For whatever reason, modern society likes to put celebrities to a higher standard than the average human being. For equally confusing reasons, society puts a huge stigma on people suffering from mental illness. Thanks to these two facts, it can be surprising for fans to realize that quite a few of their favorite celebrities have had their struggles with mental illness themselves, and several have even been committed to mental facilities, both voluntarily and involuntarily, to help them deal with their demons.
Only recently has the stigma around mental illness started to fade, as more and more people speak out about their struggles and admit to seeking treatment. As a result, it may seem like celebrities with mental issues is a fairly recent phenomenon, but in fact, plenty of celebrities throughout history have had problems that went undiagnosed or mistreated for years thanks to rudimentary understandings of the human brain. Mental illness is scary and confusing, and seeing it strike down a seemingly put together celebrity can often be so jarring people instead resort to making jokes about them being crazy or deluded into madness by fame, when in fact there is a more clinical and serious root to the situation.
Particularly in pop music culture, there seems to be a belief that mental illness and creativity go hand in hand, and thankfully, overall that really isn’t the case. However, it certainly has been on more than just a couple occasions. If you want to know which of your favorite celebrities took a stop at a mental facility on their way to fame and fortune, read on for a list of 15 celebrities who did just that.
15 Ashley Judd
Ashley Judd is an actress most famous these days for her role in the Divergent film series. She came to prominence in the '90s by starring in acclaimed dramas like Ruby in Paradise, Smoke, and Heat. Her profile as a major film star started to wane in 2004 when she was the lead in the universally panned Twisted, but she’s managed to remain in the public’s good graces through countless charity efforts. She has primarily worked in Africa supporting humanitarian efforts aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS and violence against women throughout poorer and disadvantaged countries where those activities still run rampant to this day.
14 Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is arguably the name most synonymous with the term “sex symbol” even fifty years after her early death as the result of a suspected suicide. Monroe became a model in the 1940s, and was an extremely successful one at that- after she dyed her naturally brown hair blonde. Her film career stagnated for her first few years in the industry, but after back to back breakthrough roles in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle and Joseph E. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, her profile instantly skyrocketed, and it wasn’t long before she was one of the highest profile actresses in Hollywood. Starring roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits would follow, portraying her wide range as an actress and singer en route to her international superstardom.
13 Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is a singer and actress recognized as one of the greatest pop divas of the 1990s. Her self-titled first album was an instant and massive hit, selling over 15 million copies worldwide. Through that success and the success of her subsequent albums, Mariah was the best-selling female artist of the decade. Carey’s film career has been significantly less stellar, with her starring vehicle Glitter being considered one of the worst films of all time. Subsequent films were equally panned until she finally impressed critics with an uncharacteristically dressed down appearance in Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire). Her albums don’t sell as well as they used to, but she’s still a very successful musician, and her latest record reached #3 on the Billboard chart.
12 Sinéad O'Connor
Sinéad O’Connor is an oft-controversial Irish alternative pop singer-songwriter. Her first album was called The Lion and the Cobra, and was released to international acclaim, but her true breakthrough came with a cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” on her follow-up, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. She has released 10 albums in total, winning several MTV Awards and a Grammy in the process of doing so. O’Connor is also known for her fiery and confrontational views on religion, international conflicts, women’s rights, and child abuse.
11 Robbie Williams
Even with the Boy Band craze of the early 2000s, Robbie Williams never became quite that huge of a star in the United States. However, in his native England, Robbie was the highest profile member of the most successful boy band in UK history, Take That. Williams left Take That after they recorded three extremely successful albums, and started what would eventually become arguably an even more successful solo career in 1996. On his own, Williams is the best selling solo artist in the history of the United Kingdom, and has won a record 17 BRIT Awards.
10 Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder is an actress who broke through in the late 1980s with films like Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and the cult teen film Heathers. She started to earn serious acclaim for her acting talents throughout the 90s in films like Night On Earth, The Age of Innocence, Little Women and Reality Bites. Ryder has also been part of several high profile relationships that made her a regular feature of tabloids during her fame, most memorably when she broke up with Johnny Depp and forced him to change his “Winona Forever” tattoo. She clearly hasn’t been free of controversy throughout her career, as the relationship with Depp and her highly publicized 2001 arrest for shoplifting made abundantly clear.
9 Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato is an actress and singer who came to prominence by starring in a series of films on the Disney Channel, starting with Camp Rock. A debut album called Don’t Forget came soon after, and Lovato was already one of America’s fastest rising multifaceted stars when she was only 15. She was soon famous enough to headline her own tour around the country, in addition to making appearances on Disney shows, occasional guest spots on other major artist tours, and to star in a follow-up to Camp Rock. Lovato continues to record and star in films and TV shows despite having suffered personal troubles for the majority of her still young life.
8 Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Welsh actress who earned minor success in her home country by starring in West End musicals, and was about to breakthrough as a major star by appearing as a regular on the sitcom The Darling Buds of May when she decided instead to move to Los Angeles and start a huge career in Hollywood. She quickly became a sex symbol thanks to her roles in The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment, and later earned serious critical acclaim by appearing in Traffic and Chicago. Chicago even earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and major roles in blockbusters like Ocean’s Twelve and Red 2 would follow for the rest of her career.
7 Margot Kidder
Margot Kidder was an actress known in the early 1970s for appearing in films like Brian De Palma’s Sisters, A Quiet Day in Belfast, and Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx with Gene Wilder. She was proven as a leading lady when she starred in The Great Waldo Pepper with Robert Redford, and she earned her spot in history by co-starring as Lois Lane in Superman. Lane would be the most iconic role of her career, but she continued to be a big star in films like The Amityville Horror and Heartaches. Her career started to decline by the mid-'80s, and in 1996 she suffered a very widely publicized nervous breakdown that more or less ended her career.
6 James Taylor
James Taylor is a hugely successful singer-songwriter with an image as one of the softest rocking, most -laid back people in history. It may come as a surprise to some newer fans of his music, then, that early on in his career he was very much viewed as an angry and depressed young man, speaking out against the establishment. Before that could happen, Taylor found several huge fans in The Beatles, who signed him to Apple Records and released his self-titled debut in 1968. Even with The Beatles backing him, the album wasn’t a huge hit, but his second album Sweet Baby James was the first step to him becoming a superstar, and a big part of that step was the song “Fire and Rain.”
5 Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler is the lead singer of Aerosmith, the group pompous enough to call themselves America’s greatest rock and roll band. Tyler calls himself the “Demon of Screamin,” thanks to his high pitched wails on classic rock staples like “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” and “Walk This Way.” Tyler is also credited as a co-writer on the majority of Aerosmith’s big hits, usually alongside guitarist Joe Perry. Collectively, the two of them were once known as The Toxic Twins by tabloids and rock insiders, due to the fact they allegedly consumed more drugs than any other rock stars, even within the drugged-out world they lived in. More recently, Tyler spent two seasons as one of the judges on American Idol and is planning on releasing his first solo album some time in 2016.
4 Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Barr is one of the most iconic comedians of all time. She broke down barriers for women in a loud, confrontational, and bombastic way, and although the press would attempt to denigrate her for her bravery and demands for equal treatment, her lasting success was a step towards equality for women in the entertainment business in general. Her sitcom Roseanne was a massive hit, earning the #1 spot in the ratings during its second season and staying near the top for the rest of its nine year run. Roseanne has since returned to stand-up and also does a great deal of work in political advocacy, including a serious but obviously unsuccessful bid at running for President of the United States in 2012.
3 Daniel Johnston
If any one artist on this list is inexorably linked with mental illness, it’s Daniel Johnston. Johnston is a singer-songwriter most famous to most people for designing the "Hi, How Are You" mural in Austin, Texas that was inspired by the cover art to his 1983 album of the same name. The artwork for the album became an iconic image of the '90s by appearing on a shirt constantly worn by Kurt Cobain, and the smiling bullfrog named “Jeremiah the Innocent” is an integral window into Johnston’s work as well as his image. Johnston’s music is lo-fi to an extreme, but fans relate to his extremely personal lyrics detailing his struggles with loneliness, depression, and serious mental illness.
2 Britney Spears
Britney Spears is an internationally famous pop superstar who came to fame in the late '90s as a sultry teenager begging the world to hit her in her debut song and album, …Baby One More Time. Her fame skyrocketed with each subsequent album, and although her film debut Crossroads was universally panned, her records continued to break records as she gained more and more control over her work. At the peak of Britney’s fame, she suffered a massively publicized mental breakdown after the death of her aunt.
1 Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono is most famous as the wife of John Lennon, and has been enjoying several decades of fame as a musician and artist herself since the late 1960s. Ono’s avant-garde art made her stand out in the constantly changing art scene of the time, and her groundbreaking work is what attracted the Beatle to her as the decade wore on. The two became one of the most high profile celebrity couples in history, and used their celebrity status to stage “Bed-Ins For Peace” and various other humanitarian, peace-positive messages throughout the world. Ono remained a vital musician and artist after John’s murder in 1980, and has recently experienced a career resurgence thanks to indie rock artists collaborating with her for the album Yes I’m A Witch and the two albums of original material that followed.
Ono’s fame may not have reached international or mainstream levels until she married Lennon, but she started to become a star in the art world as early as her college years. She met La Monte Young and John Cage while in her early 20’s, and was married to composer Toshi Ichiyanagi for several years in the late '50s and early '60s. Once the two divorced, Ono was extremely depressed, and moved back in with her parents. Her parents decided she was suffering from clinical depression and had her institutionalized.
Sources: People, Vanity Fair, MSN
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