Stranger Things' David Harbour opens up about mental health struggles

·2-min read
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images

Note: The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide that some readers may find upsetting.

Stranger Things and Black Widow star David Harbour has opened up about his mental health struggles and finding fame later in life in an interview with The Big Issue magazine.

The actor was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 26 "after an episode that landed [him] in an institution", which he believes can be a common byproduct of living in poverty.

"I have definitely been in and out of the system. And there were times in my life where very easily I could have ended up on the streets, but I luckily had a family who could [help]," he said.

Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images

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He also highlighted how the social stigma around mental illness can be linked back to not having enough money.

"There is a mental illness component that requires medication, but there also is a very social component to mental illness. It's not like a broken leg. What defines [mental illness] is social inappropriateness. But it's very socially inappropriate, in a sense, to not have enough money to live on."

Harbour had previously talked about his struggles with mental health and alcoholism, with the latter getting so severe he contemplated taking his own life.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Related: Stranger Things season 4 solves the show's biggest problem

Harbour also opened up about how he found fame later in life and the strangeness of navigating it all.

"I hit the age of 35 and in my mind, I'd been fairly successful," Harbour shared. "I could pay the rent on an apartment, have food on the table and I was very happy about that."

And then Stranger Things happened, and it basically made Harbour an overnight sensation. It even ended up landing him a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Red Guardian in Black Widow.

"It was different from anything I've ever experienced in my career," Harbour recalled. "One by one I started to get tons of text messages saying: 'Stranger Things is amazing, I love this show!' I've never experienced that before or since. It was really a magical moment. The reviews and numbers hadn't come in but I knew at that point it was something special that really touched people."

Stranger Things season 4 will premiere in two parts, on May 27 and July 1 – streaming on Netflix. Part 1 is now streaming.

If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov.

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