Joe Pantoliano Discusses His New Mental Health Advocate Role

By Victoria Kim 10/04/17

The actor/advocate recently took part in a lecture to “stomp the stigma" associated with mental health issues.

Joe Pantoliano

In light of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct 1-7) actor Joe Pantoliano will speak on his journey of depression and addiction, recovery, and his new role as a mental health advocate.

The Emmy award-winning actor known by fans as “Joey Pants” was in Lincoln, Nebraska on Tuesday to be a part of a lecture called “Stomp the stigma of mental illness: A tough Hollywood guy battles back” at the Bryan medical campus.

Pantoliano came a long way from growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, where it wasn’t normal to talk about depression or mental health. He said in his 2012 memoir Asylum: Hollywood Tales from My Great Depression that where he came from, mental health issues were brushed off—“nothing that a swift kick in the ass or a hundred dollar bill couldn’t cure.”

The 66-year-old actor battled with addictive behaviors, what he calls “my seven deadly symptoms—addictions to food, sex, vanity, alcohol, prescription drugs, shopping and fame.” He was eventually able to see his addictions for what they were—symptoms of a deeper issue. “A lot of what I was doing—those addictive behaviors—was to avoid the unresolved traumas of my childhood and adolescence,” he told The Fix in a 2016 interview.

“When I was living in a really dark place, it was almost like you just wake up one morning and you realize how numb you are. At some point, I came face to face with a certain misery that was consuming my life.”

Joey Pants started going to therapy in his 20s. He went on to dedicate himself to lessening the shame of speaking out about mental health issues.

“There’s a lot of shame that’s engaged in mental dis-ease,” he told The Fix. “In my own situation, I made the decision that mental dis-ease didn’t have to be a permanent condition ... When I came out and talked about my clinical depression, I wanted to go against the shame that came with the dis-ease.”

In allowing himself to be open about his depression, Pantoliano established a non-profit called No Kidding? Me Too! and filmed a documentary by the same name. With these projects, the actor wanted to “promote emotional intimacy and identification so other people could get the help they need.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr