Sean Astin shares story of mom’s mental illness; ‘We didn’t know what to do to help her’

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Fantasy genre fans may recognize the name Sean Astin.

In the past decades, he has starred in notable films like “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Goonies” and more recently in Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

But Astin’s trip to the Capital City had him discussing an issue far from fiction.

He spoke during a presentation titled “How to Navigate Mental Illness Within the Family Dynamic” as part of Bryan Health’s Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“I’m here to share my experience with my mother, my very famous mother,” Astin said.

He spoke about the battle his mother, Anna Marie “Patty” Duke, had with mental illness and the effects it had on his family.

“My mother did not have the tools to help herself, and we didn’t know what to do to help her,” Astin said.

Duke had bipolar disorder but went undiagnosed until 1982.

“She’d have a freakout, she’d crash the car and she’d do something terrible,” he said.

She would be embarrassed but would talk about it as if it was normal.

Astin reflected on his first role on television in a movie. He starred with his mother in “Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom,” a role that left him feeling conflicted.

“She’s beatin’ the hell out of me on camera,” Astin said. “My whole life was just this topsy-turvy series of contradictions where she’s beating you up and your uncomfortable because it’s hitting close to home.”

He doesn’t feel resentment for the movie because it depicted a real issue that he hoped would bring comfort to others.

When his mother’s autobiography, “Call Me Anna,” was released, he didn’t feel like the image she wrote of herself was accurate.

Astin said he would later take comfort in the fact that fans of his mother took comfort in her writings, which ultimately changed his perspective on the book.

After her diagnosis, she spent much of her career advocating for the destigmatizing of mental health care.

After his presentation, members of the audience took part in a Q&A and toured booths that represented Lincoln’s mental health resources.

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