Opening up about personal struggles can be a difficult and scary experience for anyone. Henderson et al., (2013) reported that globally, 70% of people with mental illness receive no treatment from health care staff. It’s important to note that mental health doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity. Anyone can suffer, including celebrities. When thinking about celebrity mental health, would you have guessed that these familiar faces experienced various conditions?
- Depression: Brad Pitt, Jim Carey, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Rowling, Tyson Fury
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio
- Anxiety: Whoopi Goldberg, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik
- Panic Attacks: Lewis Capaldi, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone
From actors and actresses, to sporting icons, singers and authors, anyone can experience difficulties with their mental health. So, what makes some people susceptible to mental health conditions?
What Makes A Person More Susceptible To Mental Health Conditions?
Although it is still unclear as to what causes mental illnesses, research has been proposed identifying some key factors that can play a role in influencing mental health, either individually or by interacting with each other (The National Institute of Health, 2007):
- Genetic factors (Faraone and Larsson, 2018) – various genes have been linked to different psychological conditions. For example, the SLC6A4 gene coding has been associated with OCD (Purty et al., 2019);
- Environmental factors – including head injury, toxin exposure and poor nutrition (The National institute of Health, 2007);
- Social factors– including traumatic experiences, neglect and hardship (The National institute of Health, 2007)
Other factors that also play a role in influencing one’s mental health is the impact of judgement, and this is evident in everyday settings of the celebrity world. Narr and Teachman (2018) concluded that unrealistic standards of behaviours set by others can lead to individuals believing that they are failures, which consequently results in anxiety related symptoms, both physiological (e.g. heart palpitations) and psychological (avoidance behaviours).
Social Media and Mental Health
Social media platforms can also influence mental health conditions, which is why many celebrities have opted out of the social media world. Actor Daniel Radcliffe revealed that social media makes him “uncomfortable”. Golden Globe award winning actress Olivia Colman revealed that she too struggles to cope with negativity on social media. She believes it has previously led her to “go into a depression”.
Seabrook, Kern and Rickard (2016) highlighted a link between social media networking and mental health. Their findings revealed that although positive interactions on social networking sites led to decreased anxiety and depression. Negative interactions, on the other hand, were associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety. In a world where trolling has become so rampant, it’s understandable why some celebrities opt to stay away from popular interaction platforms. So, what can we do to help?
Our Role in the World of Celebrity Mental Health
- Create a non-judgemental space – the impact of judgement can negatively influence one’s health. Therefore, by creating a space where we are not judging others we could influence positive behaviours. Subsequently, this will decrease the risk of people developing anxiety and depression;
- Take the power away from stigma – mental health conditions have been associated with increased levels of stigmatization. As a result, individuals are not only struggling with their own mental health. In fact, they’re also suffering from exclusion and discrimination they face from others (Rossler, 2016). Such stigma can lead to reduced self-esteem, therefore, if we take the power away from stigma, we can play a positive role in the process of recovery;
- Discuss wellbeing – In today’s society we should discuss wellbeing, and the importance of therapy, good nutrition and healthy stress outlets. Art therapy has been identified as a stress reliever (Martin et al., 2018). Participation in sports has also been related to decreased levels of anxiety, due to its role in elevating endogenous opioid activity (Harber and Sutton 1984; Anderson and Shivakumar, 2013);
- Offer support – In a world where social media is so widespread, let’s offer support and use the platforms we have in a positive way. This can help create further awareness and increase the emotional support and reassurance that one may need in those first initial steps of seeking help.
By following the principles noted above, we can help our role models share their story and we can take the power away from stigma. In the famous words of JK Rowling –
“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving”
…so let’s continue to break the stigma, and normalise vulnerability.