People with Mental Illnesses are Not Bad People, and We Can Look Up to Them
There has been a negative stigma around mental illnesses in our media, news, and daily conversations. Some don’t believe in mental illnesses and dismiss them as simply something one chooses, and others force others to see their mental illness as a limitation or something they won’t move past. The reality is that neither of those views is correct, and everyone’s mental state is different and unique to their experiences and biology.
A contributing factor to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is the view that it’s “abnormal”. We don’t often see people talking about it, and the topic is still considered taboo to some communities. This only worsens when the representation mentally ill people have usually has their illnesses as a glorified dramatic plot twist for shows or movies. We also only see specific mental illnesses shown, which gives us the consumers a false impression of just how many mental illnesses there are.
Mental health is a very real and valid concern. We should be spreading awareness, and we should be listening to those willing to share their stories, but with all that in mind, we should also treat people with mental illnesses as people. That’s who they are, and every one of them is capable of achieving greatness.
One way we can help in spreading this mindset is by looking at those we idolize and their mental health. It is fairly common that your favorite athlete, singer, or actor has a mental illness and is still succeeding in their talents and making a living.
Celebrities have a large platform and live a large portion of their lives in the public eye, and for some, that’s been an opportunity for them to speak up on their mental health and not to feel alone or ashamed.
Ariana Grande – Anxiety
Ariana Grande has spoken up many times, engaging with fans about the anxiety she faces. After her Manchester show, the sexual assault, and the passing of her good friend and ex-boyfriend Mac Miller she has seen a lot of tragedy. She’s opened up, explaining that she has anxiety and that for months at a time she “felt like she was floating, and not in a good way.” The anxiety she faced made her disconnect from herself for some time and she stresses the importance of taking time for herself. She encourages people to think positively and open up instead of bottling up emotions. The singer/songwriter released a song, “Breathin’” where she opens up about her feelings of panic and anxiety in public and getting through it.
Janet Jackson – Depression
Janet Jackson opened up about her depression and the worse parts of it she battled in her 30’s and 40’s. “The struggle was intense. I could analyze the source of my depression forever,” she explained. She opened up about low self-esteem due to societal issues and sexism. Finding joy was difficult throughout her adult years and she was able to begin to find peace in dedicating herself to being a mother, and saying that her son has been a true source of joy.
Chrissy Teigen – Postpartum Depression
“Most days were spent on the exact same spot on the couch and rarely would I muster up the energy to make it upstairs for bed. John would sleep on the couch with me, sometimes four nights in a row. I started keeping robes and comfy clothes in the pantry so I wouldn’t have to go upstairs when John went to work. There was a lot of spontaneous crying.” Chrissy Teigen opened up in interviews about the physical and emotional pain she felt after giving birth. “Postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do.” She found help in having a support system and leaning on her husband John Legend for help.
Amanda Seyfried – OCD
Amanda Seyfried was diagnosed with OCD growing up. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is commonly known as being extremely clean, but the illness actually comes with obsessive thoughts that are not reality-based and ritual like behaviors that can interfere with daily life. I had pretty bad health anxiety that came from the OCD and thought I had a tumor in my brain,” her OCD caused her irrational fear of cancer with no basis, which would have a large impact on how she lived her life. She also spoke up about the importance of recognizing mental health by saying, “It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there.” She continued: “Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.”
Pete Wentz – Bipolar Disorder
Fall Out Boy’s bassist Pete Wentz opened up about the complexity of living with Bipolar disorder. He explained that there isn’t a “one size fits all” treatment for bipolar disorder and that you have to work through it in your own personal ways.
Wayne Brady – Depression
Being a black male, opening up about emotions can be difficult within itself and opening up about struggling with depression can be even more challenging. “We feel any of the negative emotions or that dark cloud settle on you, and you feel like you need to cry or speak to someone about it, and, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna do that, because I’m a man.’” Brady opened up after admitting to hiding his depression for years.
Carrie Fisher – Addiction and Manic Depression
Carrie Fisher had opened up through the year of her life and advocated for mental health awareness throughout her lifetime. “I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital, I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple — just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully. And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive. You can’t stop. It’s very painful. It’s raw. You know, it’s rough… your bones burn… when you’re not busy talking and trying to drown it out.” She found support and help in art and family.
Jameela Jamil – Anorexia
Jameela Jamil has dedicated a large portion of her acting career to creating a platform to speak on body image and advocate for healthier ways of living. She’s opened up in recent interviews saying that throughout her teen years to the point to where she couldn’t menstruate for three years from starvation. She now has started the #IWeigh movement where people tell us what they weigh in their achievements and positive attributes, not the number on a scale. She works against harmful companies in Hollywood that profit off insecurities and that sell appetite suppressants. She has since found health in loving herself and making sure others do too.
This is just a small portion of those we look up to opening up about mental health and their struggles. If we can idolize these people, or see their immense success we too can recognize others and their struggles as valid and help them get the support they need to be the best version of themselves. If it’s you who feels like you have to hide or feel ashamed know that these people are becoming the best they can be because of how they have opened up and taken care of themselves, and you can too.