Celebrities challenging the stigma surrounding mental health

Written by Sophie Holbourne

For those suffering with mental health issues, it can be hard to admit that you're struggling with your mental health, let alone announce it to the world. Whether through embarrassment or fear of being seen as weak, sharing your troubles can be a major step in your life. This blog will introduce some inspirational women who had experienced living in the public eye while dealing with mental health issues. All of these women have spoken out about their mental health issues in a bid to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. This is with the hope that they will help to improve societies negative perceptions of mental health issues.

One of the leading charities for people with mental health problems, Mind, state that when suffering with mental health issues “you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.” Research suggests that one in four people each year suffers from a mental health problem, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health problems, but more people in the public eye openly talking about their mental health issues could help to reduce this by allowing their supporters to relate and see that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Below are examples of inspirational women in the public eye who have done just that.

Letitia Wright

While accepting her Bafta Rising Star Award earlier this year, Letitia Wright, one of the leading ladies in Black Panther, opened up about her depression.

A few years ago I saw myself in a deep state of depression and I literally wanted to quit acting.

— Letitia Wright, actress

She wants to "encourage young people. You don't have to be young, you can be any age, but I want to encourage you - anyone going through a hard time... God made you and you're important".

By opening up about having suffered depression in order to say there is nothing to be ashamed of, Letitia is challenging the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Demi Lovato

Popular singer and former Disney Channel actor, Demi Lovato, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011. She made a speech at the National Council for Behavioural Health in 2015 in which she said:

I think it's important that people no longer look at mental illness as something taboo to talk about ... When you think about it, the brain is actually the most complex organ in your body. We need to treat it like a physical illness and take it seriously.

— Demi Lovato, singer

Since opening up, Demi's courage has inspired others to come forward about their own struggles.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling's story is one that not many people know. She separated from her husband and spiraled into depression, which is when she began to write the Harry Potter series. She took it to several publishers who all rejected her manuscript for Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone - a book that is now much loved in households across the country. She has said about that time:

It's so difficult to describe depression to someone who's never been there, because it's not sadness. But it's that cold absence of feeling - that really hollowed-out feeling.

— JK Rowling, author

By choosing to open up about her battle with depression, Rowling has allowed others to see that they aren't alone and that everyone can experience mental health problems at any time in their life.

Princess Diana

Throughout her marriage to Prince Charlies, Princess Diana struggled with bulimia and post-natal depression. During a 1995 interview with BBC1's Panorama, she said:

People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you're in the media all the time you've got enough attention. I didn't like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn't cope with the pressures.

— Princess Diana

It has become apparent that Diana's mental health issues were repressed and that she didn't feel able to talk about how she was feeling. Once leaving the Royal Family, she felt able to come forward about her illnesses and challenge the stigma.

Throughout history, the stigma surrounding mental health has changed. Treatment no longer includes asylums or experimental treatments, instead using therapeutic methods like cognitive behavioural therapy, art therapy, and the use of medically effective drugs. However, some attitudes towards mental health (like the idea that those who struggle with mental health problems are weak or making it up for attention) are still an issue, and many people do not consider mental health problems as being an illness at all, instead believing them to be "all in their head". This is wrong and is a serious issue for the sufferer. Hopefully, as more are are open about the problems they are facing, and more people in the public share their stories and normalise issues surrounding mental health, more people will feel strong enough to reach out for help when they need it.

If you're dealing with any issues surrounding mental health, whether that's your own, someone in your family or a friend, take a look at the resources below:

The Hive World Mental Health Day blog

Time to Talk



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