May is mental health awareness month. As someone who’s dealt with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders at various points during my adult life, the idea that there’s a month dedicated to being aware of mental health has always seemed odd to me. I recognize that it is endlessly important to talk about these things in order to end the stigma around them, but those of us who deal with mental health issues don’t need a set period of time to be “aware” of them — they’re with us all day, every day, regardless of what it says on the calendar.
The numbers surrounding mental health are staggering, to say the least. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults (or approximately 43.8 million people) will suffer from some sort of mental illness in a given year. Though these issues are often swept under the rug due to stigmas or misconceptions, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there, which is why it’s crucial for women and men in the public sphere — aka celebrities — to use their voices to talk about mental health. Not just during the month of May, but always.
“I have such debilitating anxiety because of everything going on that I literally wake up in the middle of the night with full-on panic attacks,” she said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “Where do I even start? Everything is so horrible, it’s hard to name one thing. I just think that the world needs so much love. I wish I had the power to send Cupid around the planet, as cheesy as that sounds. You go online and you see everyone saying the worst things to each other, and it’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard not to get eaten alive by all the negativity.” It seems that she is finding ways to cope with her situation, and has recently started engaging in transcendental meditation to help keep her calm. “[I] learned that it’s all mental, so I try to prevent anxiety attacks by bringing my mind somewhere else,” she said in 2016.
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Demi Lovato’s documentary, Simply Complicated, focuses on the singer’s struggles with drug addiction, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder, and in the last few years, Lovato has engaged in open conversation about what she’s dealt with. “I knew at a young age that some of my behaviors were a problem,” she told ELLE of her destructive behavior. “When I was bulimic, I knew it was a problem. When I was anorexic, I knew it was a problem. But I wasn’t in a place where I could quit by myself.” In 2010, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Getting the diagnosis kind of explained why I would act out. So when I was diagnosed, I went back and told my manager and my parents and my closest friends. I was like, ‘Hey, so I’m bipolar …that‘s why….'” she said.
“I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me,” the singer told Vanity Fair in the interview accompanying her December 2016 cover. “My knowledge of postpartum — or post-natal, as we call it in England — is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job,” she said. “But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life.” She managed her situation by spending time with people who understood what she was going through. “My friends who didn’t have kids would get annoyed with me, whereas I knew I could just sit there and chat absolute mush with my friends who had children, and we wouldn’t judge each other,” she continued. “One day I said to a friend, ‘I f—in’ hate this,’ and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I f—in’ hate this, too.’ And it was done. It lifted.”
Adele isn’t the only superstar to deal with being down after giving birth. Chrissy Teigen, who delivers a laugh a minute on social media, also experienced postpartum depression after welcoming her first child with husband John Legend. “I also just didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate,” she wrote in an essay for Glamour in March 2017. “I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do.”
“It’s always great to be in front of his lens but this time it was just me. Bare and exposed in the streets of la. No makeup. No styling. Just me,” Rodriguez wrote in an Instagram caption alongside a video of herself shot by her friend. “I suffer from anxiety. And watching this clip I could see how anxious I was but I empathize with myself. I wanted to protect her and tell her it’s ok to be anxious, there is nothing different or strange about having anxiety and I will prevail. I like watching this video. It makes me uncomfortable but there is a freedom I feel maybe even an acceptance. This is me. Puro Gina.”
Statistics show that 20 percent of young people deal with mental illness before they turn 18, and Miley Cyrus was among them. “[Depression is] more of an issue than people really want to talk about. Because people don’t know how to talk about being depressed — that it’s totally okay to feel sad. I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. It was a lot to do with, like, I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed,” she told ELLE in a 2014 interview conducted by Tavi Gevinson. “And every person can benefit from talking to somebody. I’m the most antimedication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it — I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.”
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The Girls star has never been one to hold back on anything in her life, and her mental health is no exception. “Promised myself I would not let exercise be the first thing to go by the wayside when I got busy with Girls Season 5 and here is why: it has helped with my anxiety in ways I never dreamed possible. To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain. Thank you @tracyandersonmethod for showing me the light (and @bandierfit is where I bought my Florida mom inspired workout look.) #notsponsored #stillmedicated” she wrote in an Instagram post in 2015. And it turns out, she may be onto something: According to research, aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
It may seem like Ryan Reynold’s life is perfect (especially if he and Blake Lively’s adorable Instagram banter is to be believed), but even he deals with anxiety. “I have anxiety. I’ve always had anxiety,” he told New York Times in a recent interview. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
In a 2016 interview with Allure, Amanda Seyfried showed that there is no shame in taking medication for the sake of your mental health. “I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it,” the Mamma Mia! star said. “I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.”
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Emma Stone has dealt with anxiety since she was a little girl and used to draw pictures in which it was illustrated by a giant green monster. “I was a very, very, very anxious child and I had a lot of panic attacks,” the actress told Stephen Colbert in a 2017 interview, per Entertainment Weekly. “I benefited in a big way from therapy.” Another thing that helped with the “immobilizing” panic attacks from her younger years: “[Acting] helped me so much, improv helped me so much,” she told Colbert. “I mean, I still have anxiety to this day, not panic attacks — knock on wood.”
Yup, even The Rock deals with mental health issues. The actor’s mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide when he was a teenager, and now he faces a similar struggle. “I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone,” he said in a 2015 episode of Oprah’s Master Class. “You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it. And oftentimes — it happens — you just feel like you’re alone. You feel like it’s only you. You’re in your bubble. And I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. It’ll be OK.’ So, I wish I knew that.”
Selena Gomez, who has spent time in and out of treatment for her mental health, knows the importance of getting the help she needs. “I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges,” she told People in 2016. “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off […] I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”
Mad Men star Jon Hamm opened up about receiving treatment for his mental health issues in a 2010 interview with UK magazine The Observer. “I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me. Which is what therapy does: it gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps,” he said. “And honestly? Antidepressants help! If you can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work and…’ Reset the auto-meter, kick-start the engine!”
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Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard may be the epitome of “cute Hollywood couple,” but they’ve never shied away from sharing their challenges with the world — especially when it comes to mental health. “There’s nothing weak about struggling with mental illness,” the actress wrote in a powerful essay for Motto. “For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure. Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer. We all do.”
Model Cara Delevingne felt guilty for being depressed, but upon realizing that “everyone goes through similar things” — and that she wasn’t alone — she was able to start to work through it. “If you learn to love yourself and not give in to what other people think about you or not care what they think, and just follow your dreams, you can achieve anything,” Delevingne said in an interview with The View in October 2017. “And that’s what I want to be for teenagers — not necessarily a role model, but someone who has gone through it and come out the other side.”