Mariel Hemingway opens up about suicide and mental illness

Some people struggle to talk about suicide and mental illness.

Not Mariel Hemingway.

Her grandfather, the famed writer Ernest Hemingway, took his own life — as did six other relatives, including her actress sister, Margaux Hemingway — and many others in her family have also battled mental-health problems.

Hemingway, 53, talked about that family history in the 2013 documentary “Running From Crazy” and in two memoirs released in April: “Invisible Girl” (Regan Arts, 160 pages, $19.95), aimed at young adults; and “Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family” (Regan Arts, 288 pages, $26.95).

Hemingway, a mother of two, spoke recently with The Dispatch from her home outside Los Angeles.

Q: What was it like writing a memoir for young adults and another for adults?

A: It was just a natural progression. It went from being that 14-year-old to having an adult observation on my childhood, on my early experiences in filmmaking and understanding why I was making the choices in acting roles and how I felt that I was looking for family with every movie set.

Q: What do you hope people take away from the books?

A: I wrote these books not because I think that my story is so amazing. I wrote them because it’s not amazing. It’s a story we all have.

(I hope) my books can give some young adults permission to reach out and speak to somebody about things they’re scared about, (or give) people my age ... the courage to find a safe place, a safe person, to either get help for their own issues or just be able to have compassion for themselves and the journey that they’ve been on.

We all deserve to be healthy and happy and balanced.

Q: You’ve written a lot about how yoga has helped you. Can you talk a little about that?

A: I think that yoga really was a catalyst for me.

I think that meditation is powerful, whether you want to call it meditation or silence or just being still.

Q: Your grandfather died before you were born, but what do you think he would think about yoga?

A: I think that there’s a broad misconception of who my grandfather was.

I think that we all have this vision — myself included — of this man with a beard who was just tough and a man’s man and a chauvinist. I don’t think he was that.

He loved the outdoors. He also lived in a different time. So it was more about hunting, it was all those things that now it’s like: “Oh, I’m vegan, and I don’t do that. I do yoga.”

To me, yoga . . . doesn’t have to be on a mat doing postures. It can be fly-fishing. It can be the zen of whatever you do.

And I think my grandfather, if that had been an available thing, he might have loved it.

I doubt he would have done it, but I think the attitude behind conscious awareness, it would be something he would be very much into.

And I get to say that because he’s not around. So who’s going to call me on it?

Q: You talk often about addiction and mental illness. Is there a question that tends to come up at most of your speaking engagements?

A: It’s not so much what I get asked. The comment usually is, “Oh, my God, we have the same story.” Details of their story have nothing to do with mine, and mine have nothing to do with theirs.

But what I love is that they feel heard and understood.

Contact Jeannie Nuss at jnuss@dispatch.com.

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