Inside Sonny Corinthos' Battle With Bipolar Disorder

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Actor Maurice Benard — who plays mobster Sonny Corinthos on "General Hospital" — has publicly opened up about his experience with bipolar disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, the mental health condition known as bipolar disorder causes severe high and low mood swings ranging from extreme mania and euphoria to intense depression and loss of interest in things. Almost six million Americans live with this disorder, but treatments such as therapy and medication can help people manage it (via DBSA). 

Benard explained in his autobiography, "Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital," that he first learned of his condition when living with his parents in the mid-1980s. According to Page Six, he would cry uncontrollably for no reason, and often had hallucinations of voices in his head. At a later point, he threatened his wife, Paula, with bodily harm. He finally agreed to treatment, and the "GH" producers were understanding and accommodated the time off he needed to recover. His book has given inspiration to readers all over the world.

As Benard became comfortable speaking out about his issues, it was written into the show that his character Sonny also had bipolar disorder, giving the actor a platform to shed light on mental health issues.

The mob boss found out he needed help

After spending some time in a mental institution just before landing the role as Sonny Corinthos, actor Maurice Benard openly admitted that he was originally going to quit acting after only a few weeks on "General Hospital." The producers and his wife Paula convinced him not to leave the show. 

On Benard's YouTube show "State of Mind," he revealed that he didn't even want to do "GH," but took the role in order to help pay bills. His guest was "GH" casting director Mark Teschner, and Benard shared that the reason he's been on the show for decades longer than the six months he was originally contracted for is due to the fact that everyone at the show was supportive and loyal.

According to Soap Central, in 2006 Emily Quartermaine (Natalia Livingston) was dating Sonny and — after a while of seeing his drinking and mood swings — realized it had to be some form of mental illness. Although Sonny's enforcer Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) chalked up his boss' outbursts and mood swings to Sonny's dark side, Emily convinced the mobster to seek help.

As Sonny spiraled out of control — but eventually got the help he needed — Benard was also going through a difficult time, blurring the lines between his character and reality for him (per TV Overmind).

Morgan Corinthos has a startling diagnosis

In 2013 — after Sonny Corinthos' girlfriend, Conny Falconeri (Megan Ward), was killed — he again started spiraling out of control and stopped taking his meds (via Soap Central). As TV Overmind also pointed out, Sonny believed he could control his mental health without medication.

Per the Black Dog Institute, bipolar disorder can be genetic and a child has a 10% chance of inheriting it if one parent has it. Sonny's son, Morgan Corinthos (Bryan Craig), was diagnosed with bipolar disorder on "General Hospital." Michael Fairman TV pointed out that Maurice Benard wanted to ensure that the story of Morgan was as realistic as possible. Rather than simply being a retread of Sonny's storyline, the development of young Morgan and how he dealt with the condition resonated with fans. As an official "General Hospital" tweet stated, "Carly and Sonny make a big decision for Morgan's life." 

On the show, Sonny and Carly Corinthos (Laura Wright) were able to talk Morgan into seeking the help he needed (per Inquisitr). While the general consensus was that all the actors gave Emmy-worthy performances, many were touched by the heartfelt scene. One fan stated stated, "It was the right choice for Morgan! Poor guy needs help! He can't help he has bipolar!" Another fan wrote, "Hope he gets on medicine that works for him."

Amnesia causes Sonny to forget his meds

Per Soaps She Knows, after a footbridge collapsed, Sonny Corinthos was believed dead. In reality, he had been washed downriver many miles away to a town called Nixon Falls. Sonny lost his memory, believing his name was Mike because that name was inscribed on his watch. Local owners of a bar called The Tan-O, Lenny Caulfield (Rif Hutton) and his wife Phyllis (Joyce Guy), took Sonny in, giving him a job. Eventually, Nina Reeves (Cynthia Watros) found him there, but didn't tell "Mike" his true identity.

"Mike" worked there for several weeks, unaware he was supposed to be taking medication for bipolar disorder (via Celebrating the Soaps). Eventually, Lenny and Phyllis noticed "Mike" exhibiting manic behavior. Phyllis suspected he was bipolar, asking him to see the local doctor to get examined and perhaps get any medication he might need, per Our Teen Trends.

It took some convincing, but after a time "Mike" agreed to take the medication. However, Nina wasn't the only one from Port Charles to arrive in Nixon Falls. The villainous Peter August (Wes Ramsey) came to town, first blackmailing Nina, then tying Nina and Phyllis to chairs, setting the Tan-O on fire. "Mike" rescued them but was knocked out by a falling beam (via Soaps She Knows).

As much as some fans wanted him gone for good, he didn't die. Regaining his memories, Sonny Corinthos returned to Port Charles.

Sonny returns to Port Charles and goes off his meds again

When Sonny Corinthos returned to Port Charles, he not only had his previous memories, but also those of his time as "Mike" in Nixon Falls. During that period, unaware he was actually married to Carly Corinthos, he'd fallen in love with Nina Reeves. This twist caused Nina and Carly to be at odds with each other, especially since Nina didn't reveal that Sonny was alive and well, albeit without his memory (per Soap Dirt).

According to the General Hospital Blog, as a result of Carly kicking him out of their marriage, learning of the death of best friend Jason Morgan, and trying to re-acclimate back into his life, Sonny started drinking. This led to him once again going off his meds. According to Michael Fairman TV, Nina witnessed him spiraling out of control and called Dr. Britt Westbourne (Kelly Thiebaud) for advice on what to do. Britt advised her to calmly help him realize he was in a manic state and get him to a doctor. Nina did, and Sonny was back on track once again.

Maurice Benard not only advocates for mental health awareness through his book and his YouTube show, but also in other film and TV projects he's worked on such as the movie "The Ghost and the Whale," per BP Hope.

Maurice has worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, stressing the importance of treating mental health issues.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.