Research shows that nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigmas and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. With the current global discussion around mental health, it is more important now than ever that people speak up about mental health to raise awareness and challenge stigmas preventing people from having important discussions and seeking help.
Various social factors put women at great risk of poor mental health that may not impact men as much, such as low income and low-status jobs, physical and sexual abuse, and isolation due to domestic responsibilities. Celebrities have a huge platform, making them a useful facilitator in sparking discussion. Here are five brave women who have done so:
Famous for her overstated fashion sense, Lady Gaga has recently targeted society’s understatement of mental health. The well-known singer and actress has famously spoken out about her struggles with PTSD as a sexual assault victim and has been vocal in encouraging others to open up about their own experiences. She once said in a speech: “We need to bring mental health into the light. We need to share our stories so global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness”. The Born This Way Foundation was established by Lady Gaga in 2011 with the aim of creating a “braver, kinder, world for youths”, demonstrating her dedication to and activism for the future of mental health.
In November 2017, Kesha composed an essay for TIME magazine to reach out to people with mental illnesses in the holiday season during which she urged her readers to be kind to themselves. The singer has struggled with mental illness for many years as she entered rehab for an eating disorder back 2014. More recently in 2018, Kesha released a documentary called Rainbow: The Film that conveyed her struggles over the last five years. In her discussions of mental health, Kesha has said: “Depression, anxiety, and mental illness are things we all need to talk about more, and there is no shame in asking for help”.
After Ariana Grande and her fans were tragically targeted in a terrorist attack in Manchester in 2017, the singer has been increasingly more open with her struggles around mental health, particularly PTSD, anxiety and depression. She took to Instagram to share a candid post with her fans explaining her reasons for cancelling her tour, sharing that her anxiety and depression had recently been at an all-time high. The singer’s honesty about her struggles and her decision to prioritise her mental health can serve as an inspiration on her incredibly large platform.
Mental health issues do not discriminate based on race; studies have shown that African Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress. This is why it’s important that celebrities such as Michelle Williams from the famous girl band Destiny’s Child have spoken out about their experiences. In 2013, she revealed that she had suffered a long battle with depression dating back to her teenage years. In an interview, she spoke out to her fans saying, “It’s OK if you’re going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is OK to get help”.
It is fair to say that Demi Lovato has been nothing short of inspiring when it comes to breaking down mental health stigmas, participating in candid interviews and frequently writing and sharing moving lyrics about her struggles. She produced the MTV documentary Stay Strong following her recovery, and has been active in her contribution to discussions around mental health. Lovato has suffered from a multitude of mental illnesses such as depression, addiction, eating disorders and bipolar disorder, making her story particularly inspiring and helpful to others. Her vicious cycle of relapse is something that infuses a sense of realism to the topic of mental health discussion.
Her recent performance of‘ Anyone‘ at the Grammys received a standing ovation.
No amount of money or fame can promise you happiness. With the recent devastating news of Caroline Flack, it is more important than ever that celebrities are able to show that they can struggle too. Mental illnesses can be found where you least expect them; it can sometimes be those that seem the happiest who are struggling the most.
If issues discussed in this article have affected you or someone you know, support is available from Leeds MIND, Leeds IAPT, the University of Leeds and Help and Support at Leeds University Union.