General Hospital star Maurice Benard has spent years being open and honest about his mental illness and decades-long struggle with bipolar disorder. With this week being especially difficult for the soap world in light of Kristoff St. John’s death, Benard took to social media to explain how lucky he is, but how others might not be so lucky.
An Instagram post from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) truly struck Benard. It was a simple graphic with only the words “43.8 million” in the center. That’s how many people suffer from mental illness in The United States each year.
The graphic struck a cord in Benard, so he elaborated on it in a Facebook post.
“I saw this post from NAMI today and just had to speak about it,” Benard wrote.
“I’ve been struggling with mental illness for over 30 years and I understand how difficult and unbearable this illness can be.
“Fortunately, I’ve always been one to seek help, stay on my medication and I’ve always had a family who truly love me and supported me no matter what.
I’ve seen way too much heartache in the last 30 years we have to understand this is not just the “oh he’s just going through something” or “oh he’s just a little crazy right now” illness. This is the ‘oh he or she is not with us anymore’ disease.
I don’t know the fix it. I wish I did. All I know is we all have to keep our eyes, ears and our hearts open to the signs.”
Benard was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young man and has admitted to being hospitalized many years ago. He’s even related stories about what happened when he did stop taking his meds many years ago.
However, he is living proof of how so many can still live successful and productive lives despite this often silent illness. But, he is also right that we must listen and look. And, if we see signs that something might be wrong with someone we care about, be an advocate for them as best you can.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes.