Celebrities and Mental Illness: Are We Ready for the Truth Behind the Curtain?

This article appeared first on The Huffington Post:


It is a breath of fresh air that mainstream television and movies are starting to illustrate the realities of mental illness. Viewers living with these types of problems can relate to the characters and appreciate that they are shedding light on these issues. An even more recent trend is to go “behind the curtain” as celebrities themselves, not their characters, are revealing their personal experiences with mental illness. From Lady Gaga admitting her struggle with PTSD to Kid Cudi disclosing his battle with depression, we have entered a new era of transparency in the lives of the celebrities who once seemed to live in a different world. With the increasing popularity of entertainment outlets and upsurge in social media we are not only witnessing a glimpse into the stars’ lives, we are now privy to their darkest secrets. But are we truly ready to see these iconic figures as real human beings? Can we embrace their imperfections and still appreciate their talent?

 I say we can. And not only can we accept them; I think it makes us appreciate them even more.

 Here are the reasons why it is great for everyone when public figures share their experiences with mental health conditions.

1. It normalizes the struggle– When superstars admit that they have dealt with mental health issues, it demonstrates that these illnesses can touch anyone. Many people think they are at fault or to blame for their problems, so to discover that someone they admire is in a similar situation can relieve some of that pressure or guilt. After Selena Gomez reported that she was taking time off to work on depression and anxiety issues, young girls around the world expressed that her admission led to them feeling more comfortable in their own skin while dealing with these types of issues.

 2. It brings awareness to mental health conditions– Having a celebrity speak to the masses on the signs and symptoms of an illness as well as the ways to receive help can be a successful educational tool. Many persons have heard of these conditions but have no idea what they look like or mean. Being exposed to information from someone that they respect gives them a chance to absorb more. Celebs already have a large following and a captive audience so the mental health field benefits from more people learning about these problems and resources for treatment. When Reid Ewing opened up about body dysmorphic disorder and his resulting overuse of cosmetic surgery, many looked at plastic surgery in a new light.

 3. It empowers others to speak up– Mental health is an area that still deals with stigma and many individuals conceal their difficulties. This behavior can be isolating and worsen the chances of getting better. When important figures admit to a history of mental health challenges they inspire others to communicate their stories to those around them, which increases their support network and improves their prognosis. Once Demi Lavato revealed her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, she teamed up with the Be Vocal group to increase awareness and end the stigma of discussing mental health struggles. The popularity of the “#Yougoodman” and “It’s Ok to Say” campaigns are signs that the idea of speaking up resonates with numerous people.

 4. It proves that you can still achieve goals– Many think that being diagnosed with a mental illness is the end of the world or that everything has to change. The reality is that countless persons go on to have meaningful and successful lives despite their condition. We have seen many notable figures such as Ellen Degeneres, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson go on to have extraordinary careers while managing their mental health conditions. It is truly inspiring to witness prominent individuals with known mental health histories thrive while doing what they love, and it motivates others to do the same.

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