Actor Jared Padalecki, known for his roles in “Supernatural” and “Gilmore Girls,” has become the latest in a long list of celebrities who are speaking out about mental illness. These famous people are talking about their personal experiences and using their popularity to help raise awareness, fight stigma, and encourage people who are struggling to reach out and get help. Padelecki has talked about his struggles with depression and initiated the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign to raise awareness and support.
Musician Demi Lovato has been outspoken and public about her experience with bipolar disorder and has become an outspoken advocate for mental health. She recently joined with several organizations, including the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Jed Foundation, and others, as part of the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health initiative. The campaign encourages individuals to speak up for themselves in asking for help and to learn how to speak out for others in the community.
Actress Glenn Close has been outspoken and active in bringing national attention to the issue of mental illness. After seeing her sister cope with a mental illness and the stigma associated with it, Close founded the nonprofit advocacy organization of Bring Change 2 Mind.
Actor Joey Pantoliano, has also been active in talking about his personal struggles with depression and substance use. He is raising awareness and fighting stigma through his No Kidding, Me Too! foundation. Among its many activities, NKM2 promotes messages of empowerments and acceptance through an award-winning documentary of the same name and a series of public service announcements.
Brooke Shields has publicly shared her experience with postpartum depression and written her story of despair and recovery in a memoir, “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.” Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia of “Star Wars” fame) has taken her advocacy to the stage with her autobiographical one-woman play “Wishful Drinking,” where she tells her story of bipolar disorder and substance use with openness and humor.
As Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., president and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, noted in a recent interview with CNN, "When celebrities speak publicly about their own experiences with depression or other psychiatric conditions, it's very helpful. It opens up a conversation about these issues. If someone you admire is going through the same thing you might be going through, it makes a difference with people, it causes people to seek help."
Borenstein is also host of a PBS series on mental health issues called Healthy Minds. You can view past episodes on topics such as bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and more online at WLIW – Healthy Minds.
By Deborah Cohen, senior writer, American Psychiatric Association