Young adults living with fame can be at increased risk for mental illness due to the pressure associated with constantly being in the limelight.
Many young celebrities are speaking out about their own mental health struggles to increase awareness, decrease stigma, and encourage wellness.
Riverdale has openly portrayed self-harm and suicide attempts, and its stars have also talked about their struggles and advocated for resources. Before getting her role on Riverdale, Lili Reinhart said that “my anxiety was so bad that I had to keep quitting jobs because I physically could not work.” Camila Mendes supported a culture of self-care saying, “I just started seeing a therapist, and I’m super stoked about it…to have that slotted time once a week to focus on myself is so essential to my well-being.”
In describing how she felt after the Manchester attacks, Ariana Grande stated, “I think a lot of people have anxiety, especially right now. My anxiety has anxiety … I’ve always had anxiety.”
Shawn Mendes related his first struggles with anxiety by expressing, “I knew people who had suffered from anxiety and found it kind of hard to understand, but then when it hits you, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what is this? This is crazy.”
Kendall Jenner has allowed us to see her struggles with anxiety through the show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. In describing the insurmountable pressure on her, she says, “I have such debilitating anxiety because of everything going on that I literally wake up in the middle of the night with full-on panic attacks.” She talked about the reasoning behind her anxiety with: “I just think that the world needs so much love. I wish I had the power to send Cupid around the planet, as cheesy as that sounds…it’s hard not to get eaten alive by all the negativity.”
Life bombards us with pressure—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… everywhere online
Zayn Malik also talks about the negativity surrounding him in his book Zayn: “Life bombards us with pressure—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… everywhere online there are unattainable body images that make us feel inadequate; competitive messages that bring us down; there’s pressure from our parents and our peers to excel—pressure everywhere.” Zayn is honest about how passionate he is for his music but how his anxiety gets in the way of that: “Even when you know you want to do something, know that it will be good for you, that you’ll enjoy it when you’re doing it, the anxiety is telling you a different story. It’s a constant battle within yourself.” There was a point when Zayn could not perform, with him writing: “I just couldn’t go through with it. Mentally, the anxiety had won. Physically, I knew I couldn’t function. I would have to pull out.” In the end, he is grateful in having shared his story: “Guys on Twitter were telling me how anxiety had affected their lives and saying that they were glad I had spoken up. It felt as though some good had come from the situation.”
Justin Bieber similarly describes how he had to cancel fan meet-ups because, “I always leave feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression. The pressure of meeting people’s expectations of what I’m supposed to be is so much for me to handle and a lot on my shoulders.”
Zendaya echoes the feelings of pressure with, “It wasn’t my best performance and I’ve never let myself live that down. I had mad anxiety ever since that.”
After Kehlani’s suicide attempt, she expressed frustration with social media, saying, “Is everyone that conditioned to celebrities not being real people?”
Cara Delevingne talks about why she chose to write her book Mirror Mirror with, “I felt like it was my duty, especially now for teenagers who grow up with so much pressure and social media and you know so much issues with identity and sexuality and family stuff. There’s just so much.” In general, adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Cara stated that it was quite difficulty for her to admit to her depression: “I was so ashamed of how I felt because I had such a privileged upbringing. I’m very lucky. But I had depression. I had moments where I didn’t want to carry on living. But then the guilt of feeling that way and not being able to tell anyone because I shouldn’t feel that way just left me feeling blame and guilt.” However, she realized that she should not be ashamed of her feelings and that she was not alone in this, saying, “It’s exactly the same as being physically sick.”
Rapper Angel Haze has openly talked about their depression and mental health struggles and has called teenage depression an epidemic. They stated, “I didn’t get better because I’m famous, I got better because I got help and started to learn how to be happy. I just want others to do the same.”
Both Noah and Miley Cyrus have been open about their battles with anxiety and depression. In talking about why she chose to be open with her mental illness, Miley said, “They [the fans] know I’ve struggled with depression, and that helped them get over theirs. That gives me a big purpose – a reason to wake up in the morning that’s bigger than to put on my…feathers and my little outfits.” Noah has talked about how important she feels bringing awareness to the issue is: “A lot of people like to judge you, and make fun of you on the Internet, and people make you feel crazy whenever you’re in a depression or having anxiety or having a panic attack…this EP is mostly just about how my emotions have been, and about my anxiety, and how I’ve been struggling with depression and how it’s okay to feel those feelings.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages ten to twenty-four, and four out of five young adults who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. To combat this and raise awareness for mental illness, celebrities have been vocal about the struggles they face and how they are receiving help.
Shannon Purser from Stranger Things encouraged her fans by tweeting a picture of a razor blade with the caption, “I haven’t self-harmed in years, but I kept this around ‘just in case.’ I forgot it was there & now it’s in the trash. Recovery is possible. Please don’t give up on yourself.”
Selena Gomez explained her situation by responding, “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”
After receiving help, Rowan Blanchard said, “I learned this year that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive. They can exist within me at the same time in the same moment.”
Celebrities are becoming more and more vocal in encouraging their fans to get help and in raising awareness for the growing issue. With the growing pressure on teenagers, it’s understandable that mental struggles would increase, but many are coming together to encourage a culture of wellness.
To contact the author, email Anisha Makhija at [email protected]