Stephen Fry has revealed that he attempted suicide last year but was saved by his producer, who found him unconscious in a hotel room.
The actor, writer and presenter, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has previously spoken of earlier suicide attempts, including the first when he was 17, but told an audience in London on Monday night that he had never spoken about the latest incident, which occurred when he was filming abroad.
Fry, who is president of the mental health charity Mind, said: “I am the victim of my own moods, more than most people are perhaps, in as much as I have a condition which requires me to take medication so that I don’t get either too hyper or too depressed to the point of suicide.
“I would go as far as to tell you that I attempted it last year, so I’m not always happy – this is the first time I’ve said this in public, but I might as well. I’m president of Mind, and the whole point in my role, as I see it, is not to be shy and to be forthcoming about the morbidity and genuine nature of the likelihood of death amongst people with certain mood disorders.”
In conversation with fellow comedian Richard Herring, recorded before a live audience at the Leicester Square Theatre, Fry elaborated that his latest suicide attempt had been “a close-run thing”.
“Fortunately, the producer I was filming with at the time came into the hotel room and I was found in a sort of unconscious state and taken back to England and looked after,” he said in the chat, which wastranscribed on the British Comedy Guide website.
Addressing the issue of suicide, he said: “There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”
The QI host also tried to convey the symptoms of the disorder to non-sufferers and how difficult it could be to cope with them.
“If unmedicated, there are times when I am so exuberant, so hyper, that I can go three or four nights without sleeping and I’m writing and I’m doing stuff and I’m so grandiose and so full of self-belief that it’s almost impossible to deal with me. I can’t stop speaking, I’m incredible, I go on shopping sprees.”
But this could be followed by depressive episodes. He said: “There are times when I’m doing QI and I’m going, ‘Ha ha, yeah, yeah,’ and inside I’m going ‘I want to fucking die. I … want … to … fucking … die.'”
But he joked that he was fortunate not to experience one of the other symptoms of mania – sexual exhibitionism.
Bipolar disorder affects about 1-2% of the population, with the onset usually occurring in their 20s or 30s, according to Mind. It can be controlled by medication, especially lithium and anticonvulsants.
Fry attempted suicide after walking out of the West End play Cell Mates in 1995 – an event he recounted in a documentary for BBC2 called The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.