Mental health is, for the most part, a taboo subject and many seem to push it aside and decide to avoid the conversation. Until it’s too late. It isn’t until something drastic occurs that people decide to talk. In the last few years, however, there seems to be more and more open discussions on the subject and it often directly aligns with public figures beginning to speak out about this.
As a society, we seem closed off to the idea of talking about our mental state. We brush it off and pretend nothing’s wrong. It isn’t until somebody whose name is in the public eye comments on the topic. It’s only then when the world decides to listen.
From 2007 to 2011, there was a major increase in suicide, especially among men. By 2014, just three years later, there was a significant decrease and the figure dropped to 459 deaths that year. This is the same year that actor Robin Williams took his own life and the world began to speak out.
When news broke of his death, an abundance of celebrities began to openly discuss their own experiences with mental health and how the worst can be prevented. William’s death sparked many of his fellow actors such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lena Dunham to discuss their struggles with mental health. His fellow celebrities saw a problem with the stigma around mental health and used their platform to speak out.
“A tragic reminder that the conversation about mental health CANNOT stop,” Lena Dunham, who has been very open about her struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, tweeted.
The big question is; can celebrities truly bring the discussion of mental health to the fore? Can public figures be the people who bring a positive impact by speaking out on these issues and encouraging others to do the same?
According to Mental Health Ireland, approximately one in four people will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime. These statistics are inevitable but can be made easier by simply opening a discussion.
‘Celebrities’ often, especially in recent times, are viewing their platform as something more than what it is. So many have decided to take their platform and use it as a way to promote positive mental health and help their followers through their own struggles.
Take Demi Lovato for example. The singer first began to discuss her struggles with bipolar disorder and eating disorders in 2011 after spending time in a rehabilitation clinic. From the onset, she used her position in the spotlight to shed light on mental illness and allow for a greater understanding of it.
“(My recovery) is the obvious shift in lifestyle, but also I actually started to have this feeling as if there was more stability in my life,” Lovato said when speaking to Elle Magazine about her improvement since speaking out about mental illness.
Lovato speaks out about mental health in an honest way and says it how it is, she doesn’t glamourize it. It is this type of discussion that enables the world to seek help if needs be, as it is not romanticised.
Lovato is not the only star who has used their celebrity as a basis for a platform to spread awareness of mental health. After a very personal and intimate video was posted on Facebook by singer Sinead O’Connor showing her breakdown, she appeared on the American talk show ‘Dr. Phil’ to further discuss the importance of speaking out and seeking help when you are so isolated.
In the interview, she discussed how she wished to inspire others to feel they can talk about these issues openly and inspire them to reach out for help.
“The fact that there’s such stigma about mental illness means that the illness doesn’t get talked about,” she said. “There’s a certain group of people who are absolutely afraid to open their mouth about mental illness.”
Celebrities have a platform. They have a voice. They are people others look up to. These are the people who, if they are willing, can truly make a change in how we, as a society, view the stigma around mental health.
By speaking out about these issues, they bring them to the forefront of the media’s attention and can make the discussion one we can all easily engage in.
As you take time to observe around you, you begin to notice that mental health is not the issue. The way in which we talk about it is the issue. If people in the public eye continue to openly discuss this and prove to the world that mental health is normal and something can always be done, life may just become that little bit easier.