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‘Stranger Things’ star David Harbour on mental illness struggle

Stranger Things actor David Harbour has always been honest about his struggles in the professional and personal realms. While talking about fame and the chaos that follows, the star recently opened up about his mental illness struggle. 

Harbour is popular for his portrayal of Chief Jim Hopper in the popular Netflix sci-fi horror show Stranger Things. Hopper is arguably the best character on the show. Created by the Duffer brothers and starring Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Winona Ryder and others. After a three-year-long hiatus, the programme recently returned to Netflix for a fourth season.

However, the 47-year-old star has not always been popular. Despite starting early, Harbour’s talent remained ignored, and he was constantly worried “over not having enough money to live on”. Talking about how mental illness is a “natural condition of poverty”, Harbour opened up to the Big Issue about his constant struggle living with bipolar disorder and his “issue” with “what society would call mental illness.”

Harbour was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 26 and was institutionalised. He shared: “I have definitely been in and out of the system. And there were times in my life where very easily I could have ended up on the streets, but I luckily had a family who could support me through those lean and very trying times.”

He said: “Being mentally ill is a natural condition of poverty. When you can’t participate in society by going out buying lunch and go into a store and stuff, it’ll make you crazy.”

Harbour never expected Stranger Things to be as big as it is now. He talked about how he gave up on his dreams of being on a talk show after reaching 35 when he shifted his focus more on paying rent and trying to get by. Although he loved the script, he did not “invest very much in it”. 

However, with multiple Emmys and four Golden Globe nominations, the show has become a global sensation, catapulting Harbour to epic fame and changing the course of his career. 

Harbour said the text messages he received after the show’s release were heartwarming and helped him realise the impact of the series. He revealed: “I’ve never experienced that before or since. It was really a magical moment. The reviews and numbers hadn’t come in but I knew at that point it was something special that really touched people.”

Meanwhile, in the fourth season, Harbour’s character, Hopper, miraculously survives the explosion and ends up in a Russian prison camp while constantly trying to communicate with Joyce and return home. 

Stranger Things season four premiered its first seven episodes on May 27th, 2022, and will release the final two feature-length episodes on July 1st, 2022.