Comedian Darrell Hammond Gets Real With Mental Health

Nov 1, 2017

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Darrell Hammond is the featured speaker at the 9th annual Heroes of Mental Health luncheon, taking place Thursday, November 2. The comedian is perhaps best known for his impressions of Bill Clinton and Sean Connery, and he also played Donald Trump and Al Gore on the sketch program. 

Hammond, however, has also faced decades of mental health issues, self-harm, and substance abuse issues as a result of child abuse.  91.5 KRCC spoke with Hammond before his keynote talk at the event honoring advocates of mental health and wellness in the Pikes Peak region. 

Darrell Hammond On Mental Illness

People who are "mentally ill" are actually suffering from not a mental illness, but a mental injury.  That this mental injury or mental illness, if you will, is not an airborne virus, it comes from somewhere very specific.  It has a story.  And that you could not possibly have arranged to be this depressed on your own.

On Why He Speaks at Mental Health Advocacy Engagements

I could just tell you that it's part of my 12-step program that I work here in Los Angeles and that's what my sponsor tells me to do, to help other people. 

But on the other hand... sharing like that connects me with people from diverse walks of life and parts of the world that have the same problem as me.  It normalizes it for me, and maybe when they see, you know, the guy on TV has that too, it normalizes it for them.

The first time a parent came up to me and said, "Your book saved my daughter's life," I said, "The information given by great doctors in that book saved your daughter's life, but thank you."  But that's the first time in my life where I felt exactly as I wanted to feel as a human, like, where I was exactly in the right place doing the right thing, in my whole life.  And I've had some pretty big successes professionally and done every drug you could do to try to feel good... But the terrible things that happened to me suddenly had meaning.  They weren't meaningless.

On His Message of Hope

There's treatment for what you have, it's available.  You're not responsible for your illness, but you're responsible for what to do about it.  And when you can accept those two things, when you can meet at that intersection, I believe you can really change your whole world.

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At this year's luncheon, AspenPointe is focusing on youth suicide, and will recognize Veronica Lewallen as this year's Hero of Mental Health.  The organization says Lewallen is a suicide prevention advocate who's own son's suicide prompted her work.  The annual fundraiser from AspenPointe will help raise money for Mental Health First Aid, a program that helps folks identify those with a mental illness and how to get them help.