October 10 was mental health awareness day – an occasion to acknowledge that illnesses such as depression, anxiety, OCD and bipolar disorder are more common than we believe and that they can affect people from all walks of life. Recent studies show that 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental illness every year, which accounts for a whopping 43.8 million – and many of the people affected are celebrities. Their glamorous lifestyle, which is often interpreted as the sign of a perfect life, is in many cases as a curtain that hides crippling episodes of anxiety, depression or PTSD.
Opening up about mental illness is definitely not easy, especially when all lights are on you, but these 10 celebrities spoke up and made their stories known to the world in order to raise awareness and encourage others to seek help:
1. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is one of the world’s bestselling authors and women entrepreneurs, but the sun didn’t always shine on her street. After her two-year marriage ended, Rowling had to move back to England from Portugal with her first daughter, Jessica, and that was when she had her first encounter with depression. In an emotional interview, Rowling confessed how every morning she would wake up and be surprised that Jessica was still alive and expected the worst for her future. Writing her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, helped Rowling fight depression and start a new life as an internationally acclaimed author.
2. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga spoke for the first time about mental illness in 2016, while visiting Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth in New York. She revealed that she was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being a victim of rape at the age of 19 and that if it hadn’t been for the support of family and friends, she wouldn’t have been able to go on:
“It’s really important to remind kids who are suffering from a traumatic experience or from abandonment, to remind them that they’re not alone, and that they’re loved,” she continued. “We are in this together.”
3. Selena Gomez
In 2016, Selena Gomez shocked everyone when she canceled her tour to seek treatment for anxiety and depression and earlier this month she was again in the headlines for being admitted to a treatment facility. According to the singer’s family, Selena has been having panic attacks caused by anxiety and depression, both side effects of Lupus, which she has been struggling with for years. Selena Gomez has always been open about living with anxiety and depression and the importance of therapy:
“I wish more people would talk about therapy. We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who’s down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.”
4. Ryan Reynolds
When fans learned that none other than Deadpool was struggling with anxiety, they couldn’t really believe it, but this is actually one of the most striking things about mental illness: it doesn’t have a type and it can affect who you expect the least. Ryan Reynolds was one of the first male celebrities to open up about anxiety and explained how getting into Deadpool’s character helped him be more confident. However, he does point out that therapy, meditation and the support of his wife, Blake Lively.
5. Elton John
Legendary singer Elton John confessed to suffering from an eating disorder most of his life and that he finally sought treatment in 1990. In his brave confession, Elton John talked about how he tried to cope with stress by overeating and how bulimia almost ended his life. Although bulimia is mostly associated with women and girls, 40% of men are actually affected by it and it’s very important to treat eating disorders just as seriously as anxiety, PTSD and depression.
6. Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher’s early death shocked everyone, but the iconic actress left behind an inspiring legacy. In addition to her acting career, Carrie Fisher was one of the biggest mental health advocates and bravely talked about addiction and mental illness in her scripts and novels. Fisher was blunt and even humorous about topics that were taboo at the time – body dysmorphia, bipolar disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction, becoming an inspiration to those who were afraid to ask for help:
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
7. Jane Fonda
For many years, eating disorders have been silent killers, but in recent years, bulimia and binge eating have received more awareness and researchers are trying to find out what exactly triggers them. Jane Fonda was one of the first celebrities to talk about it. Before being the confident icon she is today, the Oscar-winning actress struggled with her body image for most of her life and confessed to delaying treatment until her 50s:
“It was in my 40s, and if you suffer from bulimia, the older you get, the worse it gets. It takes longer to recover from a bout.”
Now, Jane Fonda has her own fitness empire and advocates for eating disorder awareness and treatment.