Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that variously affects one’s ability to behave, think and feel. To diagnose this illness, symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and catatonic behavior, among many others things, must be present, or the individual in question must have experienced at least one of the above-mentioned symptoms for at least a period of half a year, before one can be said to be schizophrenic.
According to various medical reports, about 1.1% of the world’s population have schizophrenia, and about 3.5 million persons in the United States alone, have been diagnosed with the illness that affects people of all works of life. Join us as we take you through the 10 most famous people to have battled the illness.
10 Famous People With Schizophrenia
1. Roky Erickson
First on the list is Roky Erickson, who is famous for being a member and one of the founders of The 13th Floor Elevators band, as well as a pioneer of the psychedelic rock music genre.
The musician and songwriter was born as Roger Kynard Erickson on July 15, 1947, in Austin, Texas. He plays the guitar, harmonica, and piano. Over the course of his 55 active years doing music, he has worked with top labels such as Columbia, CBS, Restless and many more.
During his performance at HemisFairback in 1968, Erickson began speaking gibberish. He was then taken to a hospital and was there diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, the most common type of schizophrenia. He was later sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he was compelled to receive electroconvulsive therapy.
2. Kat Bjelland
Katherine Lynne Bjelland is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who is best known as the lead singer of Babes in Toyland, an alternative rock band that she formed in 1987. She was born on December 9, 1963, in Salem, Oregon.
Bjelland’s musical style of performance is very unusual from the usual rock performance we have gotten accustomed to, which prompted many people to think she was crazy. She was known to scream, whisper and also speak in tongues. After staying away from the public eye for several years, Bjelland came out in 2007 to announce that she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has since received treatment and has reunited with her Toyland bandmates after over a decade apart.
3. Jim Gordon
Popular American drummer, musician and songwriter, James Beck Gordon, better known as Jim Gordon, was born on July 14, 1945. Gordon had the best times of his musical career between the 1960s and the 1970s and was best known as the drummer of Derek and Dominos, a blues-rock band.
The drummer started showing behavioral signs of schizophrenia in the early 1970s but never did go to the hospital to confirm the diagnosis. After he complained several times of hearing his mother’s voice, amongst some other voices in his head, his personal physician treated him for alcohol abuse instead of directing him to a mental institution. On one occasion while on tour, Gordon beat up his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge in a hotel hallway. But it was not until he stabbed his then 72-year-old mother to death with a butcher knife that he got arrested and was able to get a proper diagnosis of what was wrong with him. That, however, did not help his case as he was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for the murder of his mother.
Gordon has been denied parole ten times since he first became eligible in 1991. During one of his parole hearings in 2005, he told the court that his mother was still alive and he could still hear her voice in his head. His last parole hearing was on March 7, 2018, and his next parole hearing isn’t until March 2021. He is currently serving his sentence at the California medical facility, a medical psychiatric prison in California.
4. Darrell Hammond
Famous American actor, comedian, and impressionist, Darrell Hammond, was born on October 8, 1955, in Melbourne, Florida, United States. As a child, Hammond went through so much brutal abuse from his mother that led to him suffering from various psychiatric issues and being hospitalized almost on a regular basis. He ended up being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. The abuse he suffered as a child still has effects in his adult life today. He revealed that sometimes, before going on stage or set, he would cut himself in order to ease his nerves and help stay relaxed.
Nevertheless, Hammond has gone ahead to achieve great things in his career. Following his departure from Saturday Night Live, he was known to be the oldest crew member in the history of the show. He also held the record for making the most impersonation by an SNL cast member, with 107, before he was surpassed by Kenan Thompson on May 3, 2014.
5. Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnston is an American visual artist, singer-songwriter and musician who plays the keyboard, guitar and chord organ. He was born on January 22, 1961, in Sacramento, California.
The musician, who made strides in his career by passing out tapes of his music as a McDonald’s worker in the 1980s, has long been suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is the subject of the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston which depicts his battles with the illness and takes a look at all the years of his life he spent in psychiatric institutions.
6. Jack Lloyd
Jack Lloyd used to be an actor best known to have played the role of young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. He was born on March 5, 1989, in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Lloyd started acting in 1996 but quit in 2001. He stated that he took the decision to quit acting at a young age because he was a regular victim of bullying in his school. He was later diagnosed to have schizophrenia in 2015. The diagnosis came after he was arrested for reckless driving, driving without a license and resisting arrest. His behavior made the police do an evaluation of his mental state, which brought to light that he was suffering from schizophrenia. He was subsequently transferred from jail to a psychiatric facility.
7. Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and founding member of The Beach Boys. The rock and pop genre musician, who plays the keyboard and bass, was born on June 20, 1942, in Inglewood, California.
Wilson, who has worked with top-notch record labels such as Walt Disney, Capitol, EMI, Warner Bros., CBS, Reprise and many more, is largely acknowledged as one of the best songwriters of the late 20th century and is referred to as a ‘genius’ by many. But despite his remarkable musical mind, he has been battling with mental illness for a very long time and has consumed lots of hard drugs and alcohol. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1975. One time, he attempted to drive his car off a cliff and on another occasion, he dug a grave in his backyard for himself and asked that he be thrown and buried in it.
8. John Hinckley Jr.
John Hinckley is not the regular celebrity you come across on a daily. He achieved fame for his failed attempt to assassinate Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. His attempt to murder the president was fueled by his obsession for Jodie Foster, an actress who starred in the film Taxi Driver. After several failed attempts to get the actress to notice him, he then tried to impress her by assassinating the president.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley fired six shots at Reagan, but luckily for the president, he escaped with a minor injury. Also escaping with minor injuries were secret service agent Tim McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty. One of the six shots fired unfortunately critically injured press secretary James Brady, and the bullet Hinckley shot was responsible for the resulting death of Brady 33 years later.
After the failed assassination attempt, Hinckley did not flee the scene of the crime and was arrested on the spot. When he faced trial on a 13 count charge, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and taken into psychiatric care. On September 10, 2016, he was released from institutional psychiatric care and he now lives with his mother.
9. Rufus May
Rufus May is a British Clinical psychologist born in 1968, in London, England. He uses his experience of being a psychiatric patient to help others suffering from similar illness to recover.
At the age of 18, May was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to be compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital on several occasions. He now works as a clinical psychologist with an outreach team in Bradford, England and is involved in recovery groups for mental illness patients such as Evolving Minds and Hearing Voices Network. He has also helped to support the course by publishing books.
10. Nick Blinko
Nick Blinko is a British artist and musician best known for being the lead singer and guitarist of London-based band, Rudimentary Peni. The punk rock, anarcho-punk and deathrock music maker, was born on September 4, 1961, in England.
The brilliant artist, whose pen-and-ink drawings and paintings have been shown in galleries all over the world, has long been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. But even the mental illness has not stopped him from achieving great heights as he properly manages his illness.