Curry brother’s reveal family’s mental health battle
Actor brothers Bernard and Stephen Curry carry a quiet sadness shared not just by their own family, but with the families of one in five Australians.
The celebrity siblings are speaking out for the first time to reveal they have a family member who suffers from a serious mental illness, which has had an impact on them and the lives of their loved ones.
"We are a close family and to feel un-empowered to be able to really help one of your own family members is tough. It's tough on anyone who bears the emotional pain of feeling helpless in the fight against mental illness," Wentworth star Bernard says.
Stephen, an AFI and Logie award-winning actor, says speaking out about the impact of mental illness is close to his heart not only because of his family member's experience with it, but because they lost a dear friend to suicide more than 20 years ago.
Matt Wardlaw was a family friend of the Curry clan, which consists of five siblings, who took his own life in 2001 after struggling with bipolar affective disorder for much of his life.
It led the whole Curry family to support the One in Five charity set up in Matt's honour, which aims to raise awareness and money for research into cures - rather than just treatments - for mental illness.
"One in Five is such an important charity and one that has been close to my heart, and my family, since its inception. Due to the incredible dedication of members and friends of the Wardlaw family, they have raised millions in the name of mental health research," Steven says.
Bernard says the statistic that one in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness means most people in Australia will know or care for someone with mental illness sometime during their life.
He says close mate and fellow Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton bravely revealed to him he was suffering from depression while living in New York and starring in hit television shows Blindspot and Strikeback.
"Sullivan had a particularly tough time in NYC when he was working there for about four or five years. He seemingly had the perfect life, and the kind of success that we had both dreamt of and talked about while driving a crappy car around LA. But loneliness was something he couldn't shake and he opened up to me a number of times about his struggles," Bernard says.
"It's always a surprise when someone you admire so much and consider a tough person reveals their vulnerabilities. Being a very positive person, and with the experiences I've had with other people close to me and Mouse (Matt) Wardlaw, I was able to help him get through those dark times.
"But I would never have even known about his struggles if he weren't brave enough and close enough to me to feel comfortable opening up to me."
Stapleton says being able to reach out to a trusted friend made the world of difference to him at a time when he needed it the most.
"I struggled a bit when I was working in New York for five years. Due to situations I could not control, depression sunk in and really affected me. Being away from friends and family for so long I felt lost and alone in a big, hustling city. That is not a good feeling when the dark clouds roll in," he says.
"I started to see a counsellor to try and work through some of the problems but what really helped get me through them were my friends. One of my closest mates, Bernard really helped me get through the tough times because of his positive outlook and his way of making me see through the dark clouds with different eyes."
BOTH Curry brothers say that as daunting as it may seem, sharing personal experiences and encouraging family and friends to talk about mental health is incredibly important - now more than ever.
"I firmly believe an open dialogue around mental illness is the only way to destigmatise it. There are a million distractions in our lives; a million ways to escape. But the one thing we can't escape is ourselves. All of us need to be able to talk to someone," Stephen says.
"2020 of all years is the time to talk about mental health. Everyone is doing it tough, and despite our physical distance, it's integral that we stay connected."
It's also a timely reminder as October is Mental Health Awareness Month. One in Five is launching a " HOPE" campaign to coincide with World Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10.
"I think with the current state of the world living through the COVID experience, mental health is at the forefront of the human condition and the word 'HOPE' certainly embodies the struggles many are going through, and the core values of One In Five, through conversation, openness, acceptance and research we can make people's lives a little better," Bernard says.
"I believe the community mental health agenda is one of the most important things to come out of this experience. So many people are struggling with loneliness, or lack of stimulus, or sheer worry of losing their business or home, that mental health is one of the most important things to be talking about at a time like this. I only hope the momentum stays with the conversation long after we return to a new normal."
He says One in Five supports crucial research in the fight to find cures for illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and bipolar disorder. "One In Five conducts incredible research through Monash University to discover on a molecular or cellular level why brain cells behave the way they do to precipitate things like depression or schizophrenia, and what can be done to reverse those patterns that isn't using medications to mask symptoms. It's truly groundbreaking stuff," Bernard says.
HOPE T-shirts ($30 + shipping) from oneinfive.com.au, with ALL sales going directly to fund mental illness research
Originally published as Curry brother's reveal family's mental health battle