Patty Duke-The Miracle Worker for Mental Wellness

Patty Duke is dead. But her life story of personal resilience and inner will not be forgotten. Patty Duke transcended the horrific effects of her tragic childhood that led to an early life addiction and dysfunction. She turned her life around with the resilience and honesty sharing her story in order to help others. She became an inspirational leader and guiding light for mental wellness. In most circles, Patty Duke may be best known for her longtime career in Hollywood, including her Academy Award-winning performance at age 16, as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” and later on “The Patty Duke Show.” But to growing population of activists, she was also revered for her outspoken voice about her mental health struggles. Her son Sean Astin described his mother as a “warrior” who fought for awareness of the disorder during a time when mental health issues carried an even larger stigma than they do today. She would do fundraisers and she would lobby Congress and write another book specifically on bipolar disorder … She was indefatigable,” Fox News


Patty Duke-In Her Own Words

Here’s Patty Duke speaking about her battles with bipolar disorder with the former “Today” show co-anchor Katie Couric in 1992.

Patty Duke’s wrote two books about he life with bipolar disorder, “Call Me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness”.Although jam packed with facts and practical information about bipolar, diagnosis, causes, and treatment, Patty’s books are great reads. Both books provide an unflinching account of her bipolar disorder. 
Patty’s depression put her in bed, hiding under for the covers, often for days or weeks at a time. Her mania manifested in:

– 3 failed marriages, including  a 13 day day marriage to someone she barely knew

– wild spending sprees

– out of character promiscuity

– multiple suicide attempts

– throwing herself out of cars

– crazed rages characterized by smashing and throwing  things and screaming foul mouthed abuse

– hitting her kids

– delusions such as hearing voices and believing in secret plots – and acting on these delusions!

Her 1992 book, A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness, tells not only Anna’s own struggles with the illness, but co-author Gloria Hochman’s research about the disease in general. Places to go for help are also incorporated in this book. The structure is wonderful – each personal, true story chapter by Anna (Patty) is followed by medical reporter Gloria Hochman’s expert comments on the bipolar issues raised.  Patty Duke NEVER minimized the emotional chaos and destructiveness of her disease. She once said that knowing the pain her disease caused her loved ones was her greatest source of pain. Her gratitude that she still had credibility in her close personal relationships is heart rending. Patty Duke and bipolar disorder often go together in the public’s awareness. Her courageous, informative and gripping bipolar autobiographies, and tireless work as a mental heath advocate raised social awareness so much it is hard to measure. 

 PBS-A Conversation with Patty Duke


Thank you Patty Duke for showing us to turn pain into power.