Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WoT Favorites: Maurice Benard

Let's all wish Maurice Benard, longtime General Hospital actor, a very happy birthday.

Maybe you haven't watched soaps since your high school days (if ever) and maybe you missed Maurice's many other acting gigs,so you don't necessarily consider yourself a fan.

I invite you to change your mind about "Sonny Corinthos".

Like me, Maurice Benard suffers from Bipolar Disorder. In a forward-thinking move, General Hospital wrote Maurice's real-life illness into his character's storyline.

It's widely believed among people who write papers and conduct scientific studies on such things that soap operas have tremendous influence on society. Presenting a tricky situation like interracial love, AIDS, and homosexuality on a popular daytime soap continually proves the notion that for many people in America, "If Erica Kane can handle it, so can I!"

Which explains why, when my step-mom picked me up from the train station last year, she solemnly described the Bipolar Sonny storyline and told me she at last understood what was wrong with me.

I wasn't upset or mad at her — why would I be? If you don't have some form of mental illness(and let's face facts: 1 in 4 adults in America do), then you know someone who does. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean stigma and ignorance about mental illness are no longer a problem.

Research in mental illness is direly under-funded. So are programs for the mentally ill at every point on the spectrum, from medical care to housing and beyond. Psychiatric treatment facilities are over-crowded, under-staffed, and broke. Let's think about that for a minute: 1 in 4 adults. 1 in 4 adults in America don't have cancer, or diabetes, or muscular dystrophy, yet the lion's share of funding and research goes to diseases and conditions such as these. Not that these are not valid and equally important medical problems, mind you, I'm trying to demonstrate a disparity in research and care. And attitudes. I won't further depress you with the data on comparative death rates, just trust me: it's shocking.

I'm what they call a "highly-functioning" Bipolar person. I lead a pretty normal life, I take my medicine and do whatever my doctors tell me to do, such as therapy and stuff like yoga and tai chi to calm my manic tendencies. I've spent time in psychiatric wards, but it was hardly tragic or scary: I played balloon volleyball and slept a lot. No matter how much I do the right thing I know that my disorder is unpredictable and mysterious, and I will have episodes. Manic-depression been around a long, long time, yet no one really knows why it is, what it is or how to stop it.

Want to know who else besides me and Maurice Benard are Bipolar? How about Jim Carrey, Linda Hamilton, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Evan Dando, Axl Rose, Sting, Ben Stiller...the list goes on

I can't imagine what these actors and musicians risked by going public with their illness, if anything, but I'm nonetheless impressed. It's brave and does society a great service. Jane Pauley didn't do such a great job of raising awareness, but Linda Hamilton, Carrie Fisher, and Patty Duke have. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)works tirelessly to not only raise awareness, but to force change in Washington and champion the rights and needs of the mentally ill, but they have a much harder time raising funds than other medical advocacy groups. Eventually, hopefully, mental illness will be accorded proper concern for its sufferers and better treatments — if not cures — are on the horizon.

My point in all this? Maurice Benard is a terrific entertainer who is kicking ass on raising awareness of Bipolar Disorder and changing opinions about mental illness. He rocks, and today is his birthday.

And so, on your birthday, Maurice Benard, I wish you the happiest of days and hope you enjoy every moment. And thank you.

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Blogger LisaBinDaCity said...

He is a wonderful actor - LOVE him on GH! And quite the advocate for Bipolar Disorder. I salute him. And you.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Absinthe said...

Fry AND Laurie, huh? Fry's pretty obvious - he freaked out and disappeared for 2 yrs in the late 90's, if I'm not mistaken.
I guess it makes sense for House - he looks WAY too comfortable as an unshaven, disheveled mess. God love him.'re MOVING? and i'm going to NYC in May - i was looking forward to finally seeing you face-to-face!
Well, do whatchoo gotta do, lady - congratulations!
I'm at home recovering from the Black Death at the moment, bored out of my mind. to help fight it, a friend sent me several soul/funk mp3 discs with all the great, so at least i have good tunes. Picture me in a priest's habit, flinging drops of Gatorade on a flu virus screaming, "The power of funk COMPELS you! The power of funk COMPELS you!"

2:25 PM  

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