Listed below is an article from today’s USA Today about several
celebrities who have spoken openly about their mental health issues. We
speak frequently at the MHA about the impact of stigma and how breaking
those walls will lead to a greater understanding of mental health issues.
Several of our policy changes that we have been advocating for in recent
years have been about diminishing stigma in every aspect of life.

That said, the most powerful tool we have against stigma in our society is
when celebrities talk about their own mental health issues. The list of
celebrities who have come out in recent years about depression reads like a
Who’s Who of People Magazine. Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Kristen
Bell, Trevor Noah and Dwayne Johnson are just a few of the celebrities who
openly talk about their struggles. We applaud their courage and hope that
this will continue to spark a societal change about perceptions of mental
illness.

Why celebrity accounts of depression are vital

Jaleesa M. Jones ,
USA TODAY 8:36 a.m. EDT September 1, 2016

As Run-D.M.C. got in the studio to record their fifth album, Back From
Hell, the Devastating Mic Controller was losing control.

Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels was drinking a case of Olde English 800 a day to
numb himself from the pain of losing his creative freedom in the group and,
at points, his will to live. “People looked at it as, ‘You shouldn’t feel
this way because you’re D.M.C., you’re famous, you have this or that,'” he
told USA TODAY. “But status and material things do nothing for how a person
feels.”

For McDaniels, who was later diagnosed in 1999 with spasmodic dysphonia
, a voice disorder that involves “spasms” of the vocal cords, the first
“thought was, ‘Oh my God, what’s an MC without a voice?’ It went from
these depressed thoughts to, ‘If I can’t do this anymore, then what’s the
sense of being alive?'”

McDaniels reflects on his struggle in his new memoir Ten Ways Not to Commit
Suicide.

He — along with stars like Selena Gomez, Cara Delevingne, Dwayne “The Rock”
Johnson, Demi Lovato, Trevor Noah, Kristen Bell and Lady Gaga — are part of
a wave of celebrities coming forward about their experiences with
depression, a condition that impacts roughly 15 million adults
each year, according to 2014 figures, the most recent data available from
the National Institute of Mental Health.

Selena Gomez is taking time off to deal with symptoms related to her lupus
diagnosis, she revealed Tuesday. Gomez shared Tuesday that she was taking a
hiatus from her Revival world tour due to depression, brought on by her lupus. “I’ve
discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects
of lupus, which can present their own challenges,” the singer-actress said
in a statement to USA TODAY. “I want to be proactive and focus on
maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way
forward is to take some time off.”

Delevingne also withdrew from the spotlight when her depression returned just as her modeling career
began to blossom. The star opened up to Esquire in August, sharing that she
has struggled with depression since she was 16. “I was suicidal,” she said. “I
realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die. I felt
so guilty because of that and hated myself because of that, and then it’s a cycle.
I didn’t want to exist anymore.”

“I would run off to the woods and smoke a pack of cigarettes,” she
continued. “And then I would smash my head so hard into a tree because I
just wanted to knock myself out.”

(Kristen)Bell shared that she, too, struggled with a “dark cloud” following
her.

Bell, who began struggling in college, described her depression as a
feeling of being permanently trapped in the “shade.” “I’m normally such a bubbly,
positive person, and all of a sudden I stopped feeling like myself,” she wrote
in a May essay for Time. “There was no logical reason for me to feel this way. I was at New York
University, I was paying my bills on time, I had friends and ambition — but
for some reason, there was something intangible dragging me down.”

Celebrity disclosures aren’t a new phenomenon. Actress Gene Tierney
published her autobiography, Self-Portrait, which addressed her chronic
depression, in April 1979.

Still, Rajiv Menon, a cultural analyst for branding company TruthCo.,
says the number of celebrities opening up now is striking — and it didn’t
occur in a vacuum.

“The classic model of celebrity required people to keep up appearances in
the public eye and there wasn’t really any room to talk about things like
depression,” he says. “But with the rise of new media over the last decade,
there was a huge demand for media content that was centered on celebrity
breakdowns. Think Britney Spears.”

“It was a low point in Hollywood’s discussion of mental illness,” Menon
says. “But as our hunger for that type of media grew and news outlets
focused on that, we saw smartphone cameras turning on regular people. And
so it increasingly felt like your worst moments being captured on camera
and distributed could happen to anyone, not just celebrities. That produced
a much more empathetic cultural moment for stars to be vulnerable.”

*By sharing their experiences, stars present an opportunity to talk about
depression on a larger scale, says Katrina Gay, national director of
communications for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).*

*”On our Tumblr sites, on our Facebook and Twitter communities, which are
communities in their own rights, you’ll see this huge shift, especially
with young people and people who are really on the fringes, who are more
isolated socially, when they see someone like a Kirsten Bell or a Demi
Lovato being open, they’re now encouraged to be more open.”*

And celebrity disclosures are resonating, at least in the digital space.
According to Nielsen Social, Lovato’s 2016 Democratic National Convention
speech  spawned 10,600 response tweets from its start at 7:47 p.m. ET through the end of
the broadcast at 11:22 p.m. ET, which indicates users were circulating her
remarks throughout the event. Wentworth Miller’s poignant March 28 Facebook
message on his lifelong struggle with depression received 908,000 reactions and nearly
300,000 shares. According to social monitoring platform CrowdTangle, Miller
also experienced a nearly 60% increase in followers, going from 451,000
followers the week before the post to 1.04 million followers one week
afterward. Johnson’s Master Class segment on his trials navigating
faith and depression has been viewed more than 917,000 times on YouTube,
making it the second most popular Master Class posted to OWN’s YouTube
account.

Glenn Close poses at the Golden Globe Awards in 2005.

Glenn Close maintains that the “most powerful tool to breaking the
barriers caused by stigma are personal stories.” The actress was diagnosed
with depression in 2008 and, in 2010, co-founded the nonprofit Bring Change
2 Mind (BC2M) in honor of her sister Jessie, who has bipolar disorder, and her nephew Calen Pick,
who has schizoaffective disorder. BC2M aims to fight stigma and
discrimination against those with mental illness.

“The more stories of those who have been able to start the conversation,
get help and achieve a feeling of self-worth, inclusion and purpose —
instead of silence, isolation and shame — the more lives will be saved,”
Close said to USA TODAY in a statement. “No one is their illness. Humans
are social animals. To be marginalized and made to feel shame and fear can
be life-threatening. We need connection. Without it, we die.”

But more than connecting with fans and empowering them to share their own
stories, Gay says celebrities can help advance the conversation surrounding
depression by taking action.

“That can mean being an advocate. It can be joining an awareness walk,” she
says. “There are a lot of resources that are out there but… the larger
system of care — ‘Where do I go? What’s even available?’ — is a big mystery
and a big maze. I don’t know that people know how to navigate the system of
care and in many cases, there may not be care readily, easily available to
them. (Celebrities can) point people to education or support groups or
additional communities that they might be able to see that are helpful, and
acknowledge (to fans) that coping is a journey, not a destination.”

 

 

Glenn Liebman, CEO

 

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