The Importance of Celebrities Being Open About Their Mental Health

Let’s Talk About It


Genevieve York

Whether we know it or not, celebrities influence all of our lives. Their influence can be either negative or positive, it’s just the luck of the draw. Whether it’s models during fashion weeks or a player on your favorite sports team, celebrities are there: making their presence in your life known.

They become role models to us; the kind of clothes they wear or the lifestyle they live is something that we all desire. Because we often only view celebrities by their materialistic wealth, it’s easy to simply view them as objects. They don’t seem to have any emotions, so why should we give them any? 

But out of all the tone-deaf celebrities, there are gems, the actors or influencers who share their struggles with us. Their transparency changes how we view them, we stop for a second and realize that they’re human too. Celebrities sharing their mental health challenges have been seen as taboo for years, with many of our favorite “icons” hiding themselves in order to meet the societal assumption that they’re untouchable.

The media doesn’t seem to help at all either. Incorrect portrayals are very harmful to the public eye. Not only does it create a stigma, but it also creates a dangerous environment for everyone. Amanda Calhoun, a current Yale psychiatry resident, said “Representation is so important. If you are looking at a character on a TV that has a mental illness and you also have a mental illness, but that person doesn’t look at all like you, it’s not very comforting or helpful”. By using their influence celebrities can lift up groups and help make mental health identifiable, accessible, and relatable to all.

If only it was that simple.

The entertainment industry has a need to take any sign of vulnerability and set it ablaze with internet trolls and cyberbullying. The negative reactions cause fear and have damaging effects.

In the 2010’s, Taylor Swift was the target of all of the hate towards confident women. She had become an overnight sensation and her personality showed. It wasn’t all of the amazing things about the artist that caught the attention of internet trolls, it was her weight. In her documentary “Miss Americana,” Swift opened up about how those comments took a large toll on her, “someone said that I looked pregnant … and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit — just stop eating” (Vanity Fair). 

Taylor Swift performing on her Reputation Tour

Swift’s transparency about her struggles sent a wave of support from fans, telling her how much it meant to them to know they weren’t alone in their struggles: “It definitely made a lot of people feel more seen and feel like they had someone to relate to,” says Polina Melnick a junior at DHS. “It showed how many people go through that and helped de-stigmatize eating disorders”.

Taylor Swift isn’t the only celebrity to come out with their struggles. In May 2021, Ryan Reynolds revealed his struggle with anxiety during Mental Health Awareness Month. Reynolds talked to CBS Sunday Morning explaining how anxiety has affected him: “I’ve had anxiety my whole life really. And you know, I feel like I have two parts of my personality, that one takes over when that happens”. Reynolds says that the outgoing personality they see on screen is “often a last-second shift from his true self”(People). The actor would find his mind convincing him that all sorts of terrible things would happen before he would go on stage but as soon as the curtain would open, all of those thoughts would disappear.

He credited his openness to his family, describing how part of his role as a parent is to model behaviors, even if those behaviors are sad or anxious, they’re still just as important as happy and joy.

Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively speaking at Comic-Con

When celebrities discuss their mental health, it provides a valuable reference point that makes the problem seem less faceless and insurmountable. Usually when people find themselves at rock bottom it’s often because they feel all alone with their feelings. When mental health is talked about, not only does it set the listeners free, but also the speaker, as they are no longer hiding a part of themselves that shapes them. The struggle to bring more attention to mental health is still an uphill battle, but with more celebrities finding their voice and speaking up the chances are promising.