Mental illness can impact anyone, our most revered celebrities included. In fact, a lot of evidence shows that fame in and of itself can perpetuate mental illness, as it brings many unique struggles that very few can understand. A lack of privacy, high expectations, and difficulty knowing who to trust can lead many down a dark path.
However, this may not be in vain. Some good can arise from celebrities that choose to be open about their struggles and raise awareness. They can become powerful tools for social change in society due to their large audience and strong influence over fans. Some studies suggest early positive signs in their ability to destigmatize mental health.
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 celebrities that have been outspoken about their own mental health challenges.
Demi Lovato is a prime example of how being a childhood star could be a risk factor for celebrities with mental illness, though more research is needed. In this cultural context, Lovato joins a long list of struggling childhood stars, along with Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and Macaulay Calkin.
During her teenage years, Lovato starred in Camp Rock. From a young age, Lovato was one of the well-known female celebrities with mental health issues. In an MTV documentary titled “Stay Strong”, Lovato shared her struggles with bipolar disorder. In an interview after the premiere, she stated “Why not air all my secrets? Why not share my story because some people need to hear it?”
Lovato goes in-depth about how deceiving bipolar can be; how she thought it was normal to stay up until 5.30 am writing 7 songs. Lovato showed the value of in-patient care, as she said her treatment, though difficult, helped her accept her diagnosis and realize that there is always.
Demi Lovato continues her campaigning to this day to lead the line of female celebrities with mental health issues. She also struck a partnership deal with Talkspace, a leading remote therapy application, to encourage cheaper treatment.
Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have seen Friends – it’s one of the most successful shows of all time. And, one of the six main characters, Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), was struggling with addiction throughout much of the filming years.
Whilst it was loneliness, his parents divorce, and self-doubt that were the source of his issues, these issues were magnified when he became a household name. In fact, some credible bodies believe fame is like a dangerous drug in and of itself, which is why the two are often connected (i.e. the 27 Club).
From taking 55 Vicodin pills in a day and attempting 15 rehab stints, Perry finally found success in his recovery. In a viral Newsnight interview with Peter Hitchens, who Perry called a “complete tool”, the Friends star argued against Hitchen’s position that addiction is a matter of weak morals, or that it doesn’t exist at all.
Perry’s role in that interview, and many others since, has to simply be honest about his own experiences. This alone provides great insight into the issues of addiction, and how fame, money, and success is not only not the solution to mental health issues, but can make matters worse. If you too are struggling with similar issues, you can check our list of the best online therapy for addiction and substance abuse.
Tyson Fury is the two-time world heavyweight boxing champion. Known for his good sense of humor and incredible boxing skills, Fury is revered by millions as the best boxer in the world. However, like another previous best boxer in the world, Mike Tyson, Fury suffers severely from mental health illness.
Fury has spoken in detail about his own mental health crises and breakdowns, where at times he was convinced his wife “wanted him dead” in a paranoid panic attack and even drove a Ferrari towards a bridge at 190mph. Fury continuously sends messages to his fans who struggle with mental health and also claims speaking out on mental health is one of his finest achievements, giving the image that he really isn’t ashamed of the topic.
Among other celebrities talking about mental health issues is Russell Brand. Russell suffered from heroin addiction issues and has been extremely vocal about it. The videos on the internet in which Russell mentions his previous addictions would stack up in the hundreds, if not thousands, and has even made both a documentary film and a best-selling book.
Russell is somewhat different in his story from many others, as spirituality plays a strong role in his current sobriety. Celebrities talking about mental health issues is nothing new, but Russell has made his sobriety and spirituality a key part of his identity.
Russell is also keen to talk about celebrities with mental disorders, not just ordinary citizens, as he explains that the celebrity lifestyle leads to emptiness.
Michael Phelps is the most successful swimmer of all time. Phelps isn’t just a story about fame and success, but also a sporting great who was extremely competitive and focused on his Olympic goal. In 2018, long after Phelps retired from competitive swimming, he revealed his severe anxiety and major depression struggles that used to strike after every Olympic games.
Phelps claims it was competitive pressure, physical exertion, and media visibility that led to his severe anxiety. Among many other Olympians, there’s a commonly described crash after the games – they work for four years towards a single goal… then it’s over. Despite winning four gold medals and two silver in the London games, shortly after he experienced his worst spout of depression. The medals were not enough, and he stayed in his room for four days without sleeping or eating.
This kind of situation doesn’t always sound intuitive, which is why it’s important for the likes of Phelps to speak out. Phelps, like Demi Lovato, entered a partnership with Talkspace to promote therapy.
In the past few years, Jordan Peterson has become an icon. Whether for his political views or, more commonly, his self-improvement advice that he can provide from being a clinical psychologist. But, being an intellectual and helping others doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t succumb to mental health issues yourself.
Peterson had suffered from both depression and autoimmune issues from food, leading to being prescribed benzodiazepines. His retelling of getting off the drugs, along with his other treatments, highlighted to a very large audience the potential downsides of certain medications. Peterson claimed he got addicted and his daughter said he felt suicidal.
Most of Peterson’s influence comes from writing books and long-form podcasting. However, he has recently lost his clinical license due to his political commentary controversies. This places Peterson in a controversial position in society; whilst thousands claim that Peterson has helped them personally, his focus on empowering young males specifically along with his political views has painted him as an alt-right, red-pill leader.
Among the many celebs with mental health issues, it seems that childhood stars could be overrepresented, though literature is sparse.
Selena Gomez is another one to add to the unfortunate list of celebrities with diagnosed mental health issues, as she recently opened up about her experiences with psychosis, a severe mental health disorder that was triggered by her bipolar disorder.
Gomez had been vocal in the past about anxiety. In a Vogue interview, which is a very public stage with a large audience, she claimed group therapy was the “best thing I’ve done” and helped her get through her frequent panic attacks.
Stephen Fry is a household name in Britain for his broadcasting, writing, and acting. In a documentary and several interviews, Fry explored what it is like to live with Manic Depression.
Fry, who is known for being jolly, well put together, and profoundly intelligent, catches many people by surprise when they learn he had a cocaine habit (once taking it in Buckingham Palace) and tried to take his own life. But today, he is often first on the mind when thinking of famous people with bipolar.
Fry was open about how Beethoven’s music “brought color back”, along with not drinking too much, eating properly, and frequent walking.
Fry stated, “One of the ways I cope with it is to bathe myself in music like Beethoven’s and to think of people who have gone before me who have been lit by the flame of mania and danced by the icy water of depression.”
It’s no good having only a certain type of celebrity be open about mental illness, as this could spare certain demographics from hearing well-needed stories.
In the ultra-masculine industry of hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar has been vocal about depression and suicide in his lyrics for many years. Making it a part of his art, much like Eminem had done, can have even more impact on fans.
Lamar also addressed his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts in an exclusive MTV interview.
In the interview, he speaks about the duality of man, where he has been living two lives, as well as suffering from survivor’s guilt, which refers to being a success when many of his friends and family got left behind.
Daniel Radcliffe, who famously played Harry Potter, is among one of the many famous people with OCD, which was particularly bad in his youth.
Radcliffe spoke about how it used to take him 5 or more minutes just to turn a light off because of such compulsions, as well as repeating every sentence he said out loud, also under his breath.
Radcliffe said he first had symptoms at the age of five years old, but sought therapy which was the only thing that helped.
As a result, Radcliffe has been vocal about encouraging others to seek help, emphasizing that it’s not just celebrities with bad mental health issues that can be treated. “I would encourage everyone to undergo therapy. It doesn’t mean you’re insane or weak”.
From the list above, there are many anecdotes in which fame perpetuates existing personal issues. Some celebrities claim that fame is the sole cause of their mental illness problems, but many others claim that fame acts as a magnifying glass for celebrities who had mental breakdowns. Celebrity mental health issues seem rife, but little research has been done to investigate if they disproportionately account for overall figures.
Having each of your actions visible and scrutinized is one reason for this, but there are other reasons too, like an increase in stalking risks. Reaching fame is often a result of being at the highest level of your field – such as a world champion boxer or successful actor. That means many celebrities have achieved the goals core to their identity, and this can bring with it some issues, such as having nothing else to work towards. In many cases, celebrities can feel like they lose their identity if they cannot continue.
24% of UK Olympic athletes reported high psychological distress after the Games. Although this is comparable to similar aged-matched populations, it highlights that “having your dream job”, for one, isn’t always a way out.
Fame also brings money, and this is also a concern for many celebrities with mental illness. Although being very wealthy poses some unique problems, low family savings is a greater risk factor for depression than high family savings. Therefore, it appears being rich is less of a risk factor than fame itself.
To conclude, celebrity mental health issues are often unique to being a celebrity. Whilst there isn’t much evidence that being rich or famous is in itself a huge risk factor, because 25% of the US population already suffers from such issues, many anecdotes show that it can make existing issues worse.
The day after Robin Williams’ suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received a 300% increase in calls. There was an increase in both suicides and people seeking help, showing the power of influence both celebrities and media reporting can have. It’s also clear that the public gets most of their mental health education from television, film, and entertainment news, showing that celebrities play a key role in discourse.
Ultimately, there are many celebrities with mental disorders, and many different studies highlight the positive effect that self-disclosure of these has. Ironically, one of the major drivers of mental illness among celebrities is that they’re isolated – very few people can relate to being a celebrity and the relationship with fans is one-sided. Nonetheless, the cause of the issues isn’t as important as sharing a similar suffering of the same symptoms when normalizing treatment.