Celebrities bring awareness to mental health issues
NEW YORK » Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has discussed his battle with depression. Mariah Carey recently revealed she has bipolar disorder. Prince Harry said he needed counseling to deal with years of grief and anger following the death of his mother, Princess Diana. And “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds has acknowledged dealing with anxiety disorder.
As the stigma surrounding mental illness has declined in recent years, so has the reluctance many have had to discuss their own mental health issues, including celebrities. It’s become the new norm for stars to divulge vulnerabilities once kept closely guarded.
“I think anybody talking about it will help destigmatize it over time, but I think in particular celebrities or sports celebrities, if they have a platform and they’ve gone through any kind of issue with mental health, it’s good for them to share their stories, if they’re comfortable with it,” Johnson said in a recent interview.
“For me as a guy, you know, I struggled a long time with not only my bouts of depression that I’ve had, but also things that have happened to me early on when I was a teenager, that colored me as an adult. But I struggled a long time just to express myself,” he said.
Reynolds echoed that sentiment at the Monday premiere of “Deadpool 2,” where he explained to The Associated Press why he went public about having anxiety disorder.
“Talking about it for me has helped in some ways,” Reynolds said. “In this age of toxic masculinity, there’s a lot of dudes out there that have a tendency to sort of bottle it up and keep it in, and think that they just sort of — they’ve got to be a tough guy and soldier on. But that’s not necessarily true.”
Last year, Prince Harry was lauded for revealing he sought help to deal with his emotions following his mother’s death when he was a child. He struggled with anxiety, grief and rage and said he was close to a breakdown several times.
Diane Hughes is a professor of Applied Psychology at New York University, specializing in adolescent development. She sees great value in celebrities and sports figures talking about their struggles, past and present.
“I think there is a benefit to it because it helps de-stigmatize it and to normalize it a little bit,” Hughes said.
She added: “There’s a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues, especially among teenagers because adolescents are constantly comparing themselves to their peers and are very self-conscious and worrying, (thus) creating a stigma to mental illness and help seeking.”
That’s why the Child Mind Institute, which provides mental health services to children and families, enlisted the help of dozens of celebrities for its new campaign called #MyYoungerSelf for May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. It asks celebrities what they would tell the younger version of themselves.