Actor Sean Astin on Destigmatizing Mental Health

May 1, 2019

Sean Astin
Credit Sean Astin

Sean Astin, an actor, director, voice artist and producer, served as keynote speaker at a daylong conference Wednesday at Missouri State University.  The conference focused on mental health on college campuses with a goal of creating community dialogue. 

The Impact Summit: College Student Mental Health Conference brought together community leaders to focus on destigmatizing mental health. This is an issue close to home for Sean Astin.

Best known for film roles such as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things 2, he’s a familiar figure to most. However, his mission to raise awareness of mental health goes beyond his career.

“Like most people now, mental illness has touched our family. With me, it happened to be with someone very famous who took the opportunity of being diagnosed combined with her fame, and made it the cause of her life.”

His mother, Academy Award winning actress Patty Duke, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was a child. She became a vocal advocate for mental health awareness, and Astin works to continue her legacy.

“What I witnessed as a young kid was a woman who went from out of control behavior and suicidal depression to someone with a mission to help other people.”

By participating in the Impact Summit, he hoped to create more dialogue in a serious setting where everyone could participate in thoughtful discussions.

In his closing keynote speech, he emphasized building up compassion in people as communities destigmatize mental illness and offered strategies for supporting someone with a mental illness. Some of these include simply listening to people, or knowing what language to use.

“We can all make things a little bit easier if we know just a little bit more. And if I can participate in that process, it’s my privilege and honor to do so.”

You can find more information here on The Impact Summit.