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Mental health advocates: Demi Lovato, Lena Dunham, more speak out to break stigmas
AM New York - 2/21/2018
Feb. 21--You're not alone: That's the message these celebrities hope to spread by speaking out about mental illnesses.
Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato and Emma Watson and other celebrities are aiming to help break mental health stigmas. Whether they've revealed firsthand experiences or discussed the need for healthcare improvements in the nation, they've become inspirations to those battling their own demons.
Read what these stars have said about dealing with anxiety, depression and other issues.
Model Kendall Jenner says she tries to stay out of the social media spotlight as much as she can due to a battle with anxiety. Naturally, that proves tough for the reality TV star who's been a regular on all 14 seasons of her family's E! series "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." On the show's Feb. 18, 2018, episode, Jenner said she has been suffering from hypochondria and anxiety since she was a child. "It's hard to get your brain to slow down and think about it and really process what's happening," Jenner said. "Anxiety is all mental, so you have to try and find your ways around it. I try and maintain it, but sometimes it's out of your control." Jenner explained that she's tried various techniques to cope with her anxiety, including acupuncture and meditation.
Whitney Cummings knows a thing or two about struggling with that voice inside your head. The comedian penned a Lenny Letter about her diagnosis in December 2015 with codependency, a condition she told amNewYork was "defined as being unable to tolerate the discomfort of others." Now, the "Two Broke Girls" creator is keeping the conversation going with a memoir, "I'm Fine ... And Other Lies." "It was making me do crazy things and suffer way more than is necessary. My inner monologue would say things to me that if anyone else said, I would call the police," she said. As for her Lenny Letter reveal: "There was an amazing, overwhelming response to my being vulnerable about all this stuff I thought I was supposed to hide and pretend I didn't have -- addiction, eating disorders and body dysmorphia. I decided to write the book I wish would have been available to me when I was younger."
Emma Stone spoke to a therapist regularly as a child to help cope with her anxiety struggles, the actress told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" on Sept. 19, 2017. Stone shared a drawing she created at age 9 that read, "I am bigger than my anxiety." "I was a very, very, very anxious child and I had a lot of panic attacks," she said. "This is me, I guess. It's really great artistry with my shoes and then this is anxiety here ... I benefitted in a big way from therapy." Stone opened up about her "immobilizing" anxiety attacks in a 2012 interview with Vogue, saying acting helped her break out of her shell as a teen.
Professional skateboarder Bam Margera, along with his parents, April and Phil Margera, appeared on an episode of Viceland's "Epicly Later'd" during which they spoke about an eating disorder that the "Viva La Bam" star had struggled with in the early 2000s. The threesome recounted times when Bam would eat and then immediately force himself to throw up, and other times when the 37-year-old would drink alcohol to suppress his appetite.
"Duck Dynasty" star Sadie Robertson revealed for the first time on her blog, Live Original, that she suffered from a year-long eating disorder that stemmed from "negative body image." In the Sept. 1, 2017, post, Robertson wrote: "It was dark. It was ugly. It was insanely difficult. It was done in secret. It was hidden. I did not even tell my own mother until recently. I thought I had everything under control . . . I didn't even realize this small problem that I thought I had under control was creating a ripple effect, creating more and more problems, ones I certainly couldn't control." The model and reality TV star then went into great detail on how she felt, and ultimately said turning to her Christian faith was "the day my whole life changed."
Michael Phelps and fellow Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt spoke out on battling depression at a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration event at George Washington University in May 2017. "For me, getting to an all-time low where I didn't want to be alive anymore, that's scary as hell," he told the crowd. "Thinking about taking your own life, I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody. That was a struggle for me. . . . For me, I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn't do it alone." He continued, "I want people to understand that there are times that you are going to have to reach out."
In the September issue of Women's Health, Ryan Phillippe spoke candidly about having "issues with patience and depression," which he says is reduced by "meditation and exercise." He added he "believes that depression and mood disorders are on a spectrum akin to the way autism is, where it's an individual experience. I think people fear being stigmatized or treated in a blanket fashion, which is sometimes the response to someone who says, 'I struggle with depression.' But really, depression could manifest in a thousand different ways depending on who it is. I don't think there's any reason not to talk about it. We can help each other cope and give tools that we learn along the way."
James Franco, who covered OUT's September issue, told the magazine that he struggled with depression early in his career. "I have a very addictive personality," he said. "When I was a teenager I got over certain addictions, and that's when I started acting, at age 17. I really threw myself into it, and that became everything, to the point where I didn't even socialize. And then after, like, 10 years of that, at age 27, I realized, man, I'm so depressed. On the surface my life seems pretty good -- I have a career and everything -- but I feel isolated and lonely."
Eric Dane, who has publicly discussed battling depression, said on NBC's "Today" on July 31, 2017, that he'd "dealt with depression throughout my life. It was always manageable and I just felt like everybody kind of feels a little blue. But this just hit me like a truck. I had to take some time off [from filming 'The Last Ship' in April] -- I went away, I took care of it, and I'm feeling great." He continued, "You've got to listen to your body. It's a very serious thing. And ... I felt very conflicted because I couldn't figure out what I was depressed about. But it's very real..."
Stemming from his July 15, 2017, DUI arrest photo, singer Aaron Carter revealed during a sit down with "Entertainment Tonight" on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, that it was difficult to see himself in a mirror, saying, "Oh, my God, it hurts so badly . . . because there's, like, nothing I can do about it." He said body-image issues are more common in men than people realize because "men are a lot more prideful [than women]. We don't want to admit it. I don't want to admit I don't look good."
"Pretty Little Liars" actress Troian Bellisario opened up about her struggle with anorexia in an essay published on Tuesday, July 18 2017, on Lenny Letter. "As someone who struggles with a mental illness, my biggest challenge is that I don't always know which voice inside me is speaking," she wrote for the digital publication created by Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner, adding, "There is a part of my brain that defies logic. Once, it completely convinced me I should live off 300 calories a day, and at some point, it told me even that was too much. That part of my brain is my disease, and there was a time when it had absolute authority over me. It almost killed me..."
Prince Harry said in an interview with "Bryony Gordon'sMad World," a podcast by the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, that he suffered from "emotional shutdowns" for 20 years following the death of his mother, Princess Diana. He said he eventually sought counseling after a suggestion from his brother, Prince William. During the interview he said he is now able to take his work and private life more "seriously" and "put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else."
In a pair of tweets sent in November 2016, "Stranger Things" actress Shannon Purser opened up about her battle with self-harm, triggered by suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, in the hopes of spreading mental illness awareness. The 19-year-old actress first tweeted an image of a razor blade with the caption, "*TRIGGER WARNING* I haven't self-harmed in years, but I kept this around, 'just in case.' I forgot it was there & now it's in the trash." She followed up with another tweet: "Recovery is possible. Please don't give up on yourself."
Paris Jackson's depression and drug use led to her widely publicized suicide attempt at 15, when she overdosed on 20 Motrin and cut herself with a kitchen knife. In a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, she says that had been the latest try of "multiple times . . . It was just once that it became public."
The late Carrie Fisher had spoken candidly about her depression and bipolarity in interviews, including one with Oprah Winfrey in 2011 during which she said she had regular electroconvulsive treatment to "blow apart the cement" in her brain, as well as in her 2008 memoir, "Wishful Drinking." The actress, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s, went on to use her fame as a platform to raise awareness of mental illness. She and her mother, the late Debbie Reynolds, were recognized for their commitment to various charities, including the mental-health organization Reynolds founded, the Thalians. Fisher's ashes were put into a porcelain urn in the shape of an outsized anti-depressant.
Ryan Reynolds says the tumultuous, more than decade-long effort to make "Deadpool," which went on to earn the biggest global box-office of any R-rated film, left him suffering panic attacks.
"I felt like I was on some schooner in the middle of a white squall the whole time. It just never stopped," the actor said in the December 2016 issue of GQ. "When it finally ended, I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I literally had the shakes. I went to go see a doctor because I felt like I was suffering from a neurological problem or something. And every doctor I saw said, 'You have anxiety.' "
Naomi Judd opened up about her battle with depression on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Dec. 6, 2016, saying that she has been diagnosed with severe depression and spent time in psychiatric hospitals. She said she is confronting lingering issues from her childhood as part of her therapy, including being molested by a relative when she was 3.
Continuing to help dispel the stigma about mental illness, actress Amanda Seyfried has expanded on comments she made in 2015 about the efficacy of therapy, speaking more in-depth about her obsessive compulsive disorder.
"I'm on Lexapro," Seyfried said in a 2016 issue of Allure, referencing a brand name of escitalopram, a common medication used to treat conditions including OCD, "and I'll never get off of it. 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."
Demi Lovato is an ultimate mental health advocate. She's been open about her struggles with eating and bipolar disorders since checking out of rehab in 2011. Aside from being open about her journey through her music (see "Skyscraper"), Lovato let the world watch her recovery in the 2012 MTV documentary "Stay Strong."
She spoke most recently at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July about the nation's lack of resources for mental health treatment.
"We can do better. Every one of us can make a difference by getting educated on this epidemic and its frightening statistics and by breaking the stigma," she said.
What was Cara Delevingne's life like before her successful modeling career took off? The actress/model shocked her fans when she opened up about her struggle with depression at the age of 15, during an interview with Rupert Everett in 2015.
"I got to the point where I went a bit mad. I was completely suicidal ... I thought that I was completely alone, but I also realized how lucky I was," she said during the Women in the World panel.
Lady Gaga was inspired by her fans when she established the Born This Way Foundation, which aims to empower youth, the singer told Billboard. While the organization is not solely mental health-focused, Gaga said she wanted to inspire those who were struggling.
"They would tell me their stories -- and many of them were very dark," she said. "As I began to care for them and to see myself in them, I felt I had to do something that would remind kids they're not alone. When they feel isolated, that's when it leads to suicide."
Similar to her "Girls" character Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham has been open about her struggles with anxiety. In January, she took to Instagram to explain that women on psychiatric medication are not "out-of-control."
"Most women on meds are women who have been brave enough to help themselves," she wrote. "Meds don't make me a hollowed out version of my former self or a messy bar patron with a bad bleach job. They allowed me to finally meet myself."
After breaking free from the role of Hermione Granger that defined her childhood, Emma Watson took on a new one: Feminism and gender equality advocate. While the actress often speaks of women's rights, she addressed the issues that men suffering from mental disorders also face during her 2014 HeForShe campaign speech.
"I've seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man ... Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong ... I want men to take up this mantle ... reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned," Watson said.
Being at the center of pop fame can be lonely, so Justin Bieber says. The singer told NME Magazine in November 2015 that the intense attention he receives from the media and public made him depressed.
"[I feel depressed] all the time. And I feel isolated. You're in your hotel room and there are fans all around, paparazzi following you everywhere, and it gets intense. When you can't go anywhere or do anything alone you get depressed," Bieber said. He also revealed he feared he would follow a similar path as the late Amy Winehouse by allowing the media attention to affect his mental well-being.
Selena Gomez took a step back from touring in August, citing anxiety, panic attacks and depression. In a statement to Us Weekly, she wrote that her mental health had been impacted by her lupus diagnosis. "I know I am not alone by sharing this. I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues," she wrote.
"My self-esteem was shot. I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn't good enough, wasn't capable. I felt I wasn't giving my fans anything, and they could see it -- which, I think, was a complete distortion," she later revealed in a March Vogue interview.
Fall Out Boy frontman Pete Wentz admitted he struggled with his mental health during his 20s in an interview in 2015. When fans were wondering what broke up Wentz and former wife Ashlee Simpson, the singer sat down with Howard Stern to reveal he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Wentz also experienced anxiety and depression before the band's success in the early 2000s, he said in a video he recorded with mental health aid foundation Half of Us.
"At the end of the day you just need to be able to feel safe in your own skin," he said. "People need to find their own kind of balances and find their own peace."
"Nashville" star Hayden Panettiere opened up about her struggles with postpartum depression in the hopes that doing so would encourage other new moms to do the same.
"It's something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they're not alone, and that it does heal," she said on "Live! With Kelly and Michael" in September 2015.
J.K. Rowling, the magical mind behind "Harry Potter," considered suicide while struggling with depression in her 20s, Fox News reported in 2008. Some of her fans even believe the book's Dementors are a metaphor for a looming depression. Rowling has been extremely responsive to her fans on Twitter when they reach out for advice.
"The world is full of wonderful things you haven't seen yet. Don't ever give up on the chance of seeing them," Rowling wrote to a fan in 2015 who tweeted he wanted to "finally give up."
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