Depression is a disease that truly knows no bias. It can happen to anyone regardless of social or financial status. It can happen to people who seem like they have everything in the world and it can evade those who would seem to have little to be happy about. Depression affects millions of people worldwide every day yet social stigmas still reach far and wide making it extremely difficult for those who suffer to seek the best help available. Too often these people suffer in silence and feel alone, or like an outcast.
In the last few years several celebrities have really gone above and beyond to try and play an active role in tearing down those stigmas and making it normal and easy for everyone to talk about their depression and they're doing it in the most real way imaginable... by talking about their own struggles with the debilitating emotional disorder. Having public figures become advocates for something that so many are afflicted by has really helped move the world in a positive direction and given voices to countless who just needed to know they weren't the only one suffering from depression.
It was in 2007 when Jolie's mother passed away that she says she began to experience growing feelings of depression. Jolie is a U.N. Goodwill Global Ambassador who has struggled off and on with depression since her years as a teenager and despite a surge in her early 20's she was doing just fine coping for a long time, until her mother passed away. Spiriling back into the consuming darkness, Jolie said she chose to star in the movie "Wanted" as a coping mechanism. She said:
My mother had just passed away, and I wanted to do something physical to get it out of my head for a while,I felt I was going to a very dark place, and I wasn’t capable of getting up in the morning, so I signed up for something that would force me to be active.
Today we know Ellen to be an overly energetic and easily lovable television host and comedian but she hasn't always been so vibrantly bubbly. Ellen says she suffered severely struggling with depression when her ABC sitcom was canceled in 1998 after four years. When the show ended, Ellen says she hit rock bottom and she has shared openly about what it felt for her to hit rock bottom, a time when many struggle with depression the hardest.
Everything that I ever feared happened to me. I lost my show, I’ve been attacked like hell. I went from making a lot of money on a sitcom to making no money. When I walked out of the studio after five years of working so hard, knowing I had been treated so disrespectfully for no other reason than I was gay, I just went into this deep, deep depression.
At what would seem to be the peak of her success and fame in 2013, Lady Gaga was lost in a sea of depression. In 2014 she explained in an interview with Bazaar just how crushing the depression was regardless of how successful she was.
I became very depressed at the end of 2013. I was exhausted fighting people off. I couldn’t even feel my own heartbeat. I was angry, cynical, and had this deep sadness like an anchor dragging everywhere I go. I just didn’t feel like fighting anymore. I didn’t feel like standing up for myself one more time
Today, Lady Gaga is using her voice and fame to create a platform for mental health awareness and advocacy. She's even worked hand in hand via facetime with Prince William to discuss mental health awareness in a rather public manner that has managed to reach countless who needed to hear her voice.
Sometimes it is the seemingly happiest who suffer the deepest. Jim Carrey is known as a particularly whacky comedian and phenomenal actor. There can't be many people alive who don't know who the iconic funny guy is but in an interview with CBS, Carrey revealed a lot about his personal attempts to cope with and combat depression. He believed he strongly relied on Prozac, a well known antidepressant, for a long time because he needed relief from his depression and only the Prozac seemed to be getting him through it. He also explained that he recently stopped taking the Prozac completely but does not consider himself depression free. Instead, he undergoes a variety of different psychotherapies to continue to battle the disease. Since then, in multiple interviews Carrey has specified that he has to constantly remind himself of the turmoil he has been through and that he believes his spirituality is healing him to feel better. Staying away from all drugs and alcohol seems to also work in his favor, which is understandable since most often these substances act as depressants making situations much, much worse. While many other celebrities struggling with depression all too often admit to turning to illicit drug use and alcohol to cope, Carrey wont even touch coffee!
There are peaks, there are valleys. But they’re all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in. Where you’re not getting any answers, but you’re living OK. And you can smile at the office. You know? But it’s a low level of despair. You know?
After struggling with postpartum depression, something that affects somewhere between 11 and 20% of women who give birth, Brooke Shields felt compelled to speak out after Tom Cruise dismissed her postpartum depression publicly. She released a statement:
I feel compelled to speak not just for myself but also for the hundreds of thousands of women who have suffered from postpartum depression. While Mr. Cruise says that Mr. Lauer and I do not “understand the history of psychiatry,” I’m going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never suffered from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is caused by the hormonal shifts that occur after childbirth. During pregnancy, a woman’s level of estrogen and progesterone greatly increases; then, in the first 24 hours after childbirth, the amount of these hormones rapidly drops to normal, nonpregnant levels. This change in hormone levels can lead to reactions that range from restlessness and irritability to feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Miley Cyrus has been no stranger, what-so-ever, to how damaging the public view can be. She has spent more of her life than not under the spotlight of Hollywood and practically became the poster child for what can go wrong when children grow up famous. Somewhere along the way the transition from Disney Star Hannah Montanna to becoming her own pop star with her own style and voice she got a little lost along the way and went through some noticeably tough times. At this point, Cyrus says that for the entirety of her adult career she has struggled with depression and for a wide variety of reasons. Recently in an interview with Elle she touched on her experiences and more importantly, why it's important and healthy to reach out, as well as anything but embarrassing.
Every person can benefit from talking to somebody. I’m the most anti-medication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it—I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.
Oscar winning actress and beauty icon Halle Berry opened up in the most intense of ways to discuss just how deeply depression affected her after the dissolution of her marriage, going so far as to attempt suicide:
I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming when I had an image of my mother finding me.
But thinking about her loved ones is exactly what pulled her away before it was too late and she acknowledged so much more. Halle instead decided to focus on her loved ones to pull through and fight back regardless of how tightly depression had its deathly grip on her. Speaking specifically of her mother, it is clear that Halle was truly inspired and motivated to persevere:
She sacrificed so much for her children, and to end my life would be an incredibly selfish thing to do. It was all about a relationship. My sense of worth was so low.
Amanda Peet is another well known actress and mother who spoke specifically about how postpartum depression rocked her to her core after the birth of her son. Before her son was born, pregnancy was euphoric, and then it all ended:
…all came crashing down the second [Frankie] was born; “expecting to feel fulfilled,” Amanda says she instead felt “sleep-deprived beyond belief” and ambivalent about motherhood. She adds, “I want to be honest about it because I think there’s still so much shame when you have mixed feelings about being a mom instead of feeling this sort of ‘bliss.’ I think a lot of people still really struggle with that, but it’s hard to find other people who are willing to talk about it.
Among the things Nicki Minaj is known for, her confidence is far up on the list but she revealed in an interview with Cosmopolitan, that was not always the case, particularly in the early days of her career when things seemed like an uphill battle.
I kept having doors slammed in my face. I felt like nothing was working. I had moved out on my own, and here I was thinking I’d have to go home. It was just one dead end after another. At one point, I was, like, ‘What would happen if I just didn’t wake up?’ That’s how I felt. Like maybe I should just take my life?
The British comedian and actor has really made a name for himself over the last decade or so with his unique brand of humor and quick witted tongue. But Russel Brand has always been open and honest about his depression and the perpetual state of his mental health. Particularly after splitting from Katy Perry, Brand found himself spiraling and needing to channel his energy somewhere positive and he found that outlet in art.
I’ve never had a sustained period of medication for mental illness when I’ve not been on other drugs as well. It’s just not something that I particularly feel I need. I know that I have dramatically changing moods, and I know sometimes I feel really depressed, but I think that’s just life. I don’t think of it as, “Ah, this is mental illness,” more as, “Today, life makes me feel very sad.” I know I also get unnaturally high levels of energy and quickness of thought, but I’m able to utilize that.
After making her acting debut all the way back in 1983 in "New York Studies," Dunst has affirmed that she blames her struggles with depression on the unrealistic high expectations of Hollywood that never end. Of course the ridiculous pressures is just one of many things she has explained but it was rehab that helped her.
When I got the part, my friend Lizzy [Caplan], who is on Masters of Sex, said, “Be sure to get B12 shots to get you through the week.” I was like, “Really? That sounds very dramatic, Lizzy. By the third week, I was all over the B12. It was one of the best roles I’ve ever played – the writing is spectacular – but by the end, I was tapped out.deal with her depression.
Ryder has been a vocal advocate and open about her depression struggles going all the way back to the 90's. Even at the height of her fame she was open and brave, speaking about depression and anxiety with a sharp honesty. It is crazy to realize that 20 years ago she was a quiet voice among a silent majority just beginning to shine a light on a movement that only recently began to really get rolling.
I’m so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable. It’s so bizarre to me.
Ryder took a few years to break away from Hollywood and all the chaos that comes with it and then she signed on to a role in the Netflix original series Stranger Things and to this day she has not wavered in her ability to speak out:
I don’t regret opening up about what I went through [with depression], because, it sounds really cliché, but I have had women come up to me and say, ‘It meant so much to me.’ It means so much when you realize that someone was having a really hard time and feeling shame and was trying to hide this whole thing.
When Carrie Fisher passed away she left behind more than one legacy but one of her most noteworthy voices are truly that as her advocate for mental health. In fact, many would consider Fisher to essentially be a pioneer in the area of mental health awareness particularly for her unwavering voice in speaking out about her own bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs, each of which can last anywhere from weeks to months on end with little to no relief. Fisher speaking about Bipolar Disorder made people uncomfortable but she shined a light on it anyway, bringing comfort and support to the millions affected in silence. Even up until her death, Fisher advocated as an outspoken woman.
I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital,.I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.
To cope, Fisher even went to electro-convulsive therapy (ECT,) for treatment, something that tends to have a horrifying reputation but has helped many individuals cope in a healthy manner without resorting to the intensity of anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers. Fisher, and now many others believed it’s one of the most effective treatments for severe mania or depression that has not responded to medication.
After the birth of Paltrow's daughter, Apply, in 2004, she described her postpartum experience as, "blissful," and presumed that was her normal. Unfortunately two years later after the birth of her son, Moses, Paltrow experienced postpartum depression instead.
I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t access my heart. I couldn’t access my emotions. I couldn’t connect, it was terrible, it was the exact opposite of what had happened when Apple was born. With her, I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t the same. I just thought it meant I was a terrible mother and a terrible person.
But like many other women, Paltrow would not confront her feelings and instead it was her husband who came to her concerned.
About four months into it, Chris came to me and said, ‘Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong,’ ” Paltrow recalls. “I kept saying, ‘No, no, I’m fine.’ But Chris identified it, and that sort of burst the bubble.
At only the early age of 20, Hamm lost his father and spiraled into depression. Hamm was lucky to have a phenomenal support system surround him and help him cope and today he is an advocate for medical treatments to battle depression like medications and therapy. Speaking in an interview with the Observer, Hamm said:
I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me. Which is what therapy does: it gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps. And honestly? Antidepressants help! If you can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work and…’ Reset the auto-meter, kick-start the engine!