Looking after your mental health is crucial, but we can all suffer difficulties at time. Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem can be symptoms of an image-obsessed society. Some people might feel as if they’ll be stigmatised if they talk about their mental health issues. But superheroes struggle with their mental health too, and perhaps the greatest example of that is with Dr Hank Pym. As a founding Avenger, Pym is meant to stand for the classic ideals of heroism. But his mental health issues have made him as fallible as any of us, which is why he’s a good role model for people who have disorders.
Pym is one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe and was named Scientist Supreme. He has a Ph.D in biochemistry and nanotechnology. His knowledge of quantum physics, artificial intelligence and entomology is on another level. He discovered the revolutionary Pym particles that allowed him to change his size. He’s the creator of The Vision, Ultron and Jocasta. He’s accomplished a lot in his life, yet his intellect is often overshadowed by his mental health problems.
One of Marvel’s earliest stories involved Pym physically abusing his wife, Janet van Dyne/The Wasp. At the time, he suffered a mental breakdown while operating under the Yellowjacket identity. He had been suspended from the Avengers and planned on building robots that would put him back in good stead with the team. Jim Shooter, the writer of the story, has said that he intended for Pym to accidently strike his wife while gesturing at her, but artist Bob Hall misinterpreted.
“In that story (issue 213, I think), there is a scene in which Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of “get away from me” gesture while not looking at her. Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross! There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the “wife-beater” story.” – Jim Shooter
Years later, Pym diagnosed himself with bipolar disorder, which has explained his mood swings and instability. He also suffered from intense feelings of inadequacy and guilt, due to creating Ultron and seeing his ‘son’ try to destroy the world. In addition, Pym could possibly suffer from dissociative personality disorder, due to the amount of superhero aliases he’s taken on. They include Ant-Man, Yellowjacket, Goliath, Wasp and Giant-Man. Most recently, Pym was merged with Ultron in an accident, further warping his mental health.
The fact that Pym diagnosed himself with bipolar disorder is a step in the right direction from Marvel. They’ve acknowledged an illness that affects millions of people around the world. It’s a sign that intelligent people can suffer as much as anyone else.
Pym’s status as a role model doesn’t come from being a superhero. It comes from being aware of his issues and trying to deal with them as best he can. Acknowledgment is a powerful sensation and it can help someone accept a part of themselves they aren’t happy with. Everyone’s mental health disorder is unique to them and it can be hard to explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Pym’s acceptance of his disorder is a sign of not having to justify it to anyone but himself.
Finding peace within yourself is an ongoing process. Low self-esteem can be crippling, but even choosing to talk about the state of your mental health is a brave and you could do that by talking to a counsellor or therapist. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. Each step is positive, each small acknowledgement is a victory. Hank Pym is human like the rest of us, and sometimes we have to save ourselves before we save anyone else.