Stranger Things' David Harbour says mental illness is 'natural condition of poverty'

Stranger Things actor David Harbour has likened mental illness to a ‘natural condition of poverty’ amid his own bipolar disorder battle

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Stranger Things cast attend season four world premiere

Stranger Things actor David Harbour has opened up about mental illness and compared the struggles to a form of poverty.

The 47-year-old star, who plays Chief Jim Hopper in the cult Netflix sci-fi show, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 26 after an episode that saw him placed in a mental institution.

“My particular big issue is what society would call mental illness. It’s not like a broken leg,” he explained to the Big Issue.

“What defines crazy is social inappropriateness. But it’s very socially inappropriate, in a sense, to not have enough money to live on.

“Being mentally ill is a natural condition of poverty. When you can’t participate in society by going out buying lunch and go into a store and stuff, it’ll make you crazy.

“It’s chicken and egg. They go hand in hand.”

American actor David Harbour who has said “being mentally ill is a natural condition of poverty”, while reflecting on his struggle with mental illness. Harbour, 47, found fame for his portrayal of Jim Hopper in the Netflix science fiction drama series Stranger Things


Isabel Infantes/PA Wire)

The actor said he had been struggling with the ‘medical model’ of mental illness for a considerable amount of time and finds talking to be the most affective form of therapy.

He continued: “I have definitely been in and out of the system. And there were times in my life where very easily I could have ended up on the streets, but I luckily had a family who could support me through those lean and very trying times.”

Prior to landing a role in Stranger Things, Harbour never found fame from his acting exploits.

He told the publication how, having reached the age of 35, he thought of himself as relatively successful as he could pay his rent and continue to afford food.

“The dream of being on a talk show was always the marker for me and I gave that up at 35,” he admitted.

“And then it hit very hard a month after I hit 40. I remember going in and I was very upset because I still was in this place where I didn’t have any money, I was worrying about how I was going to pay my rent.”

He confessed that he felt as though he was a “journeyman” in the acting world and thought his offer to be on the hit show was one in which he was just a reserve.

Because of this he admits he didn’t invest much time in the script at first.

David Harbour in his role as Hopper in Stranger Things season 4



The Duffer Brothers’ show, however, has since gone on to win multiple Emmys and received four Golden Globe nominations catapulting Harbour to stardom.

“Even when we were shooting it, I felt like, this is a show I would love but nobody’s going to watch,” said Harbour.

“It was different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my career. One by one I started to get tonnes of text messages saying, ‘Stranger Things is amazing, I love this show’.

“I’ve never experienced that before or since. It was really a magical moment. The reviews and numbers hadn’t come in, but I knew at that point it was something special that really touched people.”

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