Celebrities and Mental Health

June 11, 2018

(TW: mentions of suicide and suicide-baiting)


Celebrities. Love them or hate them, but we all can’t avoid those Snapchat ‘news’ articles about Kylie’s hot post-birth bod or the scandalous secrets leaked about Jennifer Lawrence. Celebrities exist to be idolised or demonised, so much so that sometimes we forget that they’re human, just like you and me. In fact, if a celebrity walked past you in the street, chances are you won’t recognise them (I don’t know, I think I’d know Zendaya’s face anywhere… but I digress).


Just like some of us, celebrities also have their own battles with mental illness, although it may be harder with the spotlight on them constantly. Honestly, I can’t handle the stress of school when combined with anxiety – imagine being in the public eye constantly.


The fact still stands, though: celebrities can and do have mental illnesses. It’s often hidden due to fear of rejection from their fans, but it nevertheless exists. Let’s see how the public has reacted to the news of their favourite singer or acting having mental health issues.


If you’ve been on social media any time during the last few years, chances are you’ve heard of Halsey. An indie singer, she’s been famously open with her sexuality and mental disorders, especially being bipolar and depressed. However, after admitting that she tried to commit suicide and failed in the past, her twitter was flooded with negative messages, telling her to try again. This continued to the extent where she deleted her twitter account in order to avoid the messages.


You don’t need me to tell you how wrong that is. This occurred a couple of years ago – Halsey’s moved on and has spoken about getting the help that she needs to get on the road to recovery. Nevertheless, what happened after Halsey’s admission proves that we aren’t close to getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. This isn’t to say that nothing’s happened; what happened prompted discussion about the mental health, especially when celebrities are concerned, and people have come to her defence, fighting back.


Even today, celebrities are scared of their mental health issues coming to light because of backlash from their fans. If we’re all about creating a culture where mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatised and hidden, that should extend to celebrities, who influence the perception of their fans on a variety of issues.


This comes from the heels of news about another life taken by suicide: Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef.


He hid his depression extremely well, so much that his mother had no idea what he was going through. Stress from his work schedule and the pressure of keeping it hidden no doubt worsened his mental state. As far as we know, he never got the help that someone with depression needs. Fear of backlash from fans most likely kept him from speaking out. Rest in peace, Anthony.


Since then, his fans have come out expressing their condolences for Anthony’s family and acknowledging what he must have gone through. There’s been people speaking out about their own experiences with depression in support of Anthony. There’s been nothing but positive messages.


Does this mean that our attitude towards celebrities and mental illness changed? Would this have been the same response if he had spoken about his struggle with depression while he was still alive?


This is the stigma that we are trying to dismantle. The stigma that mental illness needs to be kept quiet and ignored, that it isn’t a major issue plaguing people all across the globe, celebrity or not. As fans and as supporters, we should be cultivating an environment where it’s okay for celebrities to have mental health problems, to be imperfect, to be human. Until then, the negative connotations of mental illness will always be prevalent in our culture.

Disclaimer: If you’ve been experiencing depression or suicidal thought, or are worrying about a friend who has, talk to a trusted adult, councillor or GP, or contact KidsHelpline.)

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