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Joe Pantoliano on mental dis-ease: ‘I wanted to change the mindset’

Known for his Emmy Award-winning roles, Pantoliano was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2008.

Joe Pantoliano is a beloved actor who set out more than a decade ago to change the way people think and talk about mental health.

Known for his Emmy Award-winning role in The Sopranos and films such as The Matrix, Bad Boys, Memento, and The Goonies—to name a few—Pantoliano was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2008. After years of struggling, he got help and started learning more about the brain.

When he would talk about his experience, other people shared their own stories. Pantoliano went on to film a documentary called No Kidding? Me Too! and started a nonprofit organization with the same name aimed at uniting members of the entertainment industry to educate the public about mental illness.

He prefers to use the term dis-ease to make the topic easier to talk about.

“I wanted to change the mindset,” he said. “I always disliked mental illness as a description—it made me feel labeled as permanently disabled. I see emotional disease as less frightening in most cases, a temporary state of mind, with great treatment opportunities. My depression comes and goes, and sometimes it’s reassuring to know that.”

Pantoliano will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Rosecrance Launch to Life Benefit on Friday, October 21, at the University Club of Chicago.

Attendees can expect hope, empathy, and humor from his presentation. In the years since his documentary was released, Pantoliano has connected with many people about their dis-ease.

Getting help for his depression wasn’t necessarily an unfamiliar process, but even in 2008, insurance didn’t cover some of the care he needed, Pantoliano recalled. He had concerns early on about taking medications—would they affect his ability to portray feelings and emotions as an actor?—but his doctor put him at ease.

Pantoliano said keeping himself mentally well is still a journey.

“This is not false modesty. I lead a complicated life full of ups and down,” he said. “I have learned some tools that can insulate me during the rough patches endured during sometimes arduous experiences.”

Pantoliano stays active on social media and will star in the upcoming comedy Home Delivery.

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