Here’s What Celebrities Have Had To Say About Their Mental Health Battles
Struggling with a mental illness is difficult in its own right, but feeling too ashamed to speak up about your experience, and ask for help only makes things worse. In an effort to de-stigmatize mental health issues, certain celebrities are using their platforms to share their own stories and normalize the realities of mental disorders.
Check out what these stars have had to say about their own mental health battles, and ongoing journeys to whole-body wellness…
From Disney star to mental illness advocate, Demi Lovato has used her position of influence to speak out about her own struggles with bulimia, bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, and self-harm. In the video she made to speak out about her journey, she declared, “Bipolar depression really got my life off track. But today I’m proud to say I’m living proof that someone can live, love, and be well with bipolar disorder when they get the education, support, and treatment they need.”
Hayden Panettiere took postpartum depression from stigmatized shadows into the limelight when she took a break from Nashville to seek help. “It’s something a lot of women experience,” she explained on Live! With Kelly and Michael. She went on to say, “It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.” Her bravery is an encouragement and symbol of hope to the many women around the world facing their own battles of postpartum depression.
In transitioning from a beloved child star in E.T. to a seriously troubled teen, actress Drew Barrymore struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction which culminated in a suicide attempt. After her stay in a private rehab center, the star was able to avoid relapse and go on to live a successful life as an actor and director.
Twilight star Kristen Stewart understands how anxiety can prevent you from living life to the fullest—after all, she’s been there. She told Marie Claire, “I was constantly anxious. I was kind of a control freak. If I didn’t know how something was going to turn out, I would make myself ill, or just be locked up or inhibited in a way that was really debilitating.” The star didn’t allow her anxiety to hold her back from a successful acting career and now uses her platform to encourage others facing similar mental illnesses.
Emma Stone is yet another celebrity that first faced mental illness as a young child. She once shared, “The first time I had a panic attack, I was sitting in my friend’s house, and I thought the house was burning down. I called my mom and she brought me home, and for the next three years it just would not stop.” Emma Stone didn’t let her anxiety or panic attacks win—she went on to enjoy a successful acting career.
The voice of Frozen‘s Princess Anna, Kristen Bell, is now using her voice to open up about her anxiety, depression, and codependency, inspiring others in their own journeys to mental health. She advises others, “I got on a prescription [for anxiety and depression] when I was really young, and I still take it today, and I have no shame in that because my mom has said to me, ‘If you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist, see how you want to help yourself.'”
Actress and model Olivia Munn’s social anxiety sparked a struggle with another, lesser-known mental illness—trichotillomania. The actress admitted to her obsessive compulsion to rip out her eyelashes in one interview, where she explained, “It doesn’t hurt, but it’s really annoying. Every time I run out of the house, I have to stop and pick up a whole set of fake eyelashes.”
While attending the 2010 screening of his movie, Runaway, Kanye West paused to publicly acknowledge his private struggle with depression and suicide. He explained, “There were times that I contemplated suicide. I will not give up on life again. There’s so many people that will never get the chance to have their voice heard. I do it for them.”
Model and actress Cara Delevingne also shed light on the ways in which celebrity status can only make mental illness worth. On her experience with simultaneously modeling and fighting depression, the star said, “I wanted the world to swallow me up, and nothing seemed better to me than death. … But at that time, I really wanted someone to stop me to go, ‘You need to take a break. You need to look after yourself,’ and no one did.” She went on to recover after surrounding herself with people to love and support her.
There is no greater example of female empowerment and confidence than Beyoncé, but the powerhouse vocalist is no stranger to the pain of depression. She once shared, “[After Destiny’s Child broke up,] I went through depression. I didn’t eat. I stayed in my room. I was in a really bad place in my life…” The singer went on to overcome her struggles and embrace life, love, and healing.
Scandal star Kerry Washington spoke up not only against the stigma surrounding mental illness, but also against the stigma surrounding therapy. She told Glamour, “I say that [I rely on a therapist] publicly because I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health. … My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist, so why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?”
Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone used her own battles with anxiety and depression as an opportunity to de-stigmatize medication as a treatment for mental illness. She told Hindustan Times, “The counseling helped, but only to an extent. Then, I took medication, and today I am much better.” She went on to say, “I see people suffering, and their families feel a sense of shame about it, which doesn’t help. One needs support and understanding.”
Most people think of eating disorders as a mental illness unique to women, but celebrity Russel Brand took a stand against that misconception when he spoke out about his own struggles with body image and bulimia. He told one interviewer, “It was really unusual in boys, quite embarrassing. But I found it euphoric. It was clearly about getting out of myself and isolation. Feeling inadequate and unpleasant.”
Sarah Silverman is a comedian who knows that panic attacks are no laughing matter. In sharing her own experience, she explained, “People use ‘panic attack’ very casually over here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is. Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It’s terrifying. And when the attack is over, the depression is still there. It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.”
Singer and celebrity Justin Bieber has opened up about the ways fame caused rather than cured his own mental health struggles. He told one interviewer, “This life can rip you apart. [I get depressed] all the time. And I feel isolated. You’re in your hotel room and there are fans all around, paparazzi following you everywhere, and it gets intense. When you can’t go anywhere or do anything alone, you get depressed. I would not wish this upon anyone.”
Diagnosed with clinical depression while filming Supernatural, Jared Padalecki has used his diagnosis for positive change. The actor teamed up with To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit serving those who have self-harmed because of addiction or depression, in a T-shirt campaign. The tees feature a succinct yet powerful reminder to “Always Keep Fighting.” The shirt reflects Padalecki’s commitment to fighting his own mental illness every day, even when it’s difficult.
Comedian Wayne Brady took to People to speak out about the cultural barriers men face in seeking help for depression. He said, “What kind of man would I sound like if I told somebody, ‘Hey, I am so sad. I’m cripplingly sad. I can’t get out of bed. I just feel empty. Help me.’ I’d be [seen as] some sissy. I’d be soft. That’s what you’re taught. That’s how you were programmed.” By taking a stance against those cultural norms, Brady shows just how important it is to have courage in the face of mental illness.
Actress Gabrielle Union opened up at the Step Up Inspiration Awards in 2016 on her sexual assault and poor self-esteem. Friends have helped her in her journey to stop seeing herself as a “joke” and a “loser,” and the star proudly declared, “I am fierce and fabulous because I breathe. All of us here in this room, we are worthy, we are valid, our journeys are real and worthwhile, and there’s nothing that anyone can do to take that away from us.”
Actress Brooke Shields wrote an entire book to share the story of her battle with postpartum depression. Her bravery earned her an award from the Hope for Depression Research Foundation in 2009. While accepting the speech, she shared, “I learned what was going on inside my body and what was going on inside my brain. I learned I wasn’t doing anything wrong to feel that way, that it was actually out of my control.”
It’s tempting to think that David Beckham—soccer superstar, husband to Victoria Beckham, father of four—has a perfect life. However, the athlete-turned-model is very open about his struggles with OCD. He told one interviewer, “Walk into a hotel room and before I can get settled, I have to unpack. Everything has to be perfect: the magazines the right way, the drawers in the right way, or whatever. …it’s tiring. But it’s more tiring if it’s not done the right way.”
Girls star Lena Dunham took to Instagram to open up about her mental illness and encourage others on the same journey. She wrote, “To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.” This is one actress taking inspirational fitness posts to a whole new level.
Some celebrities deal with mental illnesses long before they ever become famous. Take Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie for example. The musician was first diagnosed with ADHD as a young child, but even as an adult, he reported, “It definitely affects everything I do.” Despite his struggles, the artist didn’t allow ADHD to hold him or his band back from recording music, going on tour, and sharing music with fans everywhere.
J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling Harry Potter books, sees no reason for stigma to surround mental illness. She asked one student reporter, “What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time, and I am quite proud that I got out of that.” After all, depression didn’t hold the author back from penning one of the most popular book series of all time.
While penning The Fault in Our Stars, a story of young people facing physical illness, author John Green faced his own struggle with mental illness in the form of anxiety. The author turned to Reddit to encourage fans who shared in his struggle, writing, “You are not alone, and while I know the struggle feels completely hopeless and futile, there is a far shore for the vast majority of people, and I wish you the best.”
Fall Out Boy’s bassist, Pete Wentz, talked about his struggles with bipolar disorder in an interview with The Huffington Post. He took the opportunity to speak out against the stigma surrounding mental illness, remarking, “Everybody figures themselves out in a different way. And I think there’s no shame in talking about that kind of stuff. It’s not something you should feel scared … talking about.”
Pitch Perfect‘s Brittany Snow opened up to People about her struggles with anorexia, exercise bulimia, depression, and body dysmorphia. With the help of supportive friends and her therapist, the actress was able to recover from her illness and shared, “Today, being able to have a conversation and not think about what I’m eating? Amazing. I still see a therapist, but I eat like a normal person.” Snow now openly shares her story in hopes of informing and inspiring others facing similar struggles.
While some actresses begin their battles with mental illness after childbirth, actress Megan Fox found her son’s birth to be a turning point for the better in her battle with OCD. She told Marie Claire, “[The anxiety] has been significantly better since he was born. I would say, like, 80% better.” In the past, the star’s obsessive compulsion disorder caused her to face severe anxiety over using public restrooms and restaurant silverware.