Given the prevalence of mental health issues across America, when celebrities speak out about their own issues, they do a great deal of good. Many people who live with mental illness are too embarrassed to seek help so when celebrities talk about their own mental health struggles, they help others shed the shame. They also encourage people to seek help and not resign themselves to a life of suffering. Moreover, they show that just because you have a mental health issue doesn’t mean you can’t go on to achieve amazing things.
Here are 15 celebrities who have opened up about their mental health issues. Kudos to them!
In a podcast interview with the Telegraph, Prince Harry openly admitted that he sought professional help after a rough period in his late twenties, when he felt he was "very close to a total breakdown." The early death of his mother, Princess Diana, and the pressure that comes with being a Royal had led him to repress his emotions for 20 years, he candidly said, and he realized later that this led to serious psychological effects. After his frank and open interview, he was applauded for speaking out and went on to launch the Heads Together campaign with Prince William and Kate Middleton. The goal of the campaign is to "end the stigma around mental health issues."
The 15-time Grammy winner opened up about her struggle with depression in 2016, saying she can “slip in and out of [depression] quite easily." While she doesn’t have suicidal thoughts, she regularly sees a therapist. She also suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her son. She eventually opened up to friends and decided to spend one afternoon a week without her son. Even though her friends questioned her decision, asking her if she felt bad about leaving him once a week, she responded, “I do, but not as bad as I’d feel if I didn’t do it.”
“Fake laugh, hiding real pain,” Deadpool joked in the first film, but it could easily have been said by the film’s star, Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds opened up recently about his lifelong struggle with anxiety, which he attributes to his tough father. “I’ll look for the joke in things so that I don’t look for the sadness and the grief,” he said. Whereas he used to self-medicate when he was younger, today he uses different methods to cope, including meditation and exercise. He also credits his wife, Blake Lively, for helping him deal with his issues. “I'm lucky to have her around just to keep me sane,” he said.
Girls creator and star Lena Dunham has always been vocal about her anxiety and OCD and has become an advocate for openly discussing mental health issues openly. Dunham has suffered from anxiety for as long as she can remember and she credits her parents for being people who weren’t afraid of therapy and medication. In an interview with People magazine, she said, “I would tell my younger self that there’s no shame in asking a teacher for help, telling a friend that you’re uncomfortable, and that it’s just the same as falling down and scraping your knee.”
In 2005 Brooke Shields opened up about her painful postpartum experience. She was one of the first women to speak about postpartum depression when it wasn’t as accepted as it is now, and she paved the way for others to feel more comfortable sharing their own experiences. At the time, Shields was publicly criticized by Tom Cruise for taking medication — he later apologized for shaming her, marking another victory for those who are brave enough to open up about their mental health struggles.
It’s hard to imagine that anything could keep The Rock down, but Dwayne Johnson publicly admitted that he has battled depression for many years. After opening up about his struggle, he received support from his fans, which encouraged him to continue. He tweeted, “We all go thru the sludge/sh-- and depression never discriminates. Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up.”
In 2018, Mariah Carey opened up to People magazine and revealed that she suffers from bipolar II disorder, a less-severe form of bipolar disorder. She said that she had been in denial about it for quite some time. “I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career,” she said. “I was so terrified of losing everything.” But after going through some intense upheavals, she decided to seek treatment, which includes medication and therapy, and today is in a much better place.
When Lady Gaga accepted an award at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s annual fundraiser in 2018, she used the platform as an opportunity to talk about the need for better mental health care for people in the entertainment business. She spoke about her own experience of surviving sexual assault and the PTSD that ensued. She’s also spoken on numerous occasions about her battle with depression and anxiety. “We need to bring mental health into the light,” she said. “We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness.”
In the early 2010s, Justin Bieber was listed 3 times in the top ten of Forbes’ Most Powerful Celebrities, but even the Bieb has suffered from mental health issues. To his credit, he’s been fairly open about them, despite receiving negative backlash at some points. In early 2019 he even posted a selfie while at therapy with the caption, “It’s cool to have a healthy mind and emotions.” Absolutely.
In a candid interview in 2018, Jackson revealed that she has struggled with depression on and off again for her entire life. For her, it began early on during her childhood, when she wasn’t happy with how she looked. Speaking of that time, she said, "I wish someone had said, 'You look fine. You look healthy. Being a little chubby is the least important thing in the world. Enjoy your childhood. Enjoy running and laughing and playing. Stop looking in the mirror and comparing yourself to others.’" While she can’t go back in time and say it to her younger self, saying it now can help a whole new generation.
Demi Lovato was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was in rehab for anorexia, bulimia, and cutting. Hard to imagine that so much pain lay beneath the former Disney star, but it was precisely that pain that drove her to launch the mental health awareness campaign, Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health. She hopes that her candidness about her own mental health struggles will encourage people who need help to go out and get cit.
In 2018, Kanye West revealed that he was diagnosed with a “mental condition,” and in his song, Yikes, he named it bipolar disorder. But he doesn’t think it’s a disability, in fact, he refers to it as his “superpower.” He recently opened up more about it on David Letterman’s Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction," when he confirmed that he is under a doctor’s care, though he prefers alternative treatment to medications.
Kristen Bell has suffered from anxiety and depression her whole life, but she was afraid to speak out about it for fear of being stigmatized. It wasn’t until her husband Dax Shepard encouraged her to say that she did, and since then, she hasn’t stopped. She uses her platform as a beloved celebrity to encourage people to get help and de-stigmatize mental health issues. Bell also credits her mother with helping her come to terms with her issues. Her mother said, “If you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that, but in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin.”
In 2017, Katy Perry made waves when she livestreamed her therapy session on YouTube, during which she discussed issues she had with her parents, relationships, and even previous suicidal thoughts. She livestreamed the session to show people how helpful therapy can be. As she put it, “It’s a really wonderful thing to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t judge you, because I don’t think a lot of people have that. I encourage it”.
No one would ever know that the uber-successful, Oscar and Golden Globe winner suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) if he hadn’t said it himself. When filming The Aviator in 2004, Dicaprio shared that, like his character Howard Hughes, he too has OCD. Unlike his character, however, Dicaprio is able to talk himself out of it. During filming he said that he’s able to rein himself in by telling himself, "You don't need to do that. You don't need to walk 20 feet back and put your foot on that thing. Nothing bad is going to happen.'"
Speaking Out, Changing Lives
It’s amazing to see so many celebrities speaking out about their mental health issues and using their voices to create a positive movement. When celebrities share their stories, they encourage others who suffer from similar issues to get help. They also let people know that they’re not alone — others have gone through this and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For someone experiencing mental health issues, knowing that people have gone through this and come out on top can be nothing short of life-changing. If you're experiencing mental health issues, take inspiration from these celebrities and seek the help that suits you, whether it's traditional therapy, online therapy, mindfulness practices or simply reaching out to a loved one.