Actor Maurice Benard Talks Candidly about Bipolar Disorder

Benard

Warren Auditorium was buzzing with electricity Monday night as excited psychology students and members of the USD community eagerly awaited the arrival of television and film star, Maurice Benard. Benard, 53, star and Emmy Award winner of ABC-TV's General Hospital, is father to Cailey Benard ’19, a psychology student.

Benard’s presence on campus was more than a visit to see his daughter, it was an opportunity for the actor to speak to students about an issue front-and-center in his life, bipolar disorder. Benard, diagnosed at age 22, gave a candid and poignant talk about his struggles with the disorder, as well as the triumphs he’s achieved in successfully managing bipolar over the past 30 years.

The talk, arranged by his daughter and Psychology Professor Michael Ichiyama, allowed students to more fully understand how living with mental illness can affect one’s life and those of their loved ones. Also in attendance were Benard’s parents, wife, Paula, and their other three children.

Questions from the audience, which Benard fielded for over an hour, ranged from clinical questions focused on treating the disorder to more personal questions like how faith has played a role in his journey.

“I have 100 percent faith in God … It’s so obvious it’s Him guiding me.”

Benard went on to explain that originally, as an actor in Hollywood, agents warned him of sharing his battle with mental illness as studios would shy away from hiring him. After receiving a letter from a young boy who lost his brother to mental illness, Benard realized that his story was important and that it could affect lives.

Often times emotional when answering questions about how his illness has affected his family, Benard’s mission seems clear; to help end the stigma that often times surrounds mental illness, and to be an example for others battling mental illness and their loved ones.

Benard’s newest film, The Ghost and The Whale, will be available on Digital HD and On Demand through other platforms on May 17. In the film, Benard plays a man struggling with bipolar disorder while also grieving for his deceased wife. Right now he’s filming a movie, Hold On, that’s also very personal to him. It is a story that explores grief, family addiction, faith, and the power of friendship.

— Melissa Olesen