. A tragic loss, Plath publicly struggled with depression before her untimely end.

3. Ernest Hemingway

While his prowess as an author is much to be celebrated, his struggle with disordered substance use and manic depression negatively impacted his personal life.

Many people also consider Hemingway a misogynist, so a therapist might have been able to help him with that, too.

4. Virginia Woolf

Woolf was an incredible author and famously advocated for many causes, especially for women’s rights. But her battle with mental health and depression sealed her fate.

Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style of writing would have served her well in therapy since many therapeutic processes require you to talk about yourself… a lot.

5. Tennessee Williams

Playwright for the well-renowned A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams didn’t always seem to struggle with mental health. Seemingly later on in life, the presence of substance abuse and depression began to creep in.

6. Emily Dickinson

The world-class poet, Emily Dickinson, had her own personal struggles that frequently evaded her writing. While the world may never know what she truly struggled with, many fans believe that it was either depression or bipolar disorder that came to consume her mind.

Dickinson’s unique writing coupled with her reclusive social life lead many to speculate about her real thoughts, and fans often even project their own thoughts and feelings about life onto her.

7. Mark Twain

The author of Huckleberry Finn was also depressed, as professionals have denoted. Although it did not knowingly plague his personal life in the same way as some of the authors listed above, it did seem to play a role in how he understood and empathized with his characters.

With all that said, it is pretty safe to assume that back in the day these famous authors did not have the resources to address their mental health struggles. In fact, it’s likely that most of them rarely talked about it outside of alluding to it in their work.

While the “tortured artist” was rather romanticized traditionally, discussing matters of mental health was frowned upon and considered taboo.

Plus, many artists are of the belief that being sad is actually imperative to get their creative juices flowing. Maybe not the healthiest way to get things done, but it’s common thought nonetheless. Despite the evidence, one does not need to be tormented in order to write well! The advance of mental health care could have made some of these works of literary art even better, who knows!

To get a better insight into these folks and how their emotional baggage carried into their work, check out some of their most famous pieces. You’ll see!

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, reach out to a mental health professional and start getting the guidance you need. With the development of online therapy, help is just a click away. 

Even though Sylvia Plath was pretty cool, remember that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is  1-800-273-TALK (8255).


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