FATHER AND DAUGHTER MAURICE AND CAILEY BENARD CLEAR THE AIR
Maurice Benard has been in the spotlight as an actor, playing the role of Sonny Corinthos on the daytime TV show General Hospital.
While the twists and turns of the character’s journey over the years have been labyrinthine, Benard’s real life story is perhaps more compelling: As a young man, he suffered a series of breakdowns that resulted in his being hospitalized before ultimately being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
His daughter, USD junior and psychology major Cailey Benard, interviewed him about his decision to go public about his own journey for the pages of USD Magazine.
Cailey: Why did you become an advocate for bipolar disorder awareness? Was there any kind of specific incident that inspired you?
Maurice: Having been hospitalized, and having gone through what I have been through, I just wanted to get it out there that you can succeed.
Also, I got a letter from a boy whose bipolar brother committed suicide.
The surviving brother had seen an interview that I did, and he wrote me a letter saying that I helped him get through his brother’s death.
Cailey: And that made you want to do that for other people?
Maurice: Yes. Forever everybody had told me, ‘Don’t talk about being bipolar, because you won’t get hired as an actor.’ I decided that it was more important to help people than to get hired.
Cailey: How do you feel that your bipolar disorder has affected your children, if at all?
Maurice: I don’t think it really has affected my children much. I don’t believe any of you are bipolar. It can be hereditary, but so far, so good. But I also believe that my kids have learned a lot through what I’ve gone through.
Cailey: Do you feel like being open that you have bipolar disorder has helped your kids understand that it’s not a big deal and if they have any problems, they can come to you?
Maurice: Yes, I think that is a given, because at one point, I believed my young son could have been bipolar. The good thing is that we can see the signs early and we can get them help early.
Cailey: Did you and mom ever talk about the best way to explain your condition to your kids, or was it something that you just felt was out in the open and not necessary to have a conversation?
Maurice: I always have conversations about what has happened to me with my kids, it’s just that they are not that into it [laughs]. I just had a conversation with my son about it. He seemed all right about it, but through the years, I have had a lot of conversation that are like, ‘OK, Dad. OK, Dad.’
Cailey: Now you can ask me that question.
Maurice: Cailey, how do you think my openness about my bipolar disorder has affected my relationship with you?
Cailey: I would say I feel that it has made our relationship better and because of it, we can talk about things I can’t talk about with other people. As far as me having anxiety issues, well, I could talk about it with other people, but it’s different with you, because you understand it more than anyone else would. So, I feel like it has added a different layer to our relationship.
Maurice: I agree. Cailey, do you think your decision to major in psychology and study in this area has helped you to understand my condition? Was your decision to go into psychology inspired by me?
Cailey: I definitely did decide to go into psychology from being around you advocating for bipolar and mental illness. It was very fascinating for me. And some things I’ve learned in my studies have helped me understand more about you: This is a lifelong illness and it’s not something that goes away. There are always going to be things with you that make you different than other people. You’ve been so honest and open that there’s not much that I didn’t already know.
Maurice: How do you think you would be with your children if they were bipolar?
Cailey: That’s a good question. If I did notice anything, I would first call you or mom and ask what you thought and go from there. It would be something easier to tackle for me than for someone that doesn’t have the experience. So, it wouldn’t be so scary. Obviously, it’s a tough situation for anyone to be in, but if you have the kind of family that I do, then, it makes it easier. That was a good question, Dad!
Maurice: You like that?
Cailey: Good job. OK, so that’s it. Thank you.
Maurice: That was easy peasy.