Maurice Benard - Actor

Spokesman for Bipolar Disorder

Maurice Benard
Maurice Benard. Getty Images - WireImage - Marc Bryan-Brown

Maurice Benard, actor and spokesman for bipolar disorder, was born March 1, 1963 in the San Francisco area to parents from Nicaragua and San Salvador.

Raised to be "macho," Benard began drinking and fighting in his teens, he told bp Magazine. Now he knows the drinking was self-medicating. In his early 20s, his interest in acting became a passion that drove him to exhaust himself and led to a breakdown.

In 1987, he got a role on the ABC soap opera All My Children, and this was his ticket to steady work as an actor.

Since 1993, Benard has played the role of the handsome Sonny Corinthos on the soap opera General Hospital. In his ABC online biography, he states, "This role is what I do best. Sonny is unpredictable. You never know from one second to the next what he's thinking or feeling or planning. He's a man in personal conflict who maintains an outward appearance of calm at all times, at any cost." Benard received a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for this role in 2003.

For many years, Benard has spoken openly about his struggles with bipolar disorder. He was first hospitalized at 22 years of age. After seeing several doctors, he finally met a psychiatrist who looked at him and said, "You're manic depressive." This psychiatrist told him that it was a serious but treatable mental illness.

He was put on lithium and it "saved" him, he says. After two breakdowns caused by going off lithium, Benard now remains medication compliant.

Benard works with Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association) as the spokesman for their public service awareness campaign called, "Bipolar Disorder: Do You Know It?" He is also a spokesman for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

He feels it is very important to get the word out about mental illness.

For Benard, getting the word out also meant writing bipolar disorder into the characterization of Sonny Corinthos. This included, during the 2006 season, a breakdown storyline so intense that Benard's wife Paula finally called the writers and "asked them to put the brakes on" because she could tell her husband was in difficulty, she later told Oprah Winfrey. Benard knew it, too -- he told bp Magazine that he had an anxiety attack after a climactic scene that was so severe he thought he was having a breakdown of his own.

Maurice and Paula Benard live in the Los Angeles area and have two daughters and a son.


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