Referred to for many centuries as “melancholia,” clinical depression has long been misunderstood and stigmatized.
However, those who have experienced real depression know that’s far from true. Depression is a very real form of mental illness, and it’s far more serious than most people realize. Take these statistics, for example:
- Depression is the leading cause of disability.
- Depression costs the U.S. an estimated two-hundred and ten billion dollars each year.
- Suicide, which most often stems from untreated depression, kills over 37,000 people a year in the U.S. alone, causing more deaths each year than vehicle-related fatalities.
Celebrities and other successful people are often viewed as perfect and without flaws, which creates a very harmful stereotype for those who have dreams of realizing similar accomplishments, especially for those who suffer from such challenges as mental illness.
It makes us feel as though we’re hopeless and could never attain the same level of success as these “perfect” human beings.
Fortunately, over the past decade, many of the world’s most successful people have come forward to share their own personal stories of battling depression, making those who suffer in silence realize that they’re not as alone as they think.
That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.
– Elizabeth Wurtzel
Here are seven highly successful people who have dealt with depression:
1. Kristen Bell
It turns out that even actors who often star in comedies experience the darkness of depression.
In 2016, Kristen Bell opened up to TIME about her experience with depression:
There is such an extreme stigma about mental health issues, and I can’t make heads or tails of why it exists. Anxiety and depression are impervious to accolades or achievements. Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain.
She goes on to give advice to those experiencing similar challenges:
We’re all on team human here, and let’s be honest—it’s not an easy team to be on. It’s stressful and taxing and worrisome, but it’s also fulfilling and beautiful and bright. In order for all of us to experience the full breadth of team human, we have to communicate. Talking about how you’re feeling is the first step to helping yourself. Depression is a problem that actually has so many solutions.
2. J.K. Rowling
One of the most inspiring examples of someone who has battled depression is in Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
As a struggling single mother in her twenties, Rowling got so depressed that she even contemplated suicide, later seeking help through therapy. She told The Guardian in 2012 that she had to return to therapy when the Harry Potter series took off and her life suddenly changed:
I had to do it again when my life was changing so suddenly — and it really helped…I’m a big fan of it, it helped me a lot.
3. Jon Hamm
Mad Men star Jon Hamm has been one of the most open celebrities when it comes to his struggles with depression.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hamm stated that it was antidepressants and therapy which helped him manage his depression most of all. Hamm had this to say about how therapy was able to help him:
It gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps. And honestly? Antidepressants help! If you can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work and…’ Reset the auto-meter, kick-start the engine!
4. Gwyneth Paltrow
Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that can affect women after childbirth. And that’s exactly what happened to Gwyneth Paltrow.
Shortly after giving birth to her second child, Moses, Paltrow began experiencing signs of postpartum depression. She later opened up about it to ET Online:
“Luckily, [my case] was low grade enough that I didn’t have to be hospitalized, but it’s a very debilitating thing, and I think there’s so much shame around it and there shouldn’t be,” says Paltrow, “It’s something that happens, it’s something that befalls many women after they have a baby, and for me, it ended up being a wonderful opportunity to explore some underlying issues that I think the depression kind of brought out.”
5. Owen Wilson
While not as public about his experiences with depression as others on this list, actor and comedian Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Zoolander) is another prime example of someone who reached peak success while battling depression.
In 2007, Wilson was hospitalized for attempting suicide. He has since opened up about his battle with mental illness, and hasn’t let his struggles stop him from persevering. Wilson continues to maintain a strong career in Hollywood, having recently starred in Disney’s Cars 3.
6. Lady Gaga
Despite her busy music career, Lady Gaga always seems to make time to raise awareness about mental health issues.
Having battled both depression and anxiety herself, she understands the difficulties others are facing and the importance of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Gaga recently spoke to Teen Vogue and said that more people need to come out and speak openly about their struggles with mental health, “I openly admit to having battled depression and anxiety and I think a lot of people do,” said Gaga, “I think it’s better when we all say: ‘Cheers!’ and ‘fess up to it.’”
7. Cara Delevingne
Model and Valerian actor Cara Delevingne has maintained a successful dual career despite her struggles with depression.
In an interview with E! Online, Delevingne spoke about the importance of opening up and talking about it:
A lot of people I’ve loved in my life suffer from [depression], including myself…One of the main things is talking about it, using your voice.
Delevingne says she hopes to inspire more people to talk about their own experiences with depression.