Friday, June 9, 2023

David Harbor reflects on mental illness and finding fame later in life

American actor David Harbor has reflected on his struggle with mental illness, saying that “being mentally ill is a natural state of poverty”.

Arbor, 47, rose to fame for his portrayal of Jim Hopper in the Netflix science fiction drama series Stranger Things.

Speaking to Big Issue magazine about her experience of living with bipolar disorder, Harbor said: “My particular big issue is what society will call mental illness. I was at 26 after an episode that landed me in an institution. was diagnosed as bipolar.

“I have struggled with the medical model of mental illness for a long time. I actually started engaging in talk therapy around the particular trauma, and I find that stories and stories that dealt with personal trauma both intellectually and emotionally have been far more liberating to me than hospitals and drugs.

He said: “I’ve definitely been in and out of the system. And there were times in my life when I could be on the streets very easily, but luckily I had a family that helped me through those lean and very difficult times.” could support.”

Evaluating potential triggers of mental illness, Harbor said: “There is a mental illness component that requires medication, but there is also a very social component to mental illness.

“It’s not like a broken leg. The thing that defines the insane is the social inappropriateness. But it’s so socially unfair, in a sense, not having enough money to live.

“Being mentally ill is a natural state of poverty. When you can’t participate in society by buying lunch and going to a shop and stuff, it will drive you crazy.

“It’s chicken and egg. They go hand in hand.”

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Prior to playing Hopper in Stranger Things, Harbor had several acting roles, but none ever brought her fame.

He said: “I entered 35 years old and, in my mind, I was quite successful. I could rent an apartment, put food on the table and I was very happy with it.

“The dream of being on a talk show was always a marker for me and I gave up on it when I was 35.


Starring David Harbor with Winona Ryder in the Netflix hit Stranger Things (Netflix/PA)

“And then a month after I turned 40 it got really hard. I remember going in and I was so upset because I was still in this place where I didn’t have any money, I had to The concern was how I was going to pay my rent.

“I thought it was one of these situations, which you get a lot of when you’re a Travelman actor where he’s offered the role to a star.

“They’re just looking for a backup. I liked the script but I didn’t really invest too much in it.”

Reflecting on the show’s success – it has won several Emmys and garnered four Golden Globe nominations – Harbor said: “Even while we were shooting it, I thought it was a show like Which I would love but no one is going to see.

“It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my career. One after the other, I started getting tons of text messages saying, ‘Stranger things are amazing, I love this show’.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before or since. It was a really magical moment. The reviews and numbers didn’t come in, but I knew it was something special at the time that really touched people.”

The full interview with David Harbor is available at The Big Issue.

Copies are available from local The Big Issue vendors or via online subscription at

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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