In recent years, societal perspectives towards mental health have undoubtedly changed for the better. Mental health is no longer framed as an either/or concept split into the mentally ill and the mentally well. Instead, mental health is rightly recognised as a spectrum, somewhere along which, each of us sits. We’ve highlighted some of the celebrities who are using their personal experiences to beat the stigma around mental health.
In a candid chat with Miley Cyrus, on Cyrus’ Instagram Live Chat Show, Selena Gomez recently opened up about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“Recently, I went to one of the best mental health hospitals in America, McClean Hospital, and I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things, I realised that I was bipolar”, Gomez explained.
The NHS defines bipolar disorder as a ‘mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from 1 extreme to the other’. People with bipolar disorder still experience a lot of stigma: from harmful myths to discrimination in the workplace. The NHS estimates that 1 in 100 people will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. For support and information relating to bipolar disorder, read here.
Laverne Cox shared her experience with suicidal thoughts to highlight the impact that Deadnaming (the practice of referring to a transgender person’s pre-transition or birth name) can have on mental health. This was in response to a ProPublica article, which exposed prevalent police practices of Deadnaming transgender murder victims.
In a statement posted on Cox’s Twitter account, she described contemplating suicide: “I was planning to have a note in my pocket at the time of my death and several other notes in my home which would state my name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death.” According to Stonewall, 48% of transgender people in the UK have attempted suicide at least once, with 55% being diagnosed with depression.
For support and information relating to transgender perspectives of mental health, read here.
“I lose my equilibrium, then my throat closes, then I’m certain that I can’t breathe, and I think, “This is how I’m going to die, right here, right now.” Many people don’t understand how life threatening a panic attack can feel, leading to misconceptions about those who experience them.
Trainor also took aim at the stigma surrounding medication, saying “I went on medicine and I asked for a very low dose, it didn’t change me at all, except for helping my panic. I haven’t had a panic attack since. I think everyone has this little stigma against it, but my doctor said to me, ‘Why can you use an inhaler for your lungs, but you can’t use medicine for your brain?’ Amen to that”.
For support and information relating to anxiety, click here.
Speaking on Paul McKenna’s Positivity Podcast in 2019, the Spice Girls star and author described her experience with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. She said ‘I do have a mental illness, you have to be a little bit crazy to do what I do’.
ADHD is described by the NHS as a ‘behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness’. ADHD is often associated with children, in particular, boys. This can lead to difficulties and delays for adults, particularly women, in getting a proper diagnosis.
Mel B highlights the role of exercise and the outdoors for improving her mental health. “Exercise helps me meditate and get rid of my anxiety. It helps me focus on me for that one hour” adding that she sits ‘outside in the countryside sometimes and stare(s) at sheep for six hours’. For support and information relating to ADHD, click here.
Lisa Nicole Carson
In 2015, the Ally McBeal and ER star opened up to Yolanda Sangweni about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She describes having a ‘fit’ in her hotel “Yelling, throwing things, crying and raising enough hell that the staff called an ambulance”. This resulted in her hospitalisation and, she suspects, was the reason her contract wasn’t renewed for the final season of Ally McBeal.
Carson isn’t afraid to expose connections between racism and mental health: “I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our shit– together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical”.
For support and information relating to race and bipolar disorder, read here.
For the video series Hi Anxiety, the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before actress shares her story about living with anxiety, which she first experienced as a sixth grader (11/12 years old).
“You can get nervous and be like, ‘oh my god, someone’s not going to like me, I’m going to say something that’s wrong, I’m going to do something that’s wrong, I’m afraid someone’s going to look at me funny or they don’t think my life is cool” Condor explains.
The NHS describes generalised anxiety disorder as ‘a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe’. For support and information relating to anxiety, read here.
Speaking to BBC Sound’s Life Hacks podcast, Jade Thirlwall, ¼ of Little Mix, described her experience with anorexia nervosa. She said “It got to the point when I knew I needed someone else to tell, harbouring a horrible secret like that is obviously really damaging to [..] mental health and obviously my physical health.”
The NHS defines Anorexia Nervosa, often shortened to anorexia, as an illness in which sufferers ‘try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both’. While many people with anorexia often have a very low body mass index (BMI) due to lack of food, many people who have a healthy or high BMI find it harder to receive treatment for anorexia due to misconceptions about the disease.
Thirlwall’s fellow band members have also spoken out about mental health: Perrie has talked about her anxiety, Jesy has been open about her struggles with body image and Leigh-Ann is due to release a documentary about racism (an issue with strong links to mental health) set to air on BBC Three. For support and information relating to anorexia, click here.
In her incredible memoir This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, Gabourey Sidibe discussed her struggle with depression and bulimia. The Precious star writes “I wasn’t afraid to die, and if there was a button I could’ve pushed to erase my existence from earth, I would have pushed it because it would have been easier and less messy than offing myself.”
According to Sidibe, she has since started seeing a therapist and taking antidepressants to manage her mental health. For support and information relating to bulimia, click here.
Words by: Lucy Morgan
Lucy is an English Literature and Law graduate. As well as editing for Debut, she’s written for Cosmopolitan UK, Grazia and London College of Style. She is particularly passionate about books, beauty and social justice, recognising their transformative impact in modern society.
Fave quote: ‘Tenderness is what love feels like in private. Justice is what love looks like in public’ – Dr Cornel West
“The creative industries are notoriously difficult to break into – now more than ever. I love working for Debut as we give unpublished writers, designers and PRs the opportunity to jump-start their portfolio; as well as releasing daily content that connects with women and non-binary people across the world.”