The sphere of mental health has witnessed monumental advancements over the past many years. What spearheaded this change was the replacement of asylums with community-based mental health services in the 1960s, that helped foster the holistic well-being of people battling mental illnesses. Moreover, in 1949, May was established as the Mental Health Awareness Month to acknowledge the existence of mental health struggles and spread awareness about how one can emerge from them. And ever since then, we have come a long way in destigmatizing mental health to the point where we don’t have to shy away from occasional ‘mental health check-ins’, taking a ‘mental health break', and most importantly seeking therapy.
In the age of social media as a rapidly growing platform, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of people talking about mental health. Films and shows like Single Drunk Female, Tuca and Bertie, and This Is Us have done an excellent job in their portrayal of mental health battles, thereby transforming people's notions about the same. Furthermore, open conversations about this topic have brought about tangible changes in the forms of psychological therapy, school-based mental health programmes, and workplace counselling.
However, despite a revolutionary shift in the narrative surrounding mental health, countless people still yield to the stigma attached to this topic. In many parts of our society, talking about mental illness is still looked down upon as a sign of weakness. So much so that it discourages a lot of folks from seeking help.
According to a report by the CDC, in 2020, 45,979 people died by committing suicide in the United States, making it the leading causes of mortality in the nation. This indicates that one person takes their own life every 11 minutes on average. Mental health issues can affect anybody irrespective of their income, race, sexual orietantion or gender. And celebrity suicides are a testimony to this fact. In the last few months, we have lost the Grammy-winning country music singer Naomi Judd, Toddlers and Tiaras star Kailia Posey, and former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst to suicide. As a mental health advocate, Naomi Judd was always vocal about her struggles with an aim to inspire people to do the same. In 2017, she told NBC about her severe depression, confessing to not getting off her couch for two years and socially isolating herself because of her mental illness.
In recent times, quite a lot of celebrities and public figures have opened up about their mental health stories. Their advocacy has supported the masses in their battles against mental health problems as well as stirred up healthy and insightful discussions around the same.
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, here is a list of celebrities that have inspired us by sharing their mental health journeys.
1. Selena Gomez
Selena’s battle with mental health struggles is probably not news to most of us. In her interactions with various magazines and news outlets, she has opened up about how living with the auto-immune disease lupus and her subsequent kidney transplant negatively affected her mental well-being. Moreover, in an interview with ELLE Magazine, the 29-year-old artist called her bipolar disorder diagnosis “freeing” because it explained why she had suffered from anxiety and depression for so many years.
A passionate advocate for therapy, Selena considers it a life-changing experience. The singer consults her therapist five times a week, which has helped her learn how to be in control of her emotions.
Living a highly publicised life, the Rare Beauty founder is also outspoken about social media scrutiny’s impact on her mindset. In a recent interview with Good Morning America, Gomez credited her four-and-a-half year long social media break with helping her become more “present” and form stronger connections with people.
Along with her mother Mandy Teefy and Daniella Pierson, Selena Gomez has launched an online mental fitness platform called Wondermind that aims to provide people with tangible tools to navigate their emotional journeys and help “destigmatise and democratise mental health.”
2. Sophie Turner
The Game of Thrones actress has spoken candidly about how she has “experienced mental illness firsthand.” There was a point when negative comments on social media triggered body image issues, ultimately contributing to her debilitating mental state. Having suffered from depression, Sophie admitted that her “biggest challenge” has been getting out of bed, stepping out of her house, and learning to love herself.
In a recent interview with ELLE UK, the actress revealed her struggles with an eating disorder, which she considers to be an effect of social media. “I look at the comments on Instagram and think, ‘Oh, fuck. Everyone thinks this about me.’ It would completely consume me”, she said. Sophie credits her live-in therapist with preventing her from indulging in unhealthy eating habits. Although she continues to battle depression, regular therapy sessions have helped it become “manageable”. “I know what I have to do to get myself in a good headspace”, she said.
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Much like Sophie Turner, Lizzo has also spoken about how social media negatively shaped her perception of what a healthy body image looks like, which affected her mental health. The lack of body diversity and not seeing people with plus-size figures in the media undeniably triggered her anxiety. “You want to look like those things and when you realise it’s a physical impossibility you start to think, ‘What the fuck is wrong with me?’,” she said. “I think that took a bigger toll on me, psychologically, growing up than what anyone could have said to me”, she told Vogue in 2019.
In a conversation with Variety in 2022, the YITTY founder claimed that stardom cannot shield a person from mental health battles. “People become famous, and it’s like — my DNA didn’t change. Nothing changed about me. My anxiety didn’t go away. My depression didn’t go away”, she said.
The artist also confessed that she felt like a “burden” to her friends because of the lack of privacy in her new life. “It bummed me out, because you do lose a sense of your privacy and yourself, the old self. I’m good with it now. I’m fine. I’m young. I’m talented. I deserve the attention”, she continued.
4. Willow Smith
On The Yungblud Podcast in 2021, the 21-year-old singer spoke about how her May 2021 performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon triggered some unfortunate memories of an anxiety attack she experienced right before her "Whip My Hair" live performance when she was a child.
“I was doing the Jimmy Fallon performance and I had a flashback of being, like, 10 or 9 and, like, having an anxiety attack on set. “And basically feeling like everyone around me was just, ‘You’re just a brat… Why aren’t you grateful? You’re having an anxiety attack,’ but they didn’t see it as an anxiety attack. They saw it like a tantrum”, she said.
The "Wait A Minute" singer also confessed to engaging in self-harm on her mother’s show Red Table Talk. Jada Pinkett-Smith and her grandmother "Gammie," were completely unaware of this. "It was after that whole 'Whip My Hair' thing and I had just stopped doing singing lessons and I was kind of just in this gray area of, 'Who am I? Do I have a purpose? Is there anything I can do besides this?'", Willow explained.
In an interview with Ebro Darden on Beats1 in 2019, she highlighted the importance of using your platform to be “vulnerable” and speaking up about mental health to “let people know that they're not alone.”
5. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has always been a staunch promoter of mental health and therapy.
On The Zane Lowe Show on Apple Music in 2021, the "Heart Attack" singer revealed that they have experienced “depression and suicidal ideation” since they were seven years old. In 2011, the former Disney star was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a long battle with self-harm, substance abuse, and bulimia.
In an interview with Women’s Health in 2021, Lovato admitted to experiencing “episodes of mania” that led to times when their mind “would go all over the place.” They were ultimately thankful to receive the correct diagnosis for their mental illness. “I went into treatment and I was able to work with incredible doctors who helped me figure out that I was, in fact, bipolar. It was a great feeling to find out that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I just had a mental illness”, they explained.
Besides therapy, the singer also considers exercise a great way to maintain mental fitness. “I actually exercise as much as possible because there’s something that it does—it just helps”, they said.
6. Annie Murphy
Schitt’s Creek actress Annie Murphy has had her own share of struggles with mental health. In an interview with People, the star stated that she battled depression at the beginning of COVID-19.
In a conversation with BUST, Murphy revealed that to take control of her mental health, she attends therapy once a week, uses anti-depressants, and spends time with her loved ones. Moreover, she also emphasizes the importance of initiating honest conversations about mental health. “The reason I want to be open about it is because I hope to do my small part in maybe making people feel like they’re less alone—to show that everyone deals with this, and it’s normal and OK to ask for help”, she said.
7. Lady Gaga
In Oprah and Prince Harry’s docuseries The Me You Can’t See, the 36-year-old popstar got candid about how her sexual assault, health issues, and self-harm led to her mental health problems.
On the show, Gaga recalled her disturbing experience of being sexually assaulted by a music producer when she was just a 19-year-old. She admitted to receiving hospital treatment for physical pain a long while after the incident took place. The "Shallow" singer has also been diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and fibromyalgia.
Furthermore, the artist also got real about “one of the worst things” she has experienced - a psychotic break which left her body numb.
The artist credits medication, her psychiatrist, and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) for helping her recover from mental health issues.
8. Amy Schumer
In an interaction with The Hollywood Reporter, the forty-year-old comedian unveiled her “big secret”: her conflict with trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder that started when Amy was in grade school.
“I really don’t want to have a big secret anymore. And I thought putting it in there would be good for me to alleviate some of my shame and maybe, hopefully, help others alleviate some of theirs, too”, Schumer explained.
Schumer’s depression and anxiety were also fuelled because of toxic relationships, a complicated past with her mother, her father’s illness, and a painful battle with endometriosis.
9. Taraji P. Henson
The Empire star has spoken about her past conflicts with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
"It's very real. There are so many people, right now especially in this time that we're dealing with in history, that they're contemplating… Every day is a struggle. I found myself struggling with not knowing or just giving up”, she explained.
The 51-year-old actress also added that we must not be “embarrassed” of our thoughts. ‘That is a real thought that you're having in real time. Don't shun it. It's real. Deal with it", Henson continued.
As a woman of color who promotes therapy, the actress started a project that pushed for free “virtual therapy” for African-Americans affected by the pandemic. She spoke to BUST about the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, a charity named after her late father. The goal of this organisation is to lift the stigma around mental health and provide counselling and support to Black children.
10. Terry Crews
The Brooklyn 99 star has not shied away from getting real about how his abusive childhood, sexual assault, toxic masculinity and addiction to pornography have impacted his mental health.
In October 2017, Terry Crews opened up on Twitter about his traumatic experience of getting sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive named Adam Venit. “This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to ME”, he tweeted.
Victimized by toxic masculinity, Crews revealed that his trauma was often invalidated by other men who said that a tough, robust and muscular guy like him could not get sexually abused. Subsequently, the actor filed a civil case against Venit and his company WME, which resulted in him resigning from the company and WME making changes to its sexual assault policy. Ever since then, Terry has been a passionate campaigner for the #MeToo movement and continues to lend his support to male survivors.
When it comes to his porn addiction, Crews credits therapy for helping him overcome it.
11. Naomi Osaka
In 2021, the Japanese tennis player withdrew from the French Open because she was mentally unwell.
In an Instagram post, Osaka revealed that she has suffered from “long bouts of depression” since the U.S. Open in 2018. “Anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety”, she wrote.
Earlier, the athlete had also refused to partake in post-tournament news conferences during the French Open because the negative questions often take a toll on her mental health. Due to her unconventional decision, Ms. Osaka was fined $15,000 by the tournament referee and threatened with suspension by the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
However, Osaka received love and support from her fans and notable people such as multiple Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, former tennis player Billie Jean King, and Michelle Obama who praised her for prioritising her mental well-being.
Inspired by her mentors Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, Ms. Osaka has launched her own sports agency called Evolve with her agent Stuart Duguid. With this project, they aim to guide the next generation of athletes in brand collaborations, investments and building their own business.
12. Prince Harry
In The Me You Can’t See, Prince Harry’s mental health docuseries with Oprah, he shares his mental health journey to motivate others to seek help.
While discussing the impact of his mother Princess Diana’s death on his life, Prince Harry said that he is disheartened that “there was no justice at all.”
Harry also opened up about how he experiences panic attacks and anxiety in his 20s, and how the clicking and flashlights of cameras take a toll on his mental health by triggering past childhood traumas.
To heal from the death of his mother, Harry revealed that he attended a special therapy program called EDMR, which helps treat PTSD.
13. Issa Rae
In an episode of The Read in 2019, the Insecure actress emphasized the importance of going to therapy if you work in the entertainment industry.
Issa discussed her struggle with the superwoman syndrome, a condition inherited from her mother and grandmother that discouraged the actress from opening up about her thoughts and emotions.
But to protect her emotional well-being, the 37-year-old star ultimately decided to seek therapy. According to Rae, the main takeaway from her journey is that “nobody gives a f*ck about you.” She believes that once you enter Hollywood, you’re on your own. You need to look out for yourself and prioritise your mental health.
14. Keke Palmer
In a 2018 campaign with the Child Mind Institute called #MyYoungerSelf, the Alice actress revealed that she has been suffering from anxiety and depression since her teenage years.
Her advice to her younger self is to be more patient, and ultimately you will be able to find ways to be “more in tune with yourself” and understand possible triggers.
Due to her mental illness, Palmer experienced self-doubt and often felt that something was wrong with her. But she learned how to remind herself that a lot of people experience similar struggles, and she is not alone. “We all have our trials and errors with different things in our lives”, she said.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from a mental illness, remember that it is okay to seek help.
1. National Suicide Prevention Helpline
3. Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation provides free mental health services to African American individuals
Header Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash
Prachi is a nineteen year old Media and Communications major from India. She is currently a Freshman at the University of Calgary, Canada. In her free time, she is either trying to deconstruct a movie or listening to Taylor Swift.