2016 Recap: A Year of Celebrities Speaking Out for Mental Illness

2016 Recap: A Year of Celebrities Speaking Out for Mental Illness
  • As 2016 comes to a close, many people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions, goals, dreams, aspirations, but it’s also good to think about the past, our experiences, lessons we’ve learned, and things we’ve accomplished. I recently came across an article that specifically addressed the rise of celebrities with mental illness speaking out in the media and sharing their experiences. This is HUGE! On our quest to combat stigma, celebrities bringing mental health into the mainstream is a great conversation starter and meaningful piece for others to share their stories and communicate their experiences with others. It’s great to hear celebrities and the media are using their influence to positively attack stigma.


Here are some of the celebrities that have opened up about mental illness this past year and what they had to say:

  • Kristen Bell, on feelings of depression: Its debilitation was all-consuming and it shut down my mental circuit board.
  • Selena Gomez, on her strugg12-30-16 post Kid Cudiles & recovery: I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside. And I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down, but I kept it too much together, to where I let myself down…If you are broken, you don’t have to stay broken.
  • Kid Cudi, on his struggles & recovery: My anxiety and depression have ruled my life…[but] I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling.
  • Wentworth Miller, on resiliency: My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without. Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.
  • Hayden Panettiere, on the significance of mental illness in her life: …impacted every aspect of my life…
  • Zayn Malik, on understanding mental illness: My anxiety is so upsetting and difficult to explain. It’s this thing that swells up and blocks out your rational thought process…It’s a constant battle within yourself.
  • Lady Gaga, on empathy: My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.
  • Brandon Marshall, on standing together: How many others are out there suffering?…we have to galvanize this community.
  • Justin Vernon, on self-disclosure: I don’t like talking about it, but I feel it’s important to talk about it, so that other people who experience it don’t feel it’s just happening to them.12-30-16 post Demi Lovato
  • Demi Lovato, on continuity of care: It’s something you maintain to make sure that you want to live with mental illness. You have to take care of yourself.
  • Brandon Brooks, on anxiety: What I mean by anxiety condition [is] not nervousness or fear…I have an obsession.
  • Evan Rachel Wood, on stigma: For so long, I was ashamed. You’re dealing with the shame that the world has imposed upon you, and then on top of that, the shame of identifying that way…A good way to combat that and the stereotypes is to be vocal.
  • Cara Delevingne, on appearances: I realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die.
  • Prince Harry, on assumptions: A lot of people think if you’ve got a job, if you’ve got financial security, if you’ve got a family, you’ve got a house, all that sort of stuff-everyone seems to think that is all you need and you are absolutely fine to deal with stuff.
  • Rowan Blanchard, on mental illness as an opportunity: 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. While also becoming more forgiving of myself and my emotions, I became more forgiving of others.
  • 12-30-16 post Michael PhelpsMichael Phelps, on self-stigma: I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love. I think the biggest thing was, I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else…I was lost, pushing a lot [of] people out of my life-people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from.
  • Jenifer Lewis, on getting help: I couldn’t ignore the fact that something was wrong anymore.
  • Adele, on experiencing mental illness: It can come in many different forms.
  • Jared Padalecki, on self-worth: I am enough. And you are enough…I know I can keep fighting and I know that I’m trying to love myself, but sometimes you feel like you’re not enough. So this message is helping me kind of understand that I am enough-just the way I was made.
  • Amanda Seyfried, on medication: What are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else.
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones, on receiving a diagnosis: Finding out that it was called something was the best thing that ever happened to me! The fact that there was a name for my emotions and that a professional could talk me through my symptoms was very liberating.
  • Devon Murray, on speaking out: Open up, talk to people. If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering in silence [reach out] to them. Let them know you care.



So as 2016 comes to a close, I’m grateful for the celebrities that have opened up about their experiences to begin to increase awareness and end stigma, but this is only the beginning. YOU can make a difference in your schools and communities, especially through the Stand Together initiative. As Gandhi said,

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. 12-30-16 post Gandhi


  • As Aaron Harvey describes our mission:
  • Many celebrities have helped bring the conversation around mental health into the main stream. But it’s on us to make the real change happen. While it’s amazing to have celebrities out there blazing trails and introducing a radical new transparency, the most important thing is that individual sufferers communicate with their everyday connections.

    If we really want to make an impact on stigma, it can’t just be a headline.

12-30-16 post Keep Calm

Special thanks to Robbie Couch who compiled these quotes into the article, 31 Celebrities who Smashed the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness in 2016, on upworthy.com (12/20/2016).

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