The cruel joke of mental health issues is that they so often feel like a unique curse you suffer from alone. It feels difficult or shameful to open up to others, so you keep feelings to yourself, making them worse. In turn, your symptoms are exacerbated by the self-imposed isolation (literal or metaphorical) and lack of social support. You assume no one else around you could possibly feel the same.
But the truth is, mental health affects everyone. It’s far more likely that you’re surrounded by plenty of others in the same boat. Studies say anywhere between 1 in 8 and 1 in 2 people will suffer from a mental health disorder in their lives. Many of these people are even celebrities people know, love, and idolize. But for many years, mental health stigma kept beloved artists, actors, and other stars from opening up.
In recent years, many celebrities have opened up about their struggles with mental health issues. Sharing their stories can help reduce some of the taboos against speaking up about mental health. Many of these celebrities have also made successful recoveries or accomplished major projects in spite of it all. Here are some of their stories, and the lessons you can learn from them about mental health.
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1. It’s OK to Ask For Help
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson struggled with depression, he had to unlearn a lot of what he had been taught about manliness. Asking for help was considered a sign of weakness, especially from a man often considered the epitome of toughness. But when his mother attempted suicide during his teenage years, Johnson learned how real the pain of depression could be.
Later on, when he experienced his own first bout of depression, he learned the importance of opening up to others. Communicating his feelings and having friends to lean on made all the difference. Other celebrities, like Lady Gaga, have spoken about the power of getting professional help, in the form of clinical therapy. And Chrissy Teigen has shared that she relies on a combination of therapy and time with family to support her mental health.
If you’re struggling with your own mental health, the takeaway from these celebrities is not to keep it a secret. You can open up to friends and loved ones or seek support from a counselor or therapist. A licensed professional can help you get a specific diagnosis and choose the right course of treatment, including medications if necessary. You can even get affordable, professional depression treatment online.
2. Take a Breather When You Need One
Gymnast Simone Biles famously withdrew from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics midway through the games, due to mental health symptoms. After that, she took a two year break from competing professionally to work on her mental health. She returned to compete in the 2023 World Gymnastics Championships and took home four gold medals.
Tennis player Naomi Osaka, likewise, withdrew from the 2021 French Open to take a months-long mental health break. She has spoken publicly about suffering from “long bouts of” depression and anxiety. Osaka told journalists she felt ashamed for taking the break, and that she felt pressured to share specific symptoms. But ultimately, she also knew the break was necessary.
These and other celebrity stories are an important reminder that it’s always OK to take time off when you need it. Preserving, protecting, and treating your mental health will always be more important than any job, project, competition, or deadline. You can take time off to get inpatient support, spend more time with loved ones, or simply to rest and focus on yourself.
3. A Healthier Body Makes a Healthier Mind
Many celebrities have spoken publicly about how they use exercise to cope with anxiety and other symptoms. Demi Lovato, who has spoken publicly about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, has said exercise helps her cope with anxiety. But she also had to learn to focus on exercises she enjoys, after struggling with unhealthy over-exercising. When using exercise to cope with symptoms, it’s important to find a balance.
Lena Dunham has said that exercise helps her cope with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. But she struggled to actually accept the fact that exercise would make a difference in her symptoms. In a 2015 Instagram post, Dunham wrote: “I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.”
The positive impact of exercise on mental health symptoms has been proven over and over again. The chemicals produced in the body, like serotonin and endorphins, can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and low moods associated with many disorders. A healthy, balanced diet can boost your exercise efficacy and improve your overall health, including mental health symptoms.
The Road to Recovery
It can be daunting to see stories in the news of your icons succumbing tragically to their mental health symptoms. But the above lessons from celebrities show that management and recovery is possible, especially with the right treatment and support. If you feel shame about your symptoms or are afraid to get help, remember that you’re not alone. Some of the toughest, strongest, and most resilient people have been right where you are now.