Stephen Fry talks candidly about attempting suicide and turning his life around

Stephen Fry has done so much, it's hard to pin him down to just one role.

SN ART Full story Stephen Fry: 'I love my condition'

SN ART Full story Stephen Fry: 'I love my condition'

He's the brilliant and funny host of a popular game show, the 'thinking person's' comedian.

But behind the laughter and all the highs are incredible lows.

Stephen suffers from bi-polar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, and has tried to take his life several times.

The first time was when he was a teenager.

Stephen grew up in the English countryside. His dad a physicist, his mum a housewife. He has an older brother and younger sister. At seven years old he was sent to boarding school.

"I almost immediately had this quality of just being naughty and bad," he said.

If you or someone you know needs help, don't suffer in silence - call Lifeline any time of day on 13 11 14.


He got in trouble a lot, was expelled at 15 and at 17, ran away and found a lot more trouble.

"I went to a pub on quite a chilly night and on the way out of the pub picked up a coat - stole a coat - and I discovered in the coat two credit cards," he said.

"I then absolutely lived life of Riley, I was stayed at The Ritz, I stayed all over the place. Months of it, and they said 'We have reason to believe you're travelling on stolen credit cards, Mr Grey,' and I knew the game was up."

He went to jail, but didn't find it too intolerable.

"I went to an English public school," he laughed.

"I'd been boarding away from home. Yeah, going to a prison institution like that was... what was frightening and sad were those kids.

"Some of them were quite rough and scary kids with, you know, pen mark tattoos and things in them. But who were sobbing themselves to sleep because it was the first night they'd spent away from home," he said.

Eight years ago Stephen returned to the prison for a documentary on his manic depression.

By the age of 18, Fry had been expelled from two schools, had been in jail and had attempted to take his own life.

"Funny enough, my parents had sent me to a psychiatrist when I was 15 because I was stealing things," he said.

"About 10 years ago when I made a film about manic depression I went back to see my house master in my school.

"He said 'I found the piece of paper that the psychiatrist sent your father, a copy of which he sent to me, and on it was the words bipolar question mark'."

Fry found his mental disorder helped inspire creative side.

After getting out of prison Stephen knuckled down and won a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he aced his studies and found his creative soul mate, Hugh Laurie.

"My colleague and my best friend," he says of Laurie.

"I fell in love with him at first sight, in a non-erotic way. We met and we made each other laugh instantly.

"We started writing together and we just made each other laugh," he said.

The show Fry and Laurie was a huge hit in the 80s and 90s and their sketches have stood the test of time.

Related: Meet Hugh Laurie



As his career reached new highs – Stephen was also getting high.

"I have never hated anybody or anything or any place as much as I hate parties," he said.

"I discovered the only way to survive them was to disappear into the men's room, come back with a 'refresher' in my nose and then I could just talk and talk and talk, and smile and smile and smile, and laugh and laugh and laugh."

At times Stephen felt on top of the world, but he would come crashing down.

In 1995 he hit rock bottom.

"I went into my garage sealed the door with a duvet I brought and got into my car," he said.

"Sat there for at least, I think two hours in the car, my hands on the ignition key... [it] was a suicide attempt, not a cry for help."

A week later Stephen was diagnosed with bi-polar. He was 37.

Typically with this condition, there is a pattern of terrible lows following a period of extraordinary and creative highs.

Fry loved Oscar Wilde for his writing and language. He also learned from the author that he had the same 'nature', which was an enormous relief to Fry, as was when Elton John came out as being gay.

"I know how tired some people get by the idea of another celebrity [that] says he is gay. Who gives a toss," he said.

"Every day there is a kid beaten up in a playground, every day you hear of some kid who has been tortured and harassed on Facebook hanging himself because he can't face being gay.

"We are born that way... just let people be."

Two years ago, Fry travelled the world making a documentary about homosexuality and taking on those who oppose it.

While filming in Uganda he suffered a breakdown and overdosed on pills.

As one of very few people who has spoken publicly about suicide, Fry has spoken about his most recent attempt to take his own life.

"It isn't a phrase, it's absolutely real.

"I cannot tell you how shocked and disappointed and horrified I was to discover that I was still alive when the next morning.

"It's the nature of a chronic disease. These things don't go away, chronic diseases don't go away.

"You stop taking your meds and you go back to where you were," he said.

Fry experienced the same shock on hearing news that his friend and fellow comedian Robin Williams had taken his life.

"I think because he was such a sweet man, because he had done it for so long and he had fought it so bravely and nobly, and with the support of his whole family... he had gone to rehabs and things like that... and that – is the thing – he could make millions of people happy, except himself," he said.

Despite knowing his tough road isn't over, Fry said he feels good about the future.

"[I'm] confident enough because I have people who love me and monitor me," he said.

If you or someone you know needs help, don't suffer in silence - call Lifeline any time of day on 13 11 14.

Stephen Fry's new book More Fool Me is available now - and Bookworld is offering Sunday Night viewers 40 per cent off.

Visit the Bookworld/ website for more information.

Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me show is being screened in cinemas across Australia on Wednesday 22 October, you can find your nearest cinema and book tickets at www.stephenfry.com.

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