Actress Patty Duke talks mental illness

Patty Duke

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– An acting legend shared her personal struggle with mental illness. The star of the popular 60’s television show “The Patty Duke Show” was in Connecticut recently.

Duke has had a successful career and is still going strong. She was on Broadway at 12-years-old and won an academy award. But away from the spotlight life was not as glamorous.

Duke won an Oscar for her role as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” at 16-years-old. She followed that up with her hit television show “The Patty Duke Show.”

At 20-years-old though things started to unravel.

“The first was, I went into a deep depression.  I wouldn’t get out of bed for months at a time.  Then that sort of leveled off and went into a mania,” said Duke,

A candid Patty Duke talks about her bipolar disorder diagnosis.

“It’s a chemical imbalance of the brain.  I was born this way,” said Duke. “It was tough for me to live with it because I shunned any kind of help and I knew I was making my children miserable and my then husband miserable but the stigma was too great for me to want to take the chance.”

Patty Duke
Patty Duke

For years she hid it well.

“None of it slopped over into the work.  My  guess is that is because training as a child was so stringent and indelible, that’s what kicked in when I went to work,” said Duke.

At home the rage was uncontrollable.

“Hitting my children, nice little Patty Duke huh?” said Duke. “God bless them.  They have been very generous and very, very forgiving and that allowed me to eventually forgive myself.”

After getting the treatment she needed, the actress now manages her life-long illness.

“There is hope.”

A message to families in the midst of their own mental health battle.

“Life has been good, we’ve worked at it certainly but it’s as if all that pain was for a reason,” said Duke.

Patty Duke continues to work  in independent films and regional theater. She is also a mental health advocate and has testified before Congress against budget cuts for mental health programs.

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