Let’s Talk About Superheroes And Mental Illness


Given the prevalence of mental illness in our society, it’s no surprise that many characters in the world of superheroes are easily diagnosed with conditions of their own. As in real life, these conditions can be treated and managed in a way that allows these characters to achieve their full potential. However, they can also be ignored and/or misunderstood, resulting in unnecessary conflict and suffering. With that in mind, here are the symptoms that affected six superhero characters—and the diagnoses that best fit each condition.




While growing up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, Matt Murdock was blinded by a radioactive substance in the process of pushing a man to safety. On the plus side, this incident took all of his other senses to the next level, giving him something known as “radar sense.” Thanks to his special abilities, he managed to overcome various challenges and become a lawyer. At the same time, he found himself in a perpetual state of darkness thanks to his blindness and the brutal murder of his father.

Diagnosis: Depression


Hank Pym


Fans of the Ant-Man movies may only think of Hank Pym as Scott Lang’s mentor, but he was also the original Ant-Man. Over the years the character’s behaviour has been extremely erratic and unpredictable, thanks in part to his variety of identities including Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and the Wasp. While the comics have been somewhat inconsistent in their handling of Pym’s condition, his regular mood swings—which occasionally result in violence, even against his own wife—underline the diagnosis he received on the page.

Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder


Mera, Queen of Atlantis


Based on the recent Aquaman movie, you might have a hard time giving Mera, Queen of Atlantis, a diagnosis, but her background in comics is a bit more dramatic. For one, Mera and Arthur Curry had a child (alternately known as Arthur Curry Jr. and Aquababy), who was kidnapped and poisoned by Black Manta. This eventually resulted in Aquababy’s death—and a period of intense mourning for Mera.

Diagnosis: Nervous Breakdown


The Riddler


When you think about it, there’s no grand strategic motive behind the Riddler’s practice of leaving clues in the wake of his mischievous acts. However, that’s not enough to stop him, as he is obsessed with outsmarting his adversaries while demonstrating his own wit and imagination. Intentionally leaving evidence where none is necessary may seem like a clumsy, illogical approach, but this character’s inflexibility is a symptom that flows naturally from his condition.

Diagnosis: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


Harley Quinn


It’s hard to say what kind of person Harley Quinn would be if she’d never crossed paths with the Joker, but there’s a good chance she’d have a completely different diagnosis. After all, the root causes of Harley’s condition—physical, emotional, and psychological abuse—are all courtesy of the Clown Prince of Crime. Her decision to keep coming back for more might seem perplexing, but it goes hand-in-hand with her diagnosis.

Diagnosis: Battered Person Syndrome

Wonder Woman


While Wonder Woman has never been especially well known for the kind of vulnerability we associate with mental illness, a recent seven-issue arc by Greg Rucka (The Truth) took the character into unfamiliar territory. After confronting some particularly harsh truths, Diana Prince felt reality slipping away, which resulted in some time at a mental institution. Fortunately, she was able to get the help she needed, allowing Wonder Woman to return to her crime-fighting roots.

Diagnosis: Psychotic Break


Visit the official Bell Let’s Talk Day website to learn about all the ways you can join in on the conversation and help Bell raise money for Canadian mental health initiatives.