21 Celebrities Share Their Personal Struggle With Mental Illness, Inspire Us With Their Bravery
Editor’s Note: Struggling and feeling hopeless? You are not alone. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
We all struggle with feeling a little sad or a little anxious every now and then, but when those feelings of self-doubt and hopelessness overtake our day-to-day life, it might be time to consider seeking help.
While struggling with a mental illness is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, the stigmas are still vividly present — from its representation in pop culture to the very language we use unintentionally.
While society has made great strides in removing the stigma of mental health and making it more accessible for those struggling to get help — or even just talk about their struggle to a loved one, we, as a collective, still have a long way to go, and that’s why it’s so incredibly important to share our stories as often and as loudly as we can.
Here, we’ve lined up 21 different celebrities who are using their platform for good — these mental health advocates continue to bravely step forward and choose to put their struggle out there for the world to see. Their fearless actions continue to inspire us to work toward breaking down the stigmas, reach out to those we love, and own our own truth.
Keira Knightley recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter‘s “Awards Chatter” podcast and the subject of her mental health came up. She said that when she was getting started it the industry, “it was a battle every day leaving the house” and that the looming presence of the paparazzi created a “level of violence, it felt, in the air.” Due to all this pressure, she had a nervous breakdown at 22 years old but manages her anxiety today by knowing when to take a break.
Demi Lovato’s very public struggle with addiction has been splashed all over the news this year. Speaking out after her relapse, Lovato wrote, “I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction. What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.”
We have so much respect for her positivity and perseverance during such a rough time, but staying strong and looking forward and accepting help when you need it is a great way to go about it.
As someone who heavily drew her self-worth and self-image from her professional success, her latest album’s lackluster reception came at a great personal cost.
“Unknowingly, I put so much validity in the reaction of the public, and the public didn’t react the way I had expected to… which broke my heart,” Perry opened up to Vogue Australia. “I have had bouts if situational depression,” she confessed.
Perry has since started a journey of reconnecting with herself and the important things in life, which don’t really have anything to do with material things, but more about knowing yourself, empowering yourself, making yourself happy and spreading that joy to others.
In a powerful demonstration of vulnerability, Willow revealed a heartbreaking secret to the world and mom Jada Pinkett Smith for the first time ever on Red Table Talk, the Facebook Watch exclusive show hosted by Jada, her mother Adrienne and Willow. She confessed that as a child, she fell into a “black hole” and reverted to self-harm, much to the shock of her mother and grandma.
Willow went on to talk about how a lot of teenage girls struggle with depression and self-harm, and that her struggle was by far not an isolated case. She does not believe this is a new affliction, just that there is more openness and awareness nowadays about the issue.
Known best for being the real life Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort’s struggle with mental health has not always been at the forefront. His tale of redemption has helped motivate many others at their darkest hour.
When days get tough, which we all have, Kevin Hart has a simple, yet rather deep mantra: “Every day is the start of a new day.” It’s so easy to take the disappointments, frustrations and failures of the previous day, week, and even year with us into the next.
Ariana Grande recently shared she suffered from anxiety and PTSD after the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing—”I don’t think I’ll ever know how to talk about it and not cry,” she told British Vogue in June. Grande also had an unexpected personal loss when her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, died of a suspected drug overdose on September 7th.
“Given the events of the past couple of years, Ariana is going to take some much needed time to heal and mend,” her team told People. “She will be staying close to home and using this period to spend time with her loved ones and work on new music without deadline. She thanks her fans for their understanding”
Former Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams is hoping her current mental struggle will eventually have the silver lining of being able to help others.
Williams signed herself into a mental health facility two weeks ago and is now taking the time to acknowledge her support network and use her own experience to remind friends, family and fans to take care of themselves. “You have to do the work even when you’re tired and feel the heaviness. Take one step at a time! Don’t overwhelm yourself.” she wrote.
Youth motivational speaker and author, Josh Shipp has since turned his life around and made it his life’s purpose to mentor teenagers today — all thanks to the mentor he found when he was just 17-years-old.
Motherhood, albeit a welcome blessing, saw Serena Williams struggling with the all-too-common yet often still taboo challenge of postpartum depression (PPD) following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia.
“I remember one day, I couldn’t find Olympia’s bottle and I got so upset I started crying… because I wanted to be perfect for her,” she said.
In fact, the 36-year-old athlete admitted she sometimes still has pangs of postpartum. “Honestly, sometimes I still think I have to deal with it.”
One of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018, Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes is using his platform to tackle mental health. The 19-year-old artist has also been speaking candidly of his own struggles with anxiety, advocating for a stigma-free public conversation on mental health, especially among men.
“It’s all about honesty […] It’s something that I’ve always been paying attention to with other artists. It’s why I love Ed [Sheeran] and why I love [John] Mayer so much,” he said on celebrities becoming more eager to share their personal truth.
Lady Gaga may be an inspiration for millions, but that doesn’t change the fact she has a lot of her own demons she continuously struggles with.
Some know Gaga was sexually assaulted at 19 by a music producer and according to a recent interview with Vogue, she says that the trauma she suffered when she was a teenager still impacts her to this day, where she continues to suffer from PTSD and related health struggles.
Saying she’s “on a roller coaster,” she shared: “I feel stunned. Or stunted. You know that feeling when you’re on a roller coaster and you’re just about to go down the really steep slope? That fear and the drop in your stomach? My diaphragm seizes up. Then I have a hard time breathing, and my whole body goes into a spasm. And I begin to cry,” Gaga described.
Growing up in a family stricken by mental illness, award-winning speaker and author, Ross Szabo, feared the day he would be diagnosed with something. Crazy, bipolar, inspiring: Ross battled his inner demons for years before finding a way out and taking charge of his mental health.
Kristen Bell is not afraid to open up about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She’s always been an outspoken mental health advocate, often sharing her own experiences to help break the stigma.
When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, the Hollywood star said, “Don’t be fooled by the game of perfection that humans play. Because Instagram and magazines and TV shows strive for a certain aesthetic, and everything seems so beautiful, and people seem like they don’t have any problems, but everyone’s human. Everyone has problems. Everyone feels yucky on the inside sometimes. And you deserve to feel just as beautiful on the days when you wear no makeup, on the days you don’t shower, and on the days you feel like you’re depressed.
And you have an obligation to take care of yourself from the inside out because that’s how you can truly feel beautiful. There are resources out there if you’re feeling anxious — people to talk to, doctors to interact with, and there are tons of solutions out there for you. You are not alone. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed about who you are.”
Lisa Nichols shares her struggles with abuse and depression, alongside her best actionable advice on how to make it through even your most troubling times — and how to own your identity, “Don’t wear the labels and don’t let the labels wear you. You’re bigger than a label. I’m a woman before I’m a mother, I’m a woman before I’m a CEO, I’m a woman before I’m a daughter, I’m a woman first all things. I’m not a hero, I wanna be a she-ro and I wanna give her a chance. I say to you as your sister, if you don’t think you get to press reset, you better think again. It is not over. Matter of fact, it just begun.”
Whether he’s portraying the quick-witted Deadpool on the big screen or entertaining the Twitterverse by savagely trolling his wife Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds seems like a cool, confident guy.
But behind those charming, effortlessly laid-back vibes, Reynolds is battling the same type of mental illness as 40 million adults in the United States: an anxiety disorder.
“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” Reynolds told The New York Times. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
“You know, it was a huge surprise for me. I got hit in the face pretty hard with depression,” Theron told Entertainment Tonight about her bad diet she undertook to gain 50 pounds for Tully and its impact on her mental health. “Yeah, for the first time in my life I was eating so much processed foods and I drank way too much sugar. I was not that fun to be around on this film.”
And if you think that sounds like an overreaction, you should know that it’s absolutely possible to feel the impact of an unhealthy diet on that level.
Eating processed food can contribute to brain damage, and mental illness can develop from nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention that studies have shown a direct correlation between gut and mental health.
It would be easy to assume that Kendall Jenner’s success equates to personal fulfillment and wellbeing, but in a candid interview with Harper’s Bazaar last year, Jenner revealed that her “debilitating anxiety” had gotten to the point where she would “wake up in the middle of the night with full-on panic attacks.”
In her most recent interview with LOVE Magazine, Jenner reveals how she has learned to manage her anxiety over the years, painting a clear picture of the importance of making time for self-care and being open to the idea of saying no.
“The struggle was intense,” Janet Jackson wrote in an open letter for Essence magazine (via CNN). “Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority. It could relate to failing to meet impossibly high standards. And of course there are always the societal issues of racism and sexism.”
“I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. For most of my life, that lack of happiness followed me,” she wrote. “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.”
Wheaton, who battles chronic depression and anxiety, is a staunch mental health advocate — and he recently delivered one of the most powerful speeches on the topic at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conference in Ohio.
Addressing the crowd, the actor opened up about the heart-wrenching suffering he went through for decades, fueled by adults’ lack of understanding and a refusal to admit that since before he was 10 he had mental health issues.
“Night after night, I’d wake up in absolute terror, and night after night, I’d drag my blankets off my bed, to go to sleep on the floor in my sister’s bedroom, because I was so afraid to be alone,” he shared at the conference and on Medium.
Postpartum depression impacts millions of women in major ways and every woman is impacted differently. According to Chrissy Teigen, one of the ways she was impacted is that she noticed some of her greatest passions diminishing, and that includes her love of food and cooking.
“When I wasn’t feeling great, being in the kitchen was like torture. It felt like such a job, and you want to be excited when you’re in the kitchen,” she says. “I cook because I love food and I love to eat. It makes me happy to serve people. And when you aren’t feeling that way, it was like torture.”
But once she figured out what was going on, she got better. She was prescribed an antidepressant and sought help from a therapist.