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Celebrities and the taboo of mental health

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In a world where celebrities are ‘worshipped’ for their flawless fronts and marked as trendsetters, it is important that the messages and influences they portray are inspiring for the right reasons.

Social media has had a devastating effect on the lives of many young people who aspire to present a front just like their heroes. Body Dysmorphia is one of the most prevalent of these negative impacts. A study by the Keep it Real campaign in 2012 revealed that 80% of girls in America by the age of ten were currently, or in the past, had been on a diet. This was 6 years ago. They also found that 53% of 13-year-old girls have issues with how their bodies look, a percentage that rises to 78% when girls turn 17. Such issues early on can easily lead to mental health illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.

It is for this reason that the recent honesty from some celebrities about their mental health is so important.

When celebrities talk openly about their mental health they show us they are human. They start the conversation; they destigmatize the taboo surrounding the subject.

In an interview on Lorraine earlier this year George Ezra talked about his struggle with anxiety. He claimed that one of the main problems surrounding the conversation was that “we don’t have the vocabulary to talk about it. The more that we do [talk about it] the more that we’ll learn...that every one of us is experiencing something”. Figures collected this year revealed that 1 in 4 people will experience poor mental health at one point in their lives. So why shouldn’t it become a topic of conversation for which we have the vocabulary?

Kristen Bell is so honest about her struggle with depression and it really touched me watching her interview in which she talks about the importance of treating mental health and physical health on an equal level. Bell has taken serotonin inhibitors since her teenage years and says that she “ha[s] no shame in that”. She openly speaks on her frustration in the variation in people’s reactions when she talks about her medication compared to those who take it for physical health. She points out, “It’s just the same as a diabetic needing insulin; I need my serotonin inhibitors.” Kristen is comfortable with her own mental health and is trying to inspire others to be. “The world wants to shame you,” she explains. Don’t let it.

Demi Lovato spoke further on the subject of mental health care. She was very honest about the shortcomings of the American healthcare system and the support it offers its people who are struggling. She herself has recognised how influential her own voice can be. She furthers Kristen Bell’s stance that one should not be ashamed to speak out. According to her, “It’s possible to get help…it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength”. 

It is important when struggling with your mental health that you allow yourself the support that you need. It is the first reaction of many to keep how they feel to themselves. They are scared that they will be outcast or ‘ridiculed’ for being ’weak’. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Even if your friends do not understand your struggle from their own personal experiences, they will make the effort to help you as much as they can. If they start treating you differently or try to alienate you then they are not truly your friends and you are better off without them. As Cara Delavigne said, “You’re not an alien,” and you should not be treated like one. The worst thing you can do is to try to struggle on your own. You deserve more than that.

Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson opened up about his struggle with depression as well, admitting “I’ve found that with depression one of the most important things you must realise is that you’re not alone”. You feel like you’re alone and it's only you and I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and say it’s going to be ok...on the other side of your pain is something good. Celebrities if they have a platform- it’s good for them to share their stories if they’re comfortable with it.” 

One important conversation that many male actors are beginning to open is that of toxic masculinity. Although statistics reveal that women are more likely to experience a mental health illness, of the 6,233 suicides in 2013, 78% were male. Men tend to struggle more with a complex of shame surrounding their mental health and this is why it is so encouraging to see a figure such as The Rock talking about his fight with depression.

But it doesn’t just have to be celebrities. Anyone can speak out and have a voice and make a difference.

We live in a world where we hear a lot more about mental health. But this is sometimes misunderstood to mean that we as a society are a lot more accepting of it. This is not the case. It can feel alienating being on either side of the equation but if you think your friend or a family member needs the support it can make a huge difference just letting them know you are there for them. Others have started the conversation by breaking the ice; let’s continue it.

If you are struggling there are many points of contact. If you are not comfortable talking to friends, helplines and points of support are available:

- Visit your GP 

- Talk to the mental health advisor at your university

- Call the Samaritans hotline at 116 123. It is open 24 hours, 365 days of the year and is free.

- Call SANEline at 0300 304 7000 or learn more about them by visiting their website here. They are available 365 days of the year from 4.30pm to 10.30pm. 

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