Patty Duke — who died on March 29 at age 69 from sepsis caused by a ruptured intestine — survived the darkest of times and went on to become an inspiration to millions with her unique blend of honesty and vulnerability.
Now, the people close to the beloved icon open up to Closer Weekly, in the new issue on newsstands now, to share the amazing legacy she left, not only through onscreen work but also as a pioneer in bringing awareness to the public about mental health.
“She was the first celebrity to disclose her diagnosis,” Bob Carolla of the National Alliance on Mental Illness tells Closer, in her 1987 autobiography Call Me Anna (which she turned into a TV movie three years later) and as a public speaker on mental health issues. “Her impact was immeasurable.”
Patty in August 2004. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Dr. Frederick Goodwin, formerly of the National Institute of Mental Health, agrees and tells Closer, “She was a tireless pioneer in destigmatizing mental illness. She paved the pathway.”
The always moody Patty exhibited wild swings in behavior, from depressive days when she couldn’t get out of bed to manic highs. “She heard voices telling her Washington, D.C. would be bombed and went there to get a secret message to the president,” says Gloria Hochman, a friend and coauthor of her 1997 book A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness. “She opened safe-deposit boxes at five or six banks and put a piece of Kleenex in each one.”
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It wasn’t until 1982, when Patty was 35 — after several suicide attempts and the birth of her second son, Mackenzie Astin — that she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder (then known as manic depression). “I was over the moon,” Patty has said. “The fact that what I was feeling had a name meant other people knew about it.”
Patty winning her Oscar in January 1962. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
It also meant people knew how to treat it, and lithium soon stabilized Patty. Finally she was getting a glimpse into what a balanced life could be and she made the brave decision to go public with her illness.
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With her condition under control, Patty attained true happiness at last with fourth husband Mike Pearce, an Army drill sergeant she met on the set of the 1985 TV movie A Time to Triumph. They married in 1986 and adopted a son, Kevin Pearce, in 1988. Patty’s older sons, Sean Astin and Mackenzie, eventually forgave their mother for her terrifying tirades.
Patty’s spirit lives on in her great performances and groundbreaking advocacy. As Patty herself put it, “To know someone else got out of the pit is vital. There is hope.”
For more on Patty Duke, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!
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