April 18, 2024

Sinead O’Connor’s Struggle with Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

After a successful career that spanned multiple decades, Sinéad O’Connor has passed away at the age of 56.

News of the musician’s death broke on Wednesday, but an official cause of death has not been released yet.

O’Connor’s family shared the following statement with The BBC and Irish broadcaster RTE: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”  

Sinead O’Connor, 1992Crispin Rodwell / Shutterstock

Throughout her career, the “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer was open about the various health struggles she experienced, many of which were related to mental health.

O’Connor had bipolar disorder

In 2007, the star spoke about her bipolar disorder during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and said she experienced thoughts of suicide and overwhelming fear before her diagnosis nearly four years beforehand.

“It’s like being a bucket with holes in it. Just leaking tears from every pore,” she said.

At the time, O’Connor was taking mood stabilizing and antidepressant medications. She told Winfrey they helped, but added that she was a “work in progress.”

“I’m not going to sit here and claim that I’m kind of perfect or anything. Anything is an improvement when you’ve been in desolation … to be out of that place is brilliant. It doesn’t mean you don’t have lumps and bumps,” she said.

Over the years, O’Connor was forthcoming about the effect her condition had on her career. In 2012, she canceled her tour, explaining that she was “very unwell due to bipolar disorder.” The same year, she sought treatment for depression.

In 2017, the Irish singer spoke openly about her mental health and suicidal thoughts in an emotional video, claiming that her family had abandoned her.

“Why are we alone?” she said. “People who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on Earth. You’ve got to take care of us. We’re not like everybody.”

The star also encouraged her fans to check in on anyone in their lives who might be struggling.

“If you have a family member that suffers from mental illness, care for them, tenderness, love, care for them. Visit them in the hospital, don’t dump them in the hospital and bugger off,” she said.

O’Connor was hospitalized last year after her son died

In January 2022, O’Connor was hospitalized just days after her 17-year-old son Shane died. As reported by CNN at the time, the singer sought medical care after posting a series of alarming Twitter posts claiming that she planned to die by suicide.

“I’ve decided to follow my son. There is no point living without him. Everything I touch, I ruin. I only stayed for him. And now he’s gone,” O’Connor shared via an unverified Twitter account that was linked to her account.

Later on, the star added to her tweets and apologized, admitting that she “shouldn’t have said that.”

“I am with cops now on way to hospital. I’m sorry I upset everyone,” she wrote. “I am lost without my kid and I hate myself. Hospital will help a while. But I’m going to find Shane. This is just a delay.”

O’Connor experienced PTSD from childhood abuse

O’Connor’s memoir, “Rememberings,” published in 2021, dives into the physical abuse she endured from her mother as a child.

“I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I could do it so well,” she wrote in the book.

In a 2021 interview with the New York Times, O’Connor offered the following insight into her experience as a child.

“Child abuse is an identity crisis and fame is an identity crisis, so I went straight from one identity crisis into another,” she said.

In an interview with TODAY’s Carson Daly in 2021, O’Connor explained how she still lived with the trauma of her childhood.

“I suffer from a condition called complex post-traumatic stress disorder, from things that I went through growing up,” she said.

While talking with Carson, O’Connor recalled an iconic moment when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II in 1992 while appearing on “Saturday Night Live.” The photo belonged to the star’s mother, and she explained that it was a therapeutic experience since she had been so abusive during her childhood.

“It was a way of ripping her up, as well, I guess,” she said.

O’Connor spoke out about the challenges she faced following a hysterectomy 

In 2015, O’Connor underwent a radical hysterectomy in an attempt to manage her endometriosis. While speaking with People in 2021, the star said the procedure and the subsequent menopause that came afterwards was very challenging to experience.

“When I had the surgery, I was terribly triggered,” she said.

The star visited several psychiatric facilities in the years following the procedure, and she opened up to People about her mental health struggles.

“You can never predict what might trigger the (PTSD). I describe myself as a rescue dog: I’m fine until you put me in a situation that even slightly smells like any of the trauma I went through, then I flip my lid,” she said. “I manage very well because I’ve been taught brilliant skills. There was a lot of therapy. It’s about focusing on the things that bring you peace as opposed to what makes you feel unstable.”

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