According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in four adults will experience mental illness in any given year. That’s about 65 million people. Even more shocking is the 1 in 17 people, or 13.6 million people, who are living with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.
No amount of money or luxury will make someone immune to this. Mental illness is prevalent in the world of celebrities, and the high pressure A-list lifestyle can even exacerbate the problem. Some celebrities struggle privately, while others use their public profile to break through the stigma that surrounds mental illness. In some rare but tragic cases, a talented celebrity is taken too soon, unable to continue battling a life-long mental illness.
Most recently Robin Williams lost his battle with depression and took his own life at just 63. Tragically, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. It is also the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24.
While mental illness remains, to a degree, a taboo subject, it is slowly becoming more openly discussed as the general public becomes more educated about the reality of mental illness. As the taboo lessens, those who suffer from mental illness are more willing and able to find help for their disorder. As celebrities – like the following ten public figures – are opening up about their struggles, they are helping to create an open, healthy dialogue about mental illness.
10. Brooke Shields: Postpartum Depression
In the spring of 2003, Brooke Shields gave birth to a daughter. But instead of experiencing the overwhelming joys of motherhood, Shields was drowning in feelings of emptiness and despair.
Postpartum depression was an unfamiliar term to Brooke Shields, and she didn’t understand her unusual feelings about her daughter’s birth. As the weeks and months passed, Shields’ depression worsened and she began to contemplate suicide. The actress and model eventually sought treatment, was given medication and attended weekly therapy session. She continues to be vocal about postpartum depression.
9. Jane Pauley: Bipolar Disorder
After a lightning fast start at The Today Show at the age of 25 and a successful career with Dateline, Jane Pauley is a women recognized for her journalistic talents worldwide. But today, after a full decade of living with bipolar disorder, Pauley is also known for the unique situation that brought her to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
After being prescribed steroids for a recurring case of hives, Pauley began experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Initially she was plagued by depression for which she was unsuccessfully treated with antidepressants, before she experienced periods of hypomania.
After a short stay in a New York City psychiatric clinic, Pauley was given lithium to control her bipolar episodes. She recommenced her career and launched her NBC television talk show, The Jane Pauley show. She also published a memoir, Skywriting, in which she discussed her experience with bipolar depression at length.
8. Earl Campbell: Panic Attacks
After eight seasons with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, Earl Campbell retired from professional football as a National Football League Hall of Famer in 1986. But two years after retiring, he began experiencing paralyzing bouts of fearfulness. As the panic attacks worsened Campbell found himself hospitalized and searching for answers.
Eventually his panic disorder was controlled through deep breathing and visualization as well as anxiety medication. He was able to continue on in his dream of becoming a businessman.
7. Catherine Zeta-Jones: Bipolar II Disorder
In April of 2013, Catherine Zeta-Jones checked herself into a mental health facility for treatment of her bipolar II disorder. Much like bipolar I, bipolar II is characterized by moods which cycle dramatically between highs and lows. However, those who suffer from bipolar II disorder do not reach the level of mania characteristic of bipolar I; they are, rather, known as hypomanic episodes.
Zeta-Jones originally sought treatment for her bipolar II disorder in 2011, but was proactive about seeking further treatment in 2013.
The actress has always been open about her diagnosis, often speaking about it in order to assist in removing the stigma attached to mental illness.
6. Demi Lovato: Eating Disorders and Self-Harm
Demi Lovato has a long history with mental illness, though she was shocked by her bipolar diagnosis. According to Lovato, she began compulsively overeating at eight years old and eventually developed bulimia. She began cutting herself at the age of 11 and struggled with depression for much of her life.
During her teen years she became a huge Disney star, touring with the Jonas Brothers. At this time she says she began self medicating as a means to cope with her self-hatred, depression, and mania. But when her family intervened, Lovato was quick to take their advice and check herself into Timberline Knolls – a residential treatment center.
Now, the 22-year-old singer is doing much more than successfully living with bipolar disorder; she’s speaking out through a public service announcement and has joined the Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour to educate others on bipolar disorder.
5. Rene Russo: Bipolar Disorder
Throughout a very successful acting career, Rene Russo kept her struggle with bipolar disorder quiet. But on the October 30th, 2014 episode of the Queen Latifah Show, Russo spoke out about her bipolar diagnosis.
According to the star, who is often remembered for her roles in Outbreak and The Thomas Crown Affair, “My mom said my whole childhood…was stop and go.” Sitting next to Nightcrawler co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, 60 year old Russo described to a stunned audience that she decided to begin taking medication for her bipolar disorder after a severe bout of depression left her bedridden.
4. Buzz Aldrin: Depression and Alcoholism
Rocketing to the moon seems like a dream to most of us. But what happens when you return to Earth and you’re suddenly a celebrity, forced to live under the constant pressure of public celebrity?
In 1969, after Buzz Aldrin returned from the moon, he found himself crushed under the pressures of fame. For several years he fell into a routine of drinking and severe depression that led to his divorce.
In 1975, the astronaut checked into rehab in search of sobriety and normal life. He has been vocal in bringing attention to mental illness and was a voice of compassion after Robin Williams’ suicide this past year.
3. Zach Braff: Depression
Zach Braff’s most recent movie, Wish I Was Here, is more than just a movie; it depicts a very personal part of the actor/director who has dealt with depression and feelings of isolation throughout his life.
Though the former Scrubs actor has found a home in comedy, he is quick to explain his love of laughter in relation to his own bouts of depression: “I think it’s a very human feeling to feel alone and isolated even when you’re surrounded by people. That’s why I love laughter so much, and that’s why the movie has lots of laughs because it rescues me from melancholia.”
Even as far back as 2006, Braff connected his writing of Garden State with the saddest time of his life and explains his depression as being something that “hits you like a flu.”
2. Pete Wentz: Bipolar Disorder and Drug Abuse
A member of the band Fall Out Boy, Pete Wentz has been passionate about music all his life. But, he has also been a victim of mental illness. According to the rock star, he began seeing therapists at the age of six. He also told “People” that “the list of drugs I’ve been prescribed would read like a grocery list.”
At the height of Fall Out Boy’s fame, Wentz was abusing the anti-anxiety medications Xanax and Klonopin. Even after the birth of his son in 2008, Wentz continued to struggle. It wasn’t until after his divorce from wife Ashlee Simpson that Wentz sought treatment for his bipolar disorder through therapy.
1. Kim Basinger: Anxiety and Agoraphobia
Kim Basinger appears to have it all from a distance. She is a beautiful and highly acclaimed actress with a long and lucrative career. She achieved all this success despite her personal demons, which include an anxiety disorder and agoraphobia.
The star was featured in a 2001 HBO documentary called Panic: A Film About Coping. The Academy Award-winning actress revealed she was left confined to her home and fearful of being in public. “Fear has been something I’ve lived with my entire life, the fear of being in public places-which led to anxiety or panic attacks. I stayed in my house and literally cried every day.” The actress has found and completed treatment for her anxiety disorder.
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