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Fighting the stigma

Award-winning actor Joey Pantoliano, or “Joey Pants” as he likes to be called, is known for his role as Ralphie in “The Sopranos” and roles in more than 80 films. In spite of professional success, Pantoliano  has suffered from clinical depression. But he embraced this diagnosis and has become an advocate for what he calls “brain dis-ease.” Pantoliano seeks to “stomp the stigma” of mental illness through his nonprofit organization “No Kidding, Me Too!” and recently made a documentary about his own experience and that of others learning to cope with mental illness. Need to Know’s Alison Stewart spoke with Pantoliano about the film and his own battle with the disease.



  • Sue Renes

    Great video on depression.

  • Drjohnluca

    Joey–Thanks for stepping up the way you have to address a very serious issue in our society. It is especially helpful that you are a guy, Joey Pants, because I think guys have more of a hard time sharing about depression and mental illness. I’ve been involved in a men’s group for years and it’s a way for guys to share some of what they are going through, good and bad, and work through some the tough stuff in the company of other men. Great work. Thanks, John.

  • Stella

    Thanks, Joey.

  • Hbwbeau

    God bless Joey for doing this project!!

  • ACinCA

    Wow, wow, wow, wow! How exciting and hopeful to see someone with such visibility and character take on this terrible illness. There’s so much work left to be done to educate and heal. And for those of us that suffer, sometimes it seems impossible to do that work. Thank you so much for speaking for me.

  • Lenarusty2

    Thanks Joey for stepping up and sharing this. I too, have mental illness and it’s an everyday battle. Unfortunately, we have been trying to find the right medications for about 6 years now and have been unsuccessful. I hope that people will see your documentary and want to help us find a solution. Thank you!

  • Suechilds2

    Thanks Joey for speaking out about this!

  • Yoyo

    I suffered from clinical depression my entire life and I know exactly what he’s talking about. You feel like it’s you and there is no hope, it’s just your personality. Then you feel like it’s teen angst, hormones, boredom, self-pity, all of that. It’s an awful, tormenting life to live because not only do you see the world in such a skewed way, but in addition you blame yourself for it and the self-hate deepens to the point of suicidal feelings, which just make you feel WORSE! It’s a terrible cycle, but I am so grateful for it, it gives you such empathy for humanity and when the medication works (they have wonderful meds out there now) it’s a miraculous feeling of being reborn as if a spark goes off in your mind and you begin to see the world as it was meant to be seen. I hope everyone suffering from this gets that opportunity.

  • louloubug

    Thank you for taking the time to make this documentary. Those of us who suffer from chemical imbalance in the brain (mental illness is a physical illness; the brain is one of the most important organs in your body). I don’t like it when people use the term “mental illness” as it connotes somehow that people are at fault for the way their brain works (or doesn’t work). Our brains don’t work as well as other people’s. Now 50 I have suffered three-quarters of my life with this disease. It has given me depth of feeling which I don’t ever regret. My great-grandmother was institutionalized part of her adult life and my grandmother and grandfather committed suicide. In my case it’s a disease with clearly a genetic component.

  • Tiger1_56311

    God Bless You Joey. I have PTSD, major depression recurrant, distymia, bipolar disorder-mixed, borderline personality disorder, specific phobia, My whole life has been a trauma starting with my father molesting me at 10 months old. I tried to committ suicide in 2002. The thought is always uppermost in my mind and I hate it but it doesn’t go away. I am finally on meds I think are working. I too think the stigma of what people percieve as mental illness would change. We are people hurting to the depths of our soul and have to find a way to sooth that hurt. If I can do something from here to help let me know. Although because of the PTSD I rarely leave the house unless someone is with me.

  • Bluestone222

    I believe my entire life has been either a ‘normal’ reaction to abnormal situations or abnormal reactions to ‘normal’ situations. “D” for depression? Sometimes. “D” for different? Most of the time.
    The rest of the time I search out people like yourself, Joey, saying kind things about issues that
    many people just don’t want to take the time to understand. Thank you.

  • Disherman

    This was like depression kindergarten. It was shallow and briefly touched on almost no part of the seriousness and real problems of living with mental illness. Medications don’t work, there is so little insurance coverage, it isn’t considered the same as medical disease. My 85 year old dad doesn’t believe in it and won’t talk to me about it. My boss (who was a doctor!) fired me calling me insubordinate rather than see the depression, panic, personality disorders. Clinics won’t treat it, because they ‘don’t know how’. What this needed was the rage, the fear, the struggle, the desperation, the loneliness and something on the research. Mental illness is for me a life-long, terminal illness that was shown little respect in these few minutes. My God!! is this as far along as the usually indepth PBS could go? Can you imagine what Bill Moyers would have done with the subject? We would have had one or more experts and someone with real feeling, in touch with real life. We would know something afterwards. a very disappointing view, not worth staying up for.

  • brokeanddepressed

    Like most discussions of health issues, you make the erroneous assumption that everyone can afford to have their health problems treated. I would love (my wife even more) to have my mental status treated, but is it worth it to give up my house and everything else I worked 50 years for, just to treat my problem.

  • Jclarkwy

    As with not being able to afford medications that cost up to $400.00 a month there is the issue of not being able to take any of these drugs, and fighting the mental health bureaucracy during the process of trying to get help. I have had very serious problems due to depression my entire life, but following recovery with 25 years of damage from alcoholism my problems were so severe I could not try to take anything for this through five years of recovery – then for the last three years I attempted to find an antidepressant that would work for me without sucess (I have some of the best insurance from my part-time job through the state, by pure chance).
    I have been told that I have tried every medication for this and can’t tolerate any of them, in my opinion due to the damage I still have from the alcoholism condition. Also the state mental health system now has decided to proclaim that I don’t have depression at all, and I suppose it’s only coincidental they came up with this just as it became clear that I was not going to be able to take the pills. I personally think they don’t want to deal with us because that’s all they do – prescribe pills.
    I have also written quite a bit about the nonsensical treatment I had in the state system while trying to recover from alcoholism. Wyoming spends less than most on social programs, and refusing a diagnosis of late-stage alcoholism in the one-size-fits-all system of treatment programs here is a very dangerous proposition for patients like this. If anyone has a comment about this send email to

  • kkg533

    I totally disagree. You need to visit the NKM2 website and buy the documentary, which is over an hour long. This PBS 7 minute “mini interview” obviously is NOT an IN DEPTH discussion on all aspects on mental dis-ease. To write off PBS and Joey is totally unfair. At least Joey is going out there and being honest and sharing his story. He is giving people like us, I have lived for over 12 years with Bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, seasonal affective disorder and more, a chance to draw, through his celebrity, attention so that changes can be made. If anything we should be thankful that someone like Joey who can get PBS’s attention is willing to share his brutally honest story to try and help people like us in some small way!!!

  • kkg533

    Dont give up. It took me 10 years and 3 hospitalizations to find the right combination of medications that finally worked. Keep trying. One day at a time!!

  • kkg533

    I happen to be fortunate enough to know Joey and to spend time with him from time to time. I love his documentary and enjoy blogging and interacting with other people on the NKM2 website regarding our different daily struggles. I think any time a celebrity can bring more attention to important issues, like mental dis-ease, it is a great thing. Joey is very brave for being completely honest and sharing every aspect of his life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Joey has made me feel like it is ok for me to be honest that I live with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorders and more. Its important not to be ashamed, and be willing to get help, however you can. I have been living with this probably my whole life, but attention has only been drawn to it for the last 12 years. Hundreds of medications, 3 hospitalizations and one day at a time, I have a job, I have a husband and a home and I live ONE DAY AT A TIME.

  • Joe

    I hope there is a place in Pantoliano’s anti-stigma efforts for those of us – an ever growing population – who spent our adolescence in the mental health system only to find that we also are spending our adulthood in that same system. We by the duration of our illnesses have received what is known as the “prophecy of doom”, i.e. sick for too long to get any better. Consequently, we experience the worst of all possible stigmas. First, that which accrues to those who failed a system which putatively afforded us every opportunity to achieve Wellness and Recovery. Second, the self-stigmatization consequent to our failure as we begin to perceive ourselves as helpless, hopeless and feckless. Third, the stigma which arises from being told we have no place in the community at large. We are advised that our places are drop-in centers, sheltered workshops, community mental health centers and/or day programs.

    Mr. Pantoliano was fortunate when it came to his treatment for depression but his personal experience is hardly representative of outcomes as a whole. From the October 2010 edition of Psychiatric Services (p. 1022-1024): “The problem with clinical depression is that treatment often is ineffective. Only 5.8% of patients with clinical depression have symptom remission within six months of treatment, according to a Minnesota study of 184 primary care and behavioral health clinics conducted by MN Community Measurement, the state’s public reporting agency.” In the STAR-D study of 4,200 initial enrollees with major depression only 108 reported that they were still in remission at nine to twelve months post initial remission.

    I wish we all shared Joey’s treatment experience. We also recognized, reached out, received treatment but failed to recover and are so often treated as an embarrassment to our nation’s mental health system when we too are the face of it.

  • TheGirlNextDoor

    I too spent my adolescence in the mental health system due to a teenage attempt at suicide.  Someone started a rumor that rather than being depressed, I was schizophrenic. I was never diagnosed with anything more than teenage depression, but the “Psycho” stigma has haunted me my entire life. I am now 50 years old and I have been exploited and bullied by the ‘sane’ my entire life. The excuse is always, “Well she’s crazy anyway.” The legal system seems to support the stigmatization of mental illness with the legally support determination that if you have ever been treated for mental health reasons you are no longer a credible individual. Somewhere I lost Civil Rights for being treated for depression.  This makes you vulnerable to being exploited by anyone in society who has never been treated for mental health issues. 

  • Donna29duck

    I agree with all Joe is saying. I have bipolar, panic atacks, severe agoraphbia, a suicide attack that killed me, they brought me back, was in a coma, life sopport, etc., etc. The problem I have is when every famous person comes out {& I do  appreciate that] it is always after they found an answer. Well i’ve been living this way for 38 yrs.  I wish a famous  person who is an advicate for mentel illness would talk about it  while they r  in the middle of thier nightmare. Because when I hear everyone who found an answer , well where is my answer after 38 yrs? & I’m sure alot of people feel the same as I do……. hopeless!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Donna29duck

    I am so sad to hear all you,ve been through. At 18 yrs old I married a man just back from the front lines of Vietman. He beet me everyday, told me he would kill me if I left him. I was able [by the grace of God] to get out of that marrige.  Then my mother murdered my dad because he was an alcoholic,  & never was charged  because she know people to get her off. After that yr, it was all down hill. Now my husband of 30 yrs & our 3 daughters R paying  the price having a wife/mom w mental illness. I wrote on this websight earlier today. I hope noone thinks i’m not grateful to Joey. I wrote it when I was VERY DEPRESSED. I also never leave the house. Please read my comment. also feel free to reply on my email address good luck to you!