Many General Hospital
fans know Maurice Benard
as the mobster Michael "Sonny" Corinthos on the ABC soap. While he's no mafia in real life, this 45-year-old actor does have something else in common with his on-screen alter ego.
Just like his manic depressive mob boss character, Benard has been struggling with bipolar disorder, a mental illness defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated mood, clinically referred to as mania. He has been dealing with it for more than two decades and has since become a spokesperson for the treatment of the disorder with Mental Health America.
“I was 21 going on 22 when I first [got diagnosed]. Bipolar is a mood disorder. The highs are high and lows for me are unbelievably low. No one in my family knew what was going on. I didn't know what I was going on. So they put me into a hospital. I stayed there for awhile and then got out and diagnosed. And at that time it was called manic depression,” he said.
Benard has played Sonny since the character's storyline originated in August 1993 and won a Daytime Emmy for the role in 2003. In due course, however, his character has eventually developed the mental disorder. Combined with his stressful career in organized crime, Sonny's bipolar disease has caused him to routinely break out in acts of senseless violence. The most infamous example of Sonny's violent side was when Sonny, during one of his "manic" moods, shot his wife Carly (presently played by Laura Wright
) in the skull while she was in the process of giving birth to his son.
“Two years ago the head writer came up to me about doing a breakdown story. I said as long as it's done to educate people and to make it right. And we did it. It was fantastic,” the General Hospital
-Kris De Leon, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of ABC)