As I am writing this story, I am sitting with tears in my eyes. British national treasure Stephen Fry has admitted that he tried to commit suicide last year and was only saved as a result of his producer finding his unconscious body.
Fry, 55, who has a history of depression having been diagnosed with bipolar in 1995, spoke of his suicide attempt in an interview with British comic Richard Herring that is to be released via podcast tomorrow (6 June). The broadcaster and actor admitted he was overseas when he attempted to take his own life by taking a large quantity of pills and vodka. He fell unconscious however the mixture made him start convulsing which caused Fry to break four ribs in the process. He was found by the producer of the programme he was making who had dropped in to see the star and he called for help thereby saving Fry.
Mr Fry, who is quizmaster on the hugely successful quiz show QI as well as an author, actor and a total techie and twitter geek, has not hidden his struggles with bipolar and in a 2011 interview feared he may try to take his own life in the future. The interview with Herring was conducted last week before a live audience in a London theatre, and whilst talking about the subject of suicide, Fry opened up and said:
“I would go as far as to tell you that I attempted it last year, so that I’m not always happy.
“This is the first time I’ve said this in public, but I might as well…
“And, um, it was a close run thing. I took a huge number of pills with a large amount of vodka and the mixture of them made my body convulse so much that I broke four ribs, but I was still unconscious.
“And, fortunately, the producer I was filming with at the time came into the hotel room and I was found in a sort of unconscious state and taken back to England and looked after.”
Neither the location or the project he was working on at the time were disclosed.
Stephen Fry, who is the President of British mental health charity Mind, felt he should talk about his personal episodes of depression. He sees part of his role as opening people’s eyes to the risk of early death for people who have untreated or mismanaged mental health conditions.
“I’m president of Mind, and the whole point is in my role as I see it is not to be shy and forthcoming about the morbidity and genuine nature of the likelihood of death amongst people with certain mood disorders if they don’t look after it, if they think they can do without their medication or without the regular visits to a doctor, without taking care of themselves.”
Mind have released video of the interview:
In typical Fry fashion, he took to Twitter this afternoon to thank his fans for their support and to let them know that he is doing well.
This is not the first time that Stephen Fry has been open and honest about his battle with bipolar, or manic depression. In 2006 he made a BBC Documentary called The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and in that he spoke to other well-known people who suffer from the illness such as actor Richard Dreyfuss.
Fry first attempted to take his own life in 1995 after he walked off stage during a run of the play Cell Mates. In that attempt he contemplated gassing himself with exhaust fumes in the garage of his Central London flat. He did not go through with it, however he did flee the country and was not heard from for a week where he was discovered in Belgium. He returned to the UK and received help and it was at the age of 37 he received the diagnosis of being a bipolar sufferer.
Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive, praised Stephen for his continued openness and honesty regarding a condition which still has a huge stigma: “Stephen has always spoken candidly about his experience of bipolar disorder. By being so open he has helped to raise awareness about mental health issues and tackle stigma.”
If Stephen Fry being so open and honest can help just one person get the help they need then his frank honesty was not in vain. Stephen you are a national and international treasure and the world would be a much poorer and much more stupid place without you.
To download the podcast here
To watch Stephen Fry discuss his illness in The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive