By Kelsey Harper, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist and Program Director at Promises Malibu Some people can…
Celebrities Open Up About Having Anxiety and Other Mental Health Issues
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and many celebrities and prominent public figures are using the month as an opportunity to speak out about the mental health issues that affect them. Mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and others will be highlighted and humanized through various national campaigns and activities in May.
One of the most buzz-worthy platforms celebrities are using to discuss mental health in May is the Child Mind Institute’s Speak Up for Kids campaign. Following the campaign’s theme of #MyYoungerSelf, stars are telling their younger selves the things they wished they had heard when they were growing up with mental health issues, and struggling with feelings or problems they didn’t understand.
Positive Messages for Young People With Anxiety and Other Mental Health Disorders
Actress Emma Stone’s on-camera interview for the campaign was posted online May 1, 2017, to kick off a month-long series of daily #MyYoungerSelf video spots featuring famous people that most kids will recognize.
“What I would tell kids that are going through anxiety, which I have and can relate to, is that there is nothing wrong with you,” says the charming Stone as she looks directly into the camera. “To be a sensitive person that cares a lot, that takes things in in a deep way, is actually part of what makes you amazing,” declares Stone, a recent Academy Award-winner for her performance in the smash hit film “La La Land,” and best-known among younger audiences for her turns in two “Spider-Man” movies.
Other famous people sharing similar messages of hope and encouragement with kids and teens include Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, comedian Jay Leno, actor Wayne Brady and television personality Howie Mandell, among others.
Academy Award-winning actor Jesse Eisenberg, who has struggled with anxiety and OCD since childhood, says, “It’s not the worst thing in the world to have those feelings, even though it might feel like the worst thing in the world.” Best known for his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the hit film “The Social Network,” Eisenberg says that people with anxiety and similar disorders may also have other characteristics that are positive and beneficial, such as “a sensitivity to the world, and empathy, or an interesting perception of life.”
The Stars Struggle With Mental Health Issues, Just Like Us
Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Kristen Bell and Ellie Goulding are using their star power to raise awareness about mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, and how talking about these issues is the first step to getting treatment and learning healthy coping mechanisms that can help.
Gomez, who has publicly discussed her own battle with anxiety and depression and credits dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) with saving her life, is bringing attention to youngsters who struggle with mental health problems by executive producing the controversial Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the young adult novel of the same name, the show tackles the troubling topic of a high school student’s suicide and her 13 reasons for killing herself. Though not rated for younger audiences due to its disturbing and graphic content, the program has attracted thousands of younger viewers, many of whom are secretly watching the show on their mobile devices. The show has triggered a public discourse about its main themes of mental health, rape, bullying and teen suicide.
While the program has drawn criticism from many parents and school administrators for glamorizing teen angst and suicide, Gomez hopes it instead portrays these issues realistically, and helps kids feel more comfortable about discussing their problems and reaching out for help. Gomez appears in a short video spot at the end of the program’s finale encouraging kids to tell someone if they are feeling sad or upset — and she provides a website where kids can find resources to get the help they need.
Celebrities With Anxiety and Depression Share Coping Tips
British pop singer Ellie Goulding has discussed how her anxiety and panic attacks escalated after she rose to fame with her hit tunes “Burn” and “On My Mind.” Goulding says that vigorous workouts have helped her cope with pre-performance panic attacks, and regular exercise helps her manage her anxiety and “feel stronger.”
Supermodel Kendall Jenner, who also deals with anxiety, has said that she uses breathing techniques to center herself and ride out panic attacks. Actress Kristen Bell has been very open about the depression she has experienced from a young age, and how treatment has helped her. Bell shares a few tips about depression: 1) Just because a person appears to be “bubbly” don’t assume they don’t experience depression — be alert for other signs of trouble like fatigue and weight loss; 2) Depression can be experienced as fear and paranoia, not just as sadness and despair; 3) Depression and anxiety can run in families, and 4) Depression is nothing to be ashamed of and it is important to talk about it.
Writer-Director-Actor Lena Dunham also says there is no shame in asking for help. Dunham, who created the hit TV show “Girls,” grew up dealing with an anxiety disorder and OCD. In a spot for the May 2017 #MyYoungerSelf video series, Dunham says, “I would tell my younger self that there is no shame in asking a teacher for help and telling a friend that you feel uncomfortable — it’s just the same as falling down and scraping your knee. I would tell myself to squeeze my dog tightly, to read a book, breathe and meditate, and remember that I am not alone. There are so many other kids suffering this way, and the best thing I can do for them and for myself is to be honest.”
President Donald J. Trump Proclaims May 2017 as National Mental Health Awareness Month. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, May 2017.
Selena Gomez Says Therapy Completely Changed Her Life. Lindsay Homes. Healthy Living, The Huffington Post, March 2017.
Selena Gomez says this type of therapy completely changed her life. Katie Maguire. Well and Good, March 2017.
Ellie Goulding: How fitness helped me overcome panic attacks and anxiety. Emily Laurence. Well and Good, March 2017.
The Panic Attacks and Anxiety That Stunned Kendall Jenner—and How She Deals With Them. Katie Maguire. Well and Good, January 2017.
Lena Dunham Opens Up About Battle with Anxiety and OCD: ‘There’s No Shame in Asking for Help’. Brittany King. MSN Entertainment. May 2017.