Sarah Hyland Talks About Depression That Came From Chronic Illness

By David Konow 12/19/18

The Modern Family star suffers from kidney dysplasia, and she's been battling it alongside the depression that comes with it.

Sarah Hyland at the world premiere of Cinderella at the El Capitan Theatre, Hollywood.
The star struggles with her health. Jaguarps |

Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley Dunphy on Modern Family, has gone through serious trials and tribulations with her health. Now she’s talking to Self about how she’s been battling the depression that can come with a chronic illness.

Hyland suffers from kidney dysplasia, an illness she was born with. Her kidneys weren’t fully developed when she was forming in the womb. (Dysplasia causes the kidneys to develop cysts, which stops the kidneys from filtering out waste from the bloodstream.) Hyland has had to endure about 16 surgeries, including six trips to the operating room in the last 16 months, and two kidney transplants.

Hyland got a kidney from her father, but her body rejected the organ and she had to go on dialysis, which she had to do three times a week for four hours each visit. (Hyland also got another kidney from her brother Ian.)

Hyland has been able to fit her dialysis treatments around her Modern Family shooting schedule, and as she told Self, “That’s why I’m so independent. In some areas of my life, I literally have no choice but to be dependent. I’ve been going through this for 28 years, and I still am learning how to let go of control and how to be patient.”

Hyland’s health problems would eventually take a toll on her mental health as well. “I was very depressed,” she explains. “When a family member gives you a second chance at life, and it fails, it almost feels like it’s your fault. It’s not. But it does. . . . For a long time, I was contemplating suicide, because I didn’t want to fail my little brother like I failed my dad.”

Hyland felt like she was a burden to her family, “always having to be looked after, having to be cared for,” which was a distortion because her family didn’t feel that way towards her at all.

Eventually Hyland reached out and talked about her suicidal thoughts with a close friend. “It’s not shameful,” she continues. “For anybody that wants to reach out to somebody but doesn’t really know how because they’re too proud or they think that they’ll be looked upon as weak, it’s not a shameful thing to say.”

In addition to finding comfort with her pet dogs, who give her unconditional love, Hyland also feels, “My work is my therapy. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my work.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.