Where the inspirational figure is selected for us, and the gap between their life and ours is too great, the effect is not one of encouragement but of disillusionment - especially if their story is told in terms of personal qualities like bravery or persistence.
Knowing a famous person has the same impairment as you can be reassuring, but only in the vague way that hearing of a successful distant relative is reassuring.
Most of us will never scale Everest, compete for our country at sports or have a showbiz career. This doesn’t mean we’ve failed.
For BBC’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Mark Brownquestions the value of glorifying role models who share our own disabilities and pathologies.
A flipside of the same coin to consider is the perilous “tortured genius” myth of creativity, which implies that depression, addiction, and other mental health issues that plagued some successful creators were central to their genius. The human antidotes to this mythology are worthy role models.
50 years ago today, Eunice Kennedy Shriver published an article that sparked a movement of advocacy for people with mental disabilities. Her daughter, Maria Shriver, remembers and celebrates her mother’s legacy of hope.
Overall, there are more crazy younger men than younger women, and more crazy older women – but this imbalance later in life could be due to the fact that there are simply more older women alive than men, due to women’s greater average longevity. And, whoa crazy men of the Pacific.