David Harbour Opens Up About Bipolar Diagnosis & His Time In A Mental Asylum

Photo: Mark Von Holden/REX/Shutterstock.
David Harbour is known on-screen as Jim Hopper in Netflix's Stranger Things, and off-screen as a goofy dude with a knack for dad jokes, which is why his recent reveal is so surprising and important. While appearing on WTF With Marc Maron, the 43-year-old revealed that he's struggled with his mental health all his life, and was committed to a mental asylum before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"Here's the interesting thing — something I've never truly spoken about publicly," he told the host towards the end of the episode. "I was actually into this Catholicism thing … and I was sober for like a year and a half, I was 25, and I actually did have a manic episode. I was diagnosed as bipolar."
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But the road to that diagnosis was a rocky one. He spent most of his time growing up not knowing what was wrong with him, experiencing symptoms such as the belief that he could see "the elves" in corners of rooms.
"So I was actually — by my parents — taken into a mental asylum," he said. Despite the serious subject matter, he still took a moment to give a humor anecdote.
"I've romanticized two things in my life and both have fallen short. One is being in a mental asylum. Really not as fun as you think it is," he said. "No, but you do have a romantic idea of it – [like] 'you're a genius' — and it just ends up being sad and smells like shit. And the other thing was boating. I just recently went out on a ship in open water and I'd read 'Moby Dick' a million times and it really is not as sexy. It's very similar to the mental asylum experience."
Since that experience and his subsequent diagnosis, he's had a complicated relationship with medication, as well as religion.
"The funny thing about my brain is every time I've had an episode like that it's coupled with spirituality. Generally, people are like 'I need to meditate more' or 'I need to get into yoga,'" he explained, later adding, "So if I write the self-help book it's going to be like 'sit on the couch and play some video games.'"
The actor also shared an encouraging message to his fans and Twitter followers who may "suffer shame about a diagnosis," writing that the episode could help ease their anxiety.
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Listen to the full episode here.
If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and are in need of information and support, please call the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NAMI” to 741741.
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