Tackling stigma: Famous women who have spoken out about their mental health struggles

by Sarah Graham
Friday 12 December 2014
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Last week we published Tackling stigma: Famous men who have spoken out about their mental health struggles. Today we look at the female celebrities who've spoken about their mental health conditions. From singers and actors to writers and comedians, a number of women in the public eye have discussed their struggles in recent years, many of them in the hope that it will encourage other women to open up and seek help.

 

Depression

American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow:

I suffer from depression, and at its worst there was a six-month period in my twenties when I couldn't dress, days when I couldn't leave the house. Antidepressants helped and so did therapy, but depression is a chemical thing that some people go through. It's always been part of my life.

There was a six-month period in my twenties when I couldn't dress, days when I couldn't leave the house. Antidepressants helped and so did therapy.

British actor Emma Thompson:

I've had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom, then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer. It's the sort of depression that doesn't necessarily make you want to kill yourself, you just don't want to be. You want to switch it all off and stop. That's not the same as saying: ‘I'm going to kill myself.' But it's a feeling I know well.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling:

I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What's there to be ashamed of? I went through a really tough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that. 

 

Former Spice Girl Mel C: 

I was struggling to get out of bed and I was very tearful. My mum was really worried, so when I got home I went to see my doctor, who diagnosed me with depression. It was such a relief because I knew that I could get treatment for it. I took anti-depressants for 18 months and it was a very gradual road to recovery.  

 

I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. What's there to be ashamed of?

Comedian Ruby Wax:

The thing about depression is – and why people feel, well, I feel a lot of shame - is that there is nothing wrong with you on the outside. I mean, you don't have any lumps, or you don't have any scars. You are not in a wheelchair. So people go 'Come on, come on!' Especially in England, they say 'Stiff upper lip; snap out of it.' And you can't. It is not like you are sitting on your porch singing the blues with a banjo because your baby has left you. This is deep, dark, numbing abyss hell. So you will know when you have got it; but the point is nobody will believe you and that is the kind of horror of it all. What is embarrassing for me is that people think 'Well you have got it all - you have got a career, you have got kids and stuff.' But it hits everybody. So there are all those people all over the world; all over, one in four, who are suddenly going to feel like suicide; or are going to feel really ill; or really numb; or really frightened because they don't quite understand what this thing is.

There are different shades of it and depths of [depression], which is why I think it's so important for women to talk about.

American actor Gwyneth Paltrow:

The hardest part for me was acknowledging the problem. I thought postpartum depression meant you were sobbing every single day and incapable of looking after a child. But there are different shades of it and depths of it, which is why I think it's so important for women to talk about. It was a trying time. I felt like a failure.

 

 

Anxiety

Actor Patsy Palmer, best known for her role as Bianca in BBC's Eastenders:

I started to suffer from anxiety, and it went on for quite some time and then it kind of just built up and built up, and because I wasn't talking about it – I tried all different kinds of ways, but that's the point, keeping it to yourself is really not a good idea. It was very confusing not being able to accept that there was something going on mentally – I was suffering from depression. It was almost like I had gone in to some kind of blackout. I just couldn't face going in to work that day.

Keeping it to yourself is really not a good idea.

Radio 1 presenter Jameela Jamil:

I sometimes get so anxious about appearing publicly that since I was about 19 I've been suffering from panic attacks and severe anxiety. My confident persona on air is only one side of me... I'm really quite shy. I find it quite difficult to talk about my anxiety problems, Are people gonna judge me for it? Will people still like me when they see inside my head? 

 

 

Bipolar

British actor Catherine Zeta Jones:

Bipolar is something I have been dealing with for a long time. I never wanted to be as open about it as I was. I have a British stiff-upper-lip mentality – it wasn't something I wanted to shout from the rooftops. But when it did come to light, I know I'm not the only person who suffers with it or has to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. So if I've helped anybody by discussing bipolar or depression, that's great. I hope fellow sufferers will know it is completely controllable. 

I know I'm not the only person who suffers with it. So if I've helped anybody by discussing bipolar or depression, that's great. I hope fellow sufferers will know it is completely controllable.

 

 

Eating disorders

American actor Lindsay Lohan:

I was making myself sick. Sometimes being that thin doesn't look healthy. I kind of didn't realise that. One time when someone asked me if I was OK I just started bawling. I knew I had a problem and just could not admit it. My arms were disgusting. I had no arms. I had people sit me down and say, ‘You're going to die if you don't take care of yourself'. I ended up in hospital. My liver was swollen and I had a kidney infection and my white blood cells were accelerated. I was really, really white, like a ghost, and my legs were so numb from not walking. My body did not have enough strength to take a shower.

 

All celebrity images via Wikimedia Commons or Twitter


Finding support


If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 15 December 2014