weather icon Clear

Fame, fortune can’t prevent mental illness

Actor Robert Downey Jr. has a cinematic tie to Hoover Dam. Frequently referred to as a comeback story, I like to think of his life more as an American success story.

Downey Jr. has made headlines for his acting, his drug abuse, his time in prison and for who he has dated. However, it is his ambition to bring attention to mental health issues that is often overlooked. With March being Mental Health Awareness month, I want to share not only Downey Jr.’s tie to the Hoover Dam, but how he continues to be an advocate for mental wellness.

Back in 2000, People Magazine put Robert Downey Jr. on its cover with the headline “Bad to Worse.” The article focused on Downey Jr.’s addiction to heroin and a fresh string of arrests. The magazine spoke to his stepmother, Rosemary Rogers Downey, who cited a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the cause for his behavior.

Formally known as manic depressive disorder, bipolar is a mental illness featuring severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking and behavior, according to WebMD.com.

Like many mental illnesses, Downey Jr.’s bipolar disorder impacted his work, his family, his finances and his fame. He was once considered uninsurable and his Academy Award-nominated talent didn’t matter; the actor became unemployable.

Downey Jr. ended up getting help to treat his addiction and his bipolar disorder, and his life and career started to fall back into place. Actor and producer Ben Stiller took a chance on him with the 2008 hit “Tropic Thunder” and the actor was hired on to do “The Soloist,” which came out in 2009. “The Soloist” sheds light on mental illness and homelessness and is based on the true story of Los Angeles Times newspaper columnist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless schizophrenic man who attended Julliard. The movie depicts how their lives intertwined.

“The Soloist” features several members of the Lamp Community (now known as The People Concern), a housing and care center for the mentally ill. It was with this project that Downey Jr. really started to take on issues of mental illness and addiction, helping to change not only his own life through education, resources and self-care, but to also give back to others. It is also during this time that he was contracted for the “Iron Man” and “Sherlock Holmes’” movie series.

During 2010, a movie titled “Due Date” premiered in theaters. Downey Jr. stars opposite of comedian Zach Galifianakis and a part of this movie is filmed at the Hoover Dam. Downey Jr. plays a man dealing with anxiety and rage issues. He also has a brief interaction with comedian Brody Stevens, who plays a limo driver in the movie.

Many people in Boulder City know of my history within the public relations business and through that history I made friends in Hollywood. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis are two of them, but so was Stevens. Stevens also struggled to gain control over his bipolar disorder and sadly he took his own life last month. He left behind his family and friends, like Galifianakis, who did everything humanly possible to help him realize how wonderful and valued he truly was. Sadly, Stevens’ mental illness wouldn’t let him see his own worth.

The emotions for me are still hard to deal with. Last month I stood on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood and stared at the various comedy venues that Stevens worked in. All of them honored his life by putting the saying “We Enjoyed It,” a twist on one of Stevens’ favorite sayings, on their marquees.

My Throwback Thursday movie recommendations are “The Soloist” and “Due Date.” Mental illness issues don’t care who you are or what you have. You can literally be known as Iron Man, have fame and fortune, and still have to deal with issues of self-doubt, self-hate, anxiety and depression. There is help available, but sometimes the simple act of asking for it can be the hardest, yet most liberating, thing a person can do. If you’re struggling today, know that things can turn around for the better and that you are not alone.

Rest in peace my friend Brody Stevens, I enjoyed it!

Tanya Vece is a ghostwriter and independent marketing specialist. She can be reached on Instagram @TanyaLVece.

Not on my turf

In early April, the City Council heard a presentation by Lage Design about staff’s recommended option to remove 35% of the turf at the Boulder City Municipal Golf Course.

I-11 is NOT the Autobahn

When the I-11 highway opened almost six years ago, it alleviated much of the heavy traffic congestion through Boulder City. But this beautiful expanse of open road brought with it a sense that “opening up” and putting the pedal to the metal is OK. It’s not.

New law shapes golf course design

I like golf. While I was in college, I decided to take a class in golf – you could call it a “golf course” course. I figured it would be a great way to relax, enjoy nature, and (maybe) boost my grade point average at the same time! For a semester, I learned the basics: how to drive, chip, putt. It was enjoyable. Many of my classmates that semester had been golfing for years. They were better than me, but I was determined to get a good grade out of the class.

The art of communication in consciousness

For Memorial Day I am exploring human consciousness with you. Many misunderstandings have been fought over the lack of a mutual perspective among the parties involved. What better gift is there than one that assists in the art of communication? My work in formulating the discipline of Aquarian Theosophy has led me to the following understanding of humanities’ reality; consciousness is the basis of understanding.

Alumni events, marriage and a real Nazi

Ron’s column from a few weeks ago inspired me to tell a story about a weird event from my past. Mine is not as exciting as his in that there is no wrestler named Silo Sam. But there is at least one Nazi. And, no, not the current “I disagree with your politics so you are a Nazi” version. An actual card-carrying member of the party.

Las Vegas Veterans’ Memorial to Boulder City?

Veterans’ memorials can be found all over the Silver State. They are well deserved. They honor individuals who served the nation, and also commemorate battles and events regarding the many military anniversaries in Nevada.

City manager bids fond farewell

I may be leaving Boulder City, but it was not an easy decision. From the first time I came in and met the staff and community leaders, I saw a city filled with people who truly care about where they live and work. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to work with some incredible people.

Is the grass always greener?

Many people in the past played a golf game to cement a business deal, didn’t they? They also played golf to socialize. Has Boulder City recognized lessening play on golf courses? Or, from another perspective, what happens when million-dollar homes are placed around our open space golf course with views of the McCullough Mountains? Do fewer people play golf on the Boulder Creek golf course?