By Kurt Morris

Accounts of celebrities struggling with mental health conditions have often only been covered by media as a response to tragic occasions, such as after a suicide. In recent years, however, there have been more well-known individuals speaking out regarding their battles with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. Recently, three of the biggest celebrities in their respective fields, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (film), Michael Phelps (sports), and Mariah Carey (music), spoke out about living with mood disorders.

Photo courtesy Eva Rinaldi

Johnson spoke to the British newspaper, Express, about his feelings after his mother’s attempted suicide when he was 15. Later in his life he found himself dealing with his own depression. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.” However, he added, “We both healed but we’ve always got to do our best to pay attention when other people are in pain. We have to help them through it and remind them they are not alone.”

Since coming out about his experiences with suicide and depression, Phelps has toured the country seeking to help others. In a recent interview with CBS News, he said that he has learned, “It’s OK to not be OK….And for me, the most important thing was just opening up and talking about it, communicating about it, asking for help.”

Photo courtesy of David Shankbone

Carey spoke to People magazine about her fight with bipolar disorder. She admits that she avoided addressing her mental health for the longest time fearing the revelation would end her career. However, Carey was inspired by other celebrities coming out and thought she might be able to help people by sharing her story. She told People “I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder. I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone.”

I’ve always believed that the more people who speak out about an illness, especially one as stigmatized as depression, the less they fear it and those who experience it. Having celebrities, and especially those at the top of their fields, such as Johnson, Phelps, and Carey, speak about their experiences can allow others to feel more comfortable in knowing they’re not alone with their mental illness.

When individuals and families such as you and I share our stories with friends and family, they can see that average people they interact with have this illness. The reach of celebrities in our culture is far greater than most of us will ever have. When they speak out, it allows for more families to hear about and understand these illnesses. In doing so it comforts those of us who deal with bipolar disorder and depression to know we’re not alone. It also reduces stigma amongst friends and family who may see individuals they respect sharing the same diagnosis as those they love.

Kurt Morris is a volunteer with Families for Depression Awareness. To learn about Kurt and read more of his offerings, check out his website.

 

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