Sean Astin, a prolific actor who appeared in the Netflix series Stranger Things and starred in films including The Lord of the Rings, Rudy and The Goonies, spoke at The Menninger Clinic’s annual luncheon about life with his bipolar mother, iconic actress Patty Duke.
The 47-year-old recalled how his “luminescent” and “fearless” parent battled mental illness throughout a distinguished career that included an Academy Award for best supporting actress at 16 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker and television stardom playing identical cousins on her own popular program, The Patty Duke Show.
But life at home with Patty Duke could be volatile, said Astin, her eldest son.
As a boy, art imitated life in Astin’s first acting role—a 1981 TV movie called Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom—in which the real-life parent-and-child played a similar duo. In one scene, the mother had to beat the son. When the cameras started rolling, Astin had a strange reaction.
“It was awkward and uncomfortable because it was very familiar. … I start laughing that nervous kind of laughter,” Astin told event moderator Deborah Duncan, host of Great Day Houston on KHOU-TV. “The director had this panicked look and my mom said: ‘Just give me a minute.’ And we went outside and she looked at me and she said: ‘I took a chance on you. This is my professional career.’”
As Astin became emotional, his mother rushed him back to the set to finish the scene.
“I’m crying and finally they said ‘cut’ and the director looks so happy and she’s like: ‘Honey, that’s acting!’”
The audience at The Westin Galleria Hotel roared with laughter before Astin added some sobering context.
“We didn’t have a vocabulary for what we were experiencing at home. It was way before she was diagnosed,” he said.
After her bipolar disorder diagnosis in 1982, Duke became a pioneering mental health advocate who spoke openly about her manic depression. The legendary actress, whose television, film and stage career exceeded five decades, died in 2016 at age 69.
Duke’s diagnosis gave her “a reputational get-out-of-jail-free card,” because she could finally connect her erratic behavior with a medical condition, her son explained.
“And she became, because she was extremely famous, this champion for mental health issues,” said Astin, who is also a director, voice artist and producer. “She knew that her salvation [was] in disclosing to people her own pain and suffering.”
The May 3 luncheon included remarks from Menninger Clinic Board of Directors Chair Jeff Paine, as well as Menninger Interim President and CEO Tony Gaglio.
Former patient Debi Strong spoke about her treatment at Menninger following a suicide attempt. After her inpatient stay six years ago, she founded a support group for people battling depression who have tried to take their lives.
“Recovery is a lifelong process. There is no cure at this point for depression,” Strong said. “Although I struggled at times since being discharged, I have not had a major depressive episode since leaving Menninger—and that, to me, is a miracle.”
The Menninger Clinic’s 2018 annual luncheon, chaired by Kathy Neblett, raised $350,000 to support the mental health care system’s care and expertise in the greater Houston community and beyond. The system offers inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment, comprehensive assessments, community integration and home-based services.
The Menninger Clinic is a Texas Medical Center member institution and is ranked among the nation’s top three psychiatric hospitals, according to U.S. News and World Report.
#TalkTuesday: Avocados are one of the best sources of vitamin E. They help to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. And they’re delicious, too! Have you added this #superfood into your diet?
.@ColonCancerDoc on new #colorectalcancer surveillance study: “These findings differ from historical data and argue to reconsider current guideline recommendations, in the U.S.” https://t.co/F844eC5ya8 #CRCSM #endcancer
Playing #guitar during #braintumor surgery helps Dr. Sujit Prabhu preserve survivor Robert Alvarez’s brain function: “Everything worked like a symphony.” #BTSM #endcancer https://t.co/kELJrAzSbz
MD Anderson Cancer CenterMDAnderson
“I knew I had pancreatic cancer,” Jane Mooney recalls. “But I chose not to know any other details, because the only way for me to remain optimistic was to keep my life very simple. I had to concentrate on the task at hand.” #endcancer
Why #prostatecancer survivor Andy Moriarty advocates for men to get annual physical and cancer screenings: https://t.co/IyuGHSWuw2 #CancerMoonshot #endcancer https://t.co/SKp1Tz4CDz
Mark your calendars now for a Geriatrics for Primary Care Providers course on June 23. Register here: https://t.co/QwSaH6KVwL https://t.co/sK8kRsRKDA
Baylor College of MedicineBaylorCollegeOfMedicine
Bumping up your weekly exercise over as little as six years could lead to a decrease in heart failure risk.
Specialty court helps Veterans get back on track https://t.co/qYxnqZRAQE via @GainesvilleSun
Two-hundred and twenty-seven McGovern Medical School students marched across the stage to receive their degrees during the school's 45th commencement ceremony on May 18. Congratulations, graduates! #UTHealth18 #ManyFacesOfUTHealth
Known for providing the highest level of care for adults & children with critical injuries, the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center is one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in the nation. Watch part two: https://t.co/K9PoJyjeGZ. #EMSWeek #TeamMH https://t.co/1WwG3Qh0D3
Researchers have synthesized and isolated plasmonic magnesium nanoparticles that show all the promise of their gold, silver and aluminum cousins with none of the drawbacks. https://t.co/vlCSeReYKN https://t.co/rYDoL5aetL
Fargo VA selected for ‘Whole Health’ initiative https://t.co/RGFuTDArDq via @inforum
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is @USArmy Veteran Elvis Arthur Mason. https://t.co/ij3B2SLLlk
U.S. Department of Veterans AffairsVeteransAffairs
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Elvis Arthur Mason. Arthur served from 1942 to 1946 and 1950 to 1952. Elvis was born in October 1921 in Elberfeld, Indiana. He moved to Oakland City, Indiana and was drafted into the Army at the age of 20. Elvis completed basic training at Camp Swift, Texas and was assigned to an infantry regiment. He also completed swamp training, desert training and mountain training in Louisiana, California and West Virginia, respectively. Elvis’s unit was deployed to Europe and landed in England shortly after D-Day. Elvis traveled to France and volunteered to drive gasoline to other allied camps. His unit engaged in combat for 100 consecutive days and moved through France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland to push the German army back. Elvis took over as platoon leader during this campaign and credited the platoon’s camaraderie for helping the soldiers get through the difficult time. Elvis briefly remained in Europe after Germany surrendered and participated in the liberation of a poorly maintained camp of German citizens. He then returned to the United States and was preparing to travel to Japan when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Elvis continued to serve at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Camp Butler, North Carolina before he was honorably discharged in December, 1945. He joined the Army reserves and was called to join the Korean War in 1950. He reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in October and served in Japan and Korea, where he helped to build roads and airstrips for artillery planes. Elvis was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He passed away on July 14, 2012 at the age of 90. We honor his service.
Looking for a gift for your graduate to remember his or her time at Baylor College of Medicine? Check out our team shop for shirts, hats, cups, and so much more! https://t.co/QQw2ZfLPHk https://t.co/9wxEsAZxOJ