One of the most discussed topics of 2018, people across the globe, with 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiencing a mental illness of some form, it’s a topic that impacts everyone in some way. Throughout the year a number of celebrities have spoken up, lending their voice to the cause.
There has long been a stigma associated with mental illnesses, painting those who live with these conditions as somehow ‘weak’ or insinuating that they have somehow brought these struggles upon themselves in some way. This type of judgment contributes to the guilt and shame that many living with mental illness already experience, discouraging them from an opening about their battles or seeking the assistance they need.
The only thing to break through this stigma is to start speaking up, sharing our stories, showing support and normalizing the discussion of mental health. This includes the understanding that mental illness is not a lifestyle choice. It is a disorder or illness and deserves similar treatment, compassion and understanding as the many physical illnesses we encounter including cancer and heart disease. If you have received a diagnosis, know it isn’t a life sentence! There are options available for management and treatment, and recovery is possible!
Here are 13 examples of well-known celebrities using their influence in society to address the important topic of mental health:
#1 – Taraji P. Henson
Some celebrities are focusing their attention on the mental health problem and associated stigma while others are narrowing their focus a little further. For Taraji P. Henson, the goal is to not only highlight that there IS a problem in how they view mental health challenges in our society but that there are unique challenges faced by people of color.
She didn’t just talk about the problem; she stepped up and do something about it, founding the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. Named after her father, she wanted to honor him and his own story, returning home from the Vietnam War with post-traumatic stress disorder. “BLHF is breaking the silence by speaking out and encouraging others to share their challenges with mental illness and get the help they need,” she explained. “African-Americans have regarded such communication as a sign of weakness and our vision is to change that perception.”
#2 – Emma Stone
Living with anxiety is challenging, but the direct struggles of the disorder are compounded by the fact that the very thought about sharing with others also creates further anxiety. It’s a toxic cycle that many find themselves trapped in. By sharing her personal experience, Emma Stone not only allows others to see that they aren’t alone, but she also inspires them to speak up and be open about their struggles.
In a panel discussion, she revealed, “Before I went into second grade, I had my first panic attack. It was really, really terrifying and overwhelming; I was over at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was absolutely convinced the house was on fire and it was going to burn down. I was just sitting in her bedroom, and obviously the house wasn’t on fire – but there was nothing in me that didn’t think we would not die.”
#3 – Ariana Grande
While many of the examples in this list are statements made to specifically address the topic, such as statements made to the media, articles written to be published or posts made by celebrities to voice their concerns, we don’t want to overlook the power that even a response on social media can have. Ariana Grande has had a difficult year, there is and she has been open about the fact she has been seeing a therapist to help her manage everything.
When she came across a tweet that stated, “who is Ariana’s therapist and are they accepting new clients”, she could have brushed it off and ignored it. Instead, Ariana publicly responded, using it as an opportunity to normalize therapy, writing, “lmaoaoo this is funny as fuck but in all honesty therapy has saved my life so many times. if you’re afraid to ask for help, don’t be. u don’t have to be in constant pain & u can process trauma. i’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s a start to even be aware that it’s possible.”
#4 – Michelle Williams
Former Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams has been open about her thoughts, views, and opinions regarding the stigma and how it impacts those who are struggling. She also actively speaks up to support those who are fighting back, encouraging and empowering them to seek help and overcome these disorders once and for all.
This summer she shared a post on both Twitter and Instagram, opening up about her own experiences: “For years I have dedicated myself to increasing awareness of mental health and empowering people to recognize when it’s time to seek help, support and guidance from those that love and care for your wellbeing. I recently listened to the same advice I have given to thousands around the world and sought help from a great team of healthcare professionals. Today I proudly, happily and healthily stand here as someone who will continue to always lead by example as I tirelessly advocate for the betterment of those in need.”
#5 – Shannon Purser
Often when people consider mental illness, the most common diagnosis that comes to mind is depression or anxiety. However, there are many different conditions that one may experience, each with their own struggles and their own story. For this reason, actress Shannon Purser understands that it’s important to speak up about her personal experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Sharing with the readers of Teen Vogue, she wrote, “The compulsions are the things most people seem to think of when they think of OCD, but these compulsions are almost always the product of some kind of fear or unwanted thought (the obsession).” She went on to explain how OCD severely altered her opinions of herself. However, she explained, therapy helped her to turn everything around, explaining that, “I am better equipped to analyze [the obsessive thoughts] and respond in healthy ways.”
#6 – Halsey
Singer/songwriter Halsey isn’t one to hide her own experiences with mental health, openly discussing her bipolar disorder diagnoses and the impact it has had on every aspect of her life, including her career. She stands strong for the things that she believes in, openly discussing controversial topics and making a $100,000 donation to Planned Parenthood. She refuses to allow these important topics to be brushed under the rug or overlooked.
When asked during an interview with Marie Claire how she manages to balance her career with the impact of bipolar disorder she stated, “I don’t manage my mental illness to keep up with my lifestyle; I manage my lifestyle to keep up with my mental illness.” A powerful statement that encourages those who are living with mental illness to reconsider their outlook.
#7 – Kendall Jenner
There are few families that we assume ‘have it all’ more than the Kardashian/Jenner family, no? Their incredible fame and attention through their reality television show have created the image of a somewhat dysfunctional family, a little blind to the reality outside of their privileged lives. In a recent interview, however, Kendall got real with Cara Delevingne, opening up about her own mental health struggles.
“I have such debilitating anxiety because of everything going on that I literally wake up in the middle of the night with full-on panic attacks,” she explains. “Where do I even start? Everything is so horrible, it’s hard to name one thing. I just think that the world needs so much love. I wish I had the power to send Cupid around the planet, as cheesy as that sounds. You go online and you see everyone saying the worst things to each other, and it’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard not to get eaten alive by all the negativity.”
#8 – Lady Gaga
This isn’t the first time that the well-known singer has spoken up about issues that she believes demand our attention, even sharing her own personal experiences. On World Health Day, Gaga wrote a powerful piece for ‘The Guardian’ in conjunction with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization.
In it, she stated, “Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address. Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”
#9 – Camila Cabello
Like Shannon Purser, Camila Cabello has opened up about her life with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder that she describes as ‘weird’. One of the greatest steps that those living with mental illness can take is to pull back the curtain and share the reality of living with these disorders, providing the general public with a little insight into the truth. This is exactly what the Havana singer set out to do in a recent interview.
“If I get really stressed think about something, I’ll start to have the same thought over and over again, and no matter how many times I get to the resolution, I feel like something bad is about to happen if I don’t keep thinking about it,” she described. She went on to explain how just receiving an actual diagnosis helped her to deal with it, stating, “It made me feel so much better. I feel so much more in control of it now. To the point where I’m just like ‘Aha! OK, this is just my OCD.’ I’ll ask my mom a question for the fourth time and she’ll be like, ‘That’s OCD. You’ve got to let it go.’”
#10 – Mariah Carey
A queen in her own regard, there are few women who have experienced the incredible success of Mariah Carey. This reason alone would lead many to believe that she’s obviously not struggling with anything, right? Wrong – Mariah was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001, recently opening up to People about her struggle to accept her diagnosis and her journey to accept help.
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” the singer admitted. “It was too heavy a burden to carry, and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me, and I got back to doing what I love – writing songs and making music.”
#11 – Gisele Bundchen
Often when we think about the stereotypical supermodel, they’ve got everything we could possibly want and desire in life. We place them on a pedestal as if they couldn’t possibly struggle with the same difficulties and challenges that we ‘common folk’ face on a regular basis. However, supermodel Gisele Bundchen opened up in her book, discussing her struggle with panic attacks. In doing so, she showed thousands of people that they aren’t alone.
In an interview with People this September, she discussed her personal struggles including the fact that, at one point, she contemplated suicide. She stated, “I actually had the feeling of, ‘If I just jump off my balcony, this is going to end, and I never have to worry about this feeling of my world closing in.” She went on to discuss that fact that she was able to seek help, giving hope to others who may be experiencing a similar struggle. Her openness pulls back a curtain, revealing the difficult truth that, as she explained, “things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what’s really going on.”
#12 – Selena Gomez
Choosing to take important steps in recent years to prioritize her mental health, stepping out of the spotlight, Selena Gomez has been open with her own struggles with mental illness. Recently she announced to her fans that she was taking a much-needed break, stepping away from social media in order to prioritize her own health and well-being. In doing so, she is an incredible role model for those who are in a similar position in their own lives.
“As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given,” she wrote. “Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember – negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”
#13 – Busy Philipps
Even when you have an incredible support system and all the relevant information about what to watch for, knowing when and how to ask for help can be incredibly difficult. For those that may have struggled with taking this step, guilt and shame often stop them from speaking out, but not Busy Philips. She shared her story with People, describing her battle, her struggle to ask for help, and the fact that her friend Courteney Cox was instrumental in convincing her to take that difficult step.
“I didn’t want anyone else touching [my daughter]. I felt like I was the only one that could help or soothe her. That was a hard time,” she explained. “Courteney was like, ‘I think you should talk to a doctor about medication.’” She did end up taking Courteney’s advice Busy confirmed, and in doing so she as able to find the help she needed to overcome these difficult em