Famous musicians going crazy

January 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Dear Violinist-dot-commers,

on a very serious matter of health, I must out of concern for a friend ask you for advice. My friend is an extremely famous musician (many of you have probably heard about him), and he has gone nuts and is posting on Facebook a load of insanities 24 hours daily instead of practicing. Paranoia, evil, hateful posts, you name it. THe situation has been very intense the last month and is getting worse.

How do I find him a psychiatrist? I don't know how to recommend him a treatment without getting sent to "/dev/null"?

Replies (30)

January 30, 2012 at 09:40 AM · Sorry to hear about your friend. There is precedent among great violinists - Joseph Hassid and Toscha Siedel come to mind. Hassid, I believe, developed schizophrenia. With Seidel, I think it was more Alzheimers - but still a great fall.

I don't know what to advise you about your friend. To begin with, you might contact a local reputable hospital for advice or recommendations from their psychiatric department. I've heard of friends caringly confront a mutual friend with an "intervention" - but I imagine that it can be very tricky, and can even backfire. Ultimately after some well intentioned - and probably unappreciated - advice from people who care about him, only your friend can decide to help himself.

Self-destructive people rarely limit their negative influence to themselves, and you need to take care of yourself, too. Do what you reasonably can for awhile, but ultimately you might have to back away from this person. A professional lifeguard can save a drowning man; a very average swimmer trying the same can be taken down himself. Good luck!

January 30, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Wait you are worried because of his posts on facebook? Maybe he forgot to log off somewhere or something, I would not believe anything posted there.

Besides, why are you looking for help here? I do not understand what this intense situation is, does he just refuse to talk to you or what is it exactly?

I do not think that great violinists are more in danger of loosing their minds than anyone else. Playing is more a way of keeping me sane in todays world, really. He might be very stressed because of playing concerts or something, but simply playing the violin won't cause this.

January 30, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Dear friends,

thank you for your answers. Gonna try to answer as much as i can.

He has many, many fans (but probably few friends left). And he spends pages and pages every day, to throw dirt and write very evil things about another very famous (dead) musician, who he claims is responsible for him being not as legendary as the second. If you even dare to listen to this other musician or mention his beautiful recordings, you are an evil creature who is supporting an evil demon who ruined his life. Any trials to speak reason to him or calm him get ignored.

He is caught in his past, and cannot forgive or forget but must revenge. It is very sad to see-- one very lovely and talented musician spending time to destroy rather than create, it is the opposite of what we should do! He is extremely influential also, why I find it very destructive. Those of his friends who dare not to agree with him or worship every second and every of his words, he loses interest for. So it happened to me.

What I wonder: is there any service where you could suggest a patient and a local psychiatrist would contact him? I showed his writings to a psychiatrist friend that does not know him well, and he was very concerned, although he added "But unfortunately, uncurable."

January 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM · A lot of creative people have mental problems to start with and they may become more pronounced in adult life. Many are paranoid, schizophrenic and suffer from depression amongst other conditions. Also autism is more common among musicians than the general population.

Also the internet is addictive and re-wires our brains. Read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It is postive in what the mind can achieve but offers stern warnings as well.

January 30, 2012 at 02:35 PM · It sounds like he is fighting mental illness and needs to see a doctor. Hopefully part of his mind knows that the thoughts he is having are irrational or delusional. I'd encourage you to encourage him to check himself in somewhere. I believe one tends to get more say in one's care if one checks oneself in rather than if someone checks you in.

This does not strike me as a music related issue, this strikes me as a mental health issue. The only person I know of on this forum who can really speak intelligently about this would be Sandy, and that's because he's in the mental health care profession.

January 30, 2012 at 02:37 PM · He needs to get to a neurologist ASAP in case there is something that can be done. While the odds are low, not all dementia or brain changes are untreatable - and the sooner the better. Other than that stopping him posting may require a court order.... Does he have any close relatives? They are surely the first line of action..

Very sorry you are having to go through this. And as mentioned above, be careful, you may take on more than you are prepared (or physically can) deal with.

January 30, 2012 at 04:17 PM · Well-considered and caring posts, all. And, Terry, thank you for the kind words.

I happen to be a clinical psychologist who has, in fact, worked with schizophrenics. However, no matter what the indirect or secondary evidence, the ethics of my profession dictate that I cannot diagnose a specific individual I have never interviewed or evaluated directly.

Generally, though, there are several aspects to this unfortunate situation. One is the question of whether an individual appears to be (as the Illinois Mental Health Code reads) in "imminent risk" of harm to him/herself or others. If so, that lowers the bar for contacting mental health professionals or other emergency services.

Short of that, I would strongly suggest finding an experienced psychiatrist or clinical psychologist and get a consultation on how to approach the person. Filling in all the details, that professional may offer some specific advice or recommend a specific action that could be of great help and possibly prevent a tragedy.

But I feel for you. These situations can be agonizing to be involved in or even watch from the sidelines.

No matter what kind of "category" any individual falls into, that's only half the story. The other half is that each and every person is unique, one-of-a-kind. Therefore, every specific situation has its own unique aspects, and there are few absolutes to guide you. You just have to get the best advice you can and do the best you can with it.

Mental health problems are an equal opportunity employer. Talent and sheer genius are no safeguard. Would that they were.


January 30, 2012 at 06:32 PM · By any chance is your friend still in school? If so, someone at the conservatory may be able to intervene. (A lot of mental illnesses first show up around the age when people are at university.) If he is an adult, there may not be much anyone can do until he is ready for help, or God forbid, becomes dangerous to himself or others.

January 30, 2012 at 10:30 PM · Im sorry to hear about your friend. But the best way to get them help is to not force it on them. I dont know if you have read The Soloist, but its about a schizophrenic musician who was a former Juilliard student. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but through gradual help and not forcing something onto him, Mr Ayers (the musician) is able to function in society. im depressed, and i can at least speak for myself that having help forced upon you makes you want to withdraw even more.

January 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM ·

January 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM · is he mad?

January 30, 2012 at 11:12 PM · OK Eric. I have no intention of discounting those with family members who are experiencing mental illness. In fact, I happen to have family members with mental illness myself. But as Sandy says, it is quite complex and each case is very unique. That's why someone with a clinical background is important.

January 30, 2012 at 11:13 PM · lisa, he is an adult man and already has some 50 solo cds with deutsche grammophone, emi and decca.

sandor, can you develop schizophrenia from bad experiences?

January 30, 2012 at 11:53 PM · Someone who cares for this man needs to convince him to get to a doctor. Lord knows what's going on, (but NOT the psychiatrist that has decided he is incurable, without even examining him. That DOCTOR sounds nuts.)

January 30, 2012 at 11:59 PM ·

January 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM · Terry wrote:

"The only person I know of on this forum who can really speak intelligently about this would be Sandy, and that's because he's in the mental health care profession."

But just before that you also wrote:

""It sounds like he is fighting mental illness and needs to see a doctor. Hopefully part of his mind knows that the thoughts he is having are irrational or delusional. I'd encourage you to encourage him to check himself in somewhere. I believe one tends to get more say in one's care if one checks oneself in rather than if someone checks you in."

Proving I think that everyone may have something to add :) :) . Also, don't underestimate the forum members - they may have other very valuable perspectives. Say a pharmacologist or even a neuroscientist or two ;) And IMO smart people who have lived exposed day to day to a disorder can become much more atuned to details of that diseases than even the most experienced 'specialist'. They may not understand the biology or clinical care but they become very versed in its particular manifestations.

January 31, 2012 at 02:44 AM · Eric, Elise,

Fair arguments. I'm willing to stand corrected that there could be others with some valid and useful contributions on the subject.

The point I was trying to make, perhaps not so eloquently, is he needs professional help. He may need someone who can administer drugs, e.g. a psychiatrist, to make sure he is able to rest and not kill himself or someone else, in addition to someone who can address the cognitive side, a psychologist.

He will also certainly need the care of his loved ones, most likely laypeople, who care about him.


January 31, 2012 at 03:04 AM · I think we all agree Terry. :)

January 31, 2012 at 03:07 AM · I would certainly agree that no one individual or type of professional or knowledgeable family member has a "lock" on being the only one who can evaluate what's going on.

But the problem is essentially (no matter what the arena - psychology, neurology, family conflict, etc.) diagnostic (in the broadest sense of the term). Before you have a good idea of what to do, you have to have an at least reasonably accurate idea of what the underlying problem is, what factors are involved, and what are the potential outcomes.

Diagnosis of as severe and complex a problem as schizophrenia has been the subject of professional controversy for as long as the problem has been identified as a unique problem.

The general agreement today is that there is a dominant physiological component. Many consider it in fact a disease (although I am not aware of any medical pathogen, such as an identifiable cancer cell), and today almost any treatment includes powerful medications.

When I was trained (over 40 years ago), there was much more credence given to purely psychological factors (such as dysfunctional families, traumatic childhoods, various subcultural or social factors, and so forth).

But even back then, no one argued that one bad interaction or event could make someone schizophrenic. There have even been respected and famous professionals who argued that there is no disease or even physiological component, and that schizophrenia is merely (merely?) an attempt to make a serious human problem into something it isn't - a medical problem.

I certainly don't have the answers to all this. But, in addition to seeing someone in any kind of obvious pain, one concern I have is for any potential for harm - harm to the person and to those around him or her.

I do not believe that all of the controversy or differing views about this situation are a problem, but rather an opportunity to consider as many views as possible. I think that on balance that's a good thing, because it keeps us from getting locked into one point of view that may (or may not) the best one.

And, by the way, I think that this also holds true for many of the controversies and differences of opinion on violinist.com about purely musical and violin-related issues. It seems to me that there is great value in considering all kinds of differing opinions.

I always tell my supervisees that I believe there is great value in being what I call "intellectually promiscuous." That is, embrace and become intimate with many points of view, but don't marry any of them (at least until time an experience have made things crystal clear).

Good heavens, I've pontificated quite enough. If this dissertation has been valuable, I'm gratified. If not, I'm sorry.


January 31, 2012 at 08:59 AM · We also have to consider for example, that here in the UK we have had at least one mentally ill prime minister, leading to some dire consequencies.* So musicians are less dangerous.

* As opposed to the US that have had Presidents with extremely low intelligence.

January 31, 2012 at 02:58 PM · I'm just speculating, but perhaps the pressures and intensities of his job have sent him a bit hay-wire. Patience, love, forgiveness, and understanding are the best prescriptions for you to give to your friend. It's easy to make friends when you are "big" and "successful," but harder during the tough times in life. Show your friend you care by being humble and supportive. Is Facebook so powerful that it's a reason to lose a good friend? I don't think so. Hope this helps.

January 31, 2012 at 07:25 PM · Dear Lahvos: I believe Elise, Rebecca and Anna are on the right track with this very difficult problem. The first step is for this person to see his personal physician, then a competent neurological examination if this is possible. But "music therapy" may be the most effective course to follow, assuming physical, laboratory and neurological examinations are negative? This is even more important with those who may not or would not have positive experiences with a psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.

Isn't there someone whom this person highly respects who can join with him to play music?

February 1, 2012 at 04:45 PM · This won't help--

I've known several (and lived with one) ppl who are bipolar. Though no two cases are exactly alike, BPD can come with delusions/hallucinations, and a major tipoff is utter denial when in mania phase.

In those cases, correct me if I am wrong Sander, you have to wait until they "hit bottom."

February 2, 2012 at 01:46 PM · Hi, Scott:

Sometimes people with serious problems (of any kind) aren't motivated to do anything about it until they do hit bottom. Probably the best known example of this is alcoholism.

But I'm not so sure that means that one should wait around watching someone destroy themselves without doing something. The problem is - do what?

One of my concerns about what I've been reading here is if there is any potential (no matter how small) for acting out against oneself or anyone else, and if that were to actually happen, then everyone who was involved with the person (even indirectly, including me) would forever be wondering if there wasn't something more they could have or should have done to prevent it.

I've seen too many of these situations not to feel a sense of alarm.


February 2, 2012 at 01:59 PM · Sandy,

And you have to ballance that feeling with two more: first of interfering with someone's life inappropriately (which does not seem to be the case here since the behaviour is self-destructive) and, worse, changing someone's life by your actions - only to see them suffer even more. An example would be to have someone interred against their will and then see them rapidly deteriorate to the point of institutionalization. Obviously, the latter might happen either but the conscience would never be clear....

Which is why I cautioned about assessing just how much you can afford to get involved. The safest strategy is to allert relatives - in particular if they live far away - because they have (should have) a far greater stake in the subjects life. Of course, if thats not an option things get more complex....

February 2, 2012 at 02:23 PM · Elise: I agree. And your concern is one of the reasons why these kinds of situations are so difficult to deal with, even under the best of circumstances (which these aren't).


December 21, 2012 at 09:50 PM · Fun old thread.

December 22, 2012 at 02:30 AM · Fun?????? I don't thing this is fun at all for this musician, his family and friends...

Sad, unfair, tragic... perhaps. These things strike anywhere in any field. Let's just hope he receives good care and can return to the most normal life possible.

December 22, 2012 at 06:11 AM · My first wife took lithium as well as many other medications. Tegretol finally lead to a state of normality which lead to us to realize we did not belong together. We parted as great friends, but parted we did. Unfortunately the loss of my insurance lead her back to State care and at that time Tegretol was not approved for her kind of treatment. What a wonderful system we have, wouldn’t you say.

Mainly diagnosed as Schizophrenia or Bipolar affective disorder she eventually found comfort and stability in Orthodox Judaism, her parents were Reform. Diagnosed around nine years of age she still spent every summer through High School at Journalism Workshops on the Columbia Campus.

To me saddest thing she ever said and she said this not to me but to one of my friends was “A good day is any day I wake up normal.”

It was a short marriage, barely over thirteen years. Though she was not much of a musician, she is one of the most brilliant persons I have ever known. Her poetry was amazing.

December 23, 2012 at 09:17 PM ·

@ Sandor Marcus...

You do our profession proud every time you comment on psychological matters.

Sadly, that's all to rare now-a-days.

I thank you, and wish you the best,


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