Celebrities’ Mental Health Stories Can be Sources of Hope
Celebrities' mental health stories help us see that anyone can have mental illness: this statement is not something that I can stress enough. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much happiness there is in your life, or if you have a “reason” for being sick — sometimes you’re just sick, and that’s the long and the short of it. Celebrities' mental health stories go a long way toward showing that we're all susceptible to mental illness.
Stigma Affects Celebrities with Mental Health Problems, Too
It might seem obvious then to say that celebrities can have mental illness, too, but when celebrities open up, people are quick suspect an ulterior motive, such as money or an attempt to be relevant.
Celebrities face a hyper-scrutiny anyway, so I suppose the stigma surrounding celebrities and mental illness — which boils down to attention-seeking stigma — shouldn’t be too shocking, but it is disappointing. Celebrities are, as we say, larger than life, but they are still human. No matter how they are portrayed or how they portray themselves, they are human and no more immune to these issues than you or me.
Last week, Dwayne Johnson, known better by his stage name "The Rock" (depending on your generation, I guess), made headlines after an interview in which he spoke openly about living with depression and witnessing his mother’s attempted suicide. In one such article, I saw someone comment that his career must be going slowly, or, in other words, that he was just seeking attention and money (The Stigma of Talking about Mental Illnesses). In his case, he probably also has to face the stigma that men who are sick are weak. He even alluded to it in a tweet about the responses, noting, “Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in” ("Man Up" and Mental Health Stigma).
Despite the stigma, he has winningly focused on an important message: you are not alone.
Why Celebrities' Mental Health Stories Are Important
There are a number of reasons it’s important for celebrities to speak up. One being that for those who look up to those celebrities, the admission might just give someone a nudge into being honest about their struggles too and seeking treatment.
There was one reason I hadn’t thought of, though.
The same day those articles were initially circulating about Johnson, author Matt Haig, who also speaks openly about his mental health struggles, made a post to Facebook that struck me as a profound truth.
"When I was growing up the most famous people with depression were the icons it had killed. Cobain, Plath, Hemingway. It was so easy to feel like depression might be a death sentence. Which is why it is so brilliant so many famous - and LIVING - people talk about their depression. So next time someone rolls their eyes about a celebrity revealing their mental struggles, gently remind them it is giving someone hope, where hope didn't used to be."
Even when I was growing up in the '90s, the only narrative about mental health (apart from the usual label of crazy) was that depression and mental illness lead to self-destruction and death, neither of which were escapable.
When icons use their platforms to speak about mental illness and treatment while still living, we have another narrative to lean on and aspire to. As Haig aptly calls it, hope (Hope — the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery).
Barton, L. (2018, April 9). Celebrities’ Mental Health Stories Can be Sources of Hope, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, February 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2018/04/celebrities-mental-health-stories-can-be-a-source-of-hope
Author: Laura A. Barton
We are very much a culture that puts celebrities on a pedestal, and whether you support this or cringe hearing it, the point is that celebrities do have quite a bit of power. If they can use their voice and reach for good, we could see some real change take place. Such as, spreading awareness and putting a much-needed spotlight on real conversations and understanding surrounding mental illness. I hope celebrities who either live with mental illness, or have been touched by it in some way, will choose to use their platform for this good.