‘Stranger Things’ Actor David Harbour Shares Why Mindfulness Doesn’t Help His Mental Illness

Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Actor David Harbour isn’t one for popular mindfulness activities like meditation or yoga to help treat his bipolar disorder. Harbour, who plays Jim Hopper in the hit series “Stranger Things,” talked about what works for him on the WTF podcast.

Harbour hadn’t publicly said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder until the podcast. The 43-year-old said he was diagnosed at 25 after spending time in a psychiatric hospital for a manic episode. His mania caused him to believe he could communicate with a god.

“I really had, like, a bit of a break where I thought I was in connection to some sort of god that I wasn’t really in connection to,” he said on the podcast. “I had all the answers suddenly.”

He told the podcast host, Marc Maron, every time he’s had a manic episode, it’s always been coupled with spirituality. Because of this, he avoids more “alternative” treatments for mental illness, including meditation or yoga.

The weird thing about me is everybody thinks, generally, ‘I need to meditate more,’ ‘I need to like get into yoga,’ but it’s like, I need to eat a cheeseburger, and just like smoke a cigarette,and hang out… The minute I get close to that — what I consider a flame — of like ‘the answers’ and the mysticism … it’s like I’m out of my mind. So if I write the self-help book it’s going to be like, ‘Sit on the couch and play some video games.

Harbour also mentioned that he takes medication for his bipolar disorder, although he’s gone off it in the past.

No coping mechanism or skill is universal. Though mindfulness has become a popular coping skill, it may not be beneficial for everyone. Everyone should do what works for them.

That being said, it’s also important to note that people with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke, according to the American Psychological Association. When tobacco companies were able to advertise, many ads linked the idea that smoking lessons anxiety and promotes relaxation. In reality, quitting smoking can reduce depression, anxiety and stress.

Harbour tweeted adding that the podcast could “soothe” people worried that a bipolar diagnosis will hold a loved one back.

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