During the pandemic, ‘General Hospital’ star Maurice Benard launched a mental health web series – San Bernardino Sun

On weekdays, you can catch actor Maurice Benard on “General Hospital,” where he’s been playing mob boss Sonny Corinthos for close to 30 years. On Sundays, though, you’ll find him on YouTube, sitting in the studio built by his wife where he interviews friends, castmates and family members about a variety of subjects that are, most often, related to mental health.

“State of Mind,” Benard’s weekly web series, began in the midst of what were some of the darkest days of the pandemic for the actor and has developed into a powerful outlet for his work as a mental health advocate.

Related: Soap opera ‘General Hospital’ reaches 15,000th episode: Cast members talk iconic series

“It started one night, I was in bed. I woke up and I had an anxiety attack and decided to film it,” Benard recalls on a recent phone call. At the same time, he saw Steve Hardy on television cracking a joke about how people film everything they do and post to Instagram. “I thought, oh my God, here I am doing it,” he says. After that incident, Benard started posting weekly talks about his own mental health to Instagram before moving over to YouTube where he’s built a following of over 70,000 subscribers.

“A lot of the fans were from ‘General Hospital,’ but then ‘State of Mind’ started getting its own fans, which is interesting now,” he says. “A lot of people just talk to me about mental health, not ‘General Hospital,’ which is amazing. I’m so proud of that.”

Early on in the pandemic, Benard released his memoir “Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off ‘General Hospital.’” Meanwhile, production on the long-running, daytime soap opera had halted production in the wake of COVID-19.

“During my book and the shutdown of GH and the pandemic, I got this anxiety that was deadly,” he says. “Horrific. I’m talking, every day, not wanting to be on this earth. I went through that for four months, while I was promoting my book.”

Still, he continued with his mental health updates. “It was very difficult, but every Sunday, I went and did ‘State of Mind’ in the car,” Benard says. “I only missed Sunday when, literally, I couldn’t get out of bed. Then, after four months of that crippling feeling, I got help. Professional help.”

Benard, who has bipolar disorder, has been speaking about mental health for years. His “General Hospital” character, Sonny, also struggles with bipolar disorder. “When I started playing Sonny as bipolar, people didn’t know what that was,” says Benard.

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