We all know Gene Wilder was an amazing actor who played some of the most memorable characters of our lifetime, including Willy Wonka. His passing has galvanized us to reflect on his work and honor his life. It’s also an opportunity to learn lesser-known facts about a legend.
Wilder was also a mental health advocate. Through his work and charity, he left behind mental health references we can now highlight and appreciate in a new light.
Mental Illnesses Inspired His Roles and Writing
Wilder’s characters often embodied mental health problems, according to The New York Times. This allowed Wilder to bring awareness and levity to issues of mental health and illness.
His Interest in Psychotherapy Inspired a Famous Character
In “Young Frankenstein,” there is a character named Frau Blücher. Wilder named her after reading letters to Sigmund Freud, one of which was from a person named Blücher.
His Memoir Features Therapy
Wilder’s memoir, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger,” begins with him describing his visit to a psychotherapist. After breaking the tension with some jokes, he discusses serious issues such as sexual repression, guilt and odd compulsions.
He Worked in a Psychiatric Hospital
Before making it big as an actor, Wilder worked as an aide in the psychiatric unit of the Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. The experience influenced his acting and inspired his writing.
Wilder’s life shows us art is a wonderful place to highlight issues of mental health and illness. He may have passed away, but his work and wisdom will live forever.