The article below is from the Mental Health Abuse.org, a website that reports on psychiatric misdiagnosis and abuse. Thanks to John-Michael for bringing it to my attention. I’m posting it here as a conversation starter. I believe that many of Vivien’s choices led to her deteriorated health. She smoked, drank, and partied too hard. She put her career in front of her health, working long hours and needing only a little rest and sleep. She disobeyed the doctor’s orders and sometimes did not seek treatment at all. If she had known that her behavior would ultimately cause her death, would she have continued? I’m not familiar with Isoniazid, but with all medicines there is some risk. And I firmly believe that any medicine she was given, it was given with the best intentions and in hopes of curing/treating her. Thoughts?
Of the stars that fell victim to psychiatric misdiagnosis and violent treatment, perhaps none is better known all over the world than Vivien Leigh. The star of “Gone with the Wind” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” she received best actress Oscars for both films. Ironically, Leigh’s life was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
Her troubles began in 1945. While performing on stage in “The Skin of Our Teeth, ” Leigh experienced attacks of hysteria, alternated with bouts of exhaustion and exhilaration. Diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), she continued performing until closing night. After six weeks of treatment in a hospital the TB showed signs of abating and she recuperated at home over the following year.
Bouts of hysteria, however, continued, exacerbated because she mixed alcohol with her TB medication. Isoniazid, one of the drugs prescribed at the time for TB, had side effects that included mental confusion and toxic psychosis.
In the early 1950s, Leigh began seeing a psychiatrist. Typically, psychiatrists do not check for drug-induced mental behavior. While filming “Elephant Walk” in Ceylon, Leigh began having hallucinations, making it impossible to film. Desperately concerned, her husband, renowned classical actor Sir Lawrence Olivier, capitulated in light of psychiatric advice. She was flown to her native England, where she was admitted to a psychiatric facility.
Here, she was brutally packed in ice as part of her “treatment” and subjected to repeated electroshocks. It was the first of many terrors, and one that would affect her permanently. One time she even suffered burn marks to her head from the electric shock. Olivier was devastated by the change in his wife’s personality following the shocks: “I can only describe them by saying that she was not, now that she had been given the treatment, the same girl that I had fallen in love with. … She was now more of a stranger to me than I could ever have imagined possible. Something had happened to her, very hard to describe, but unquestionably evident.” Then ECT was temporarily abandoned and replaced by powerful psychotropic drugs—especially dangerous as they were combined with her TB medication.
In May 1967, Leigh’s medical doctor informed her that the TB had spread to both lungs and her condition was critical. Her strength destroyed by years of electroshocks and psychiatric drugs, Leigh was unable to fight off the disease. She succumbed to it less than two months later. Psychiatry’s brutal treatments progressively denied Leigh her sanity, her marriage, her career and ultimately her life.