We live in strange times.
On the one hand it feels that, at long last, mental health is moving out from the under the shadow of stigma and judgement. People feel and, in many spaces, are more able to talk freely about their mental health issues, about living with conditions that range from anxiety and depression, to bipolar and schizophrenia.
Celebrities talk more openly and more often about their difficulties, like Hayden Panettiere taking the wise and brave decision to enter rehab to deal with severe postpartum depression, and then to continue sharing her experiences to try and ensure struggling mothers don’t feel alone, or Demi Lovato, who has never held back on discussing her history of depression, eating disorders, self harm and her diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Zayn Malik took all the right steps in canceling tours to address his severe anxiety disorder, and has talked frankly about coming to realise he was living with an eating disorder at the height of One Direction’s global fame.
Cara Delevingne has been honest about her depression, Catherine Zeta Jones and UK based celeb, Kerry Katona have opened up about being diagnosed as bipolar. Lena Dunham, a polarizing figure no doubt, has been incredibly vocal about not only her own mental health struggles but the range of ways she’s found to tackle them, starting with medications for nearly two decades, before recently finding exercise and lifestyle changes had a huge impact on her overall happiness.
I could list names for quite some time and in a funny way, it makes me happy. Not that their lives are impacted by mental illness, but the thing about everyone I mentioned above; every last one, is that pretty much all of them chose to discuss their problems. They wanted to.
Kanye West, to the best of my understanding, has not consented to his mental health issue being discussed in the public venue.
And let me stop you there; No, being a public figure, a celebrity, does not equate his giving you consent to know his personal shit.
Though I am becoming the problem by even mentioning this, what got my hackles up so very much was that following the news that Kanye is back home with his family (which is wonderful), his future projects are on indefinite hold and ‘sources close to’ the star claim he needs ongoing psychological help.
I am uncomfortable even typing that.
That is not my damned business, and it is not your damned business, and it is nobody’s damned business besides Kanye, himself, his family and the trained professionals who will make him well again.
I am reminded of Amanda Bynes, a sweet and funny and wonderful comedienne, who underwent a truly terrifying and heart-wrenching mental breakdown that lasted over a year.
For some very strange reason her glaring and obvious descent into delusion was portrayed by the media as a child star turned bad, which is a problem in and of itself, but what was really frightening was that Amanda spent much of her troubled year alone, unsupervised and with unfettered access to social media. She posted constantly, bizarre rants, disturbing videos, she was getting arrested, thrown out of apartments very publicly bouncing between LA and New York. And guys, we drank it up. We watched every second of it and we shared it with friends and we should be disgusted with ourselves.
While her family fought to find legal and proper ways to ensure her safety and well being, we watched her videos, we shared her tweets, we all decided it was just completely okay that a random fucking stranger followed her down the road and videoed her erratic dancing, all while Amanda remained almost entirely oblivious to both this stranger, and to just how much of the world was watching her.
This is not okay. We are all rightly, horrified if someone’s nudes are stolen or leaked and their privacy is so entirely violated.
But, when someone undergoes a mental health crisis, somehow, those rules change. Somehow that disgust that a vulnerable person is having their privacy violated doesn’t seem to be as close to the surface as it should be.
It is wonderful when someone who has struggled with a mental health issue feels strong enough to talk about it. It’s wonderful when famous people do it, because they have an absolutely planet-wide platform to encourage positive discourse and change by being open about their experiences. Seeing someone whose life you think is ‘perfect’ admit that they struggle, that they need professional help with their struggles … it can save lives. It can make someone who saw no way out pause and realise that if a famous celebrity with the world at their feet can throw up their hands and say ‘I can no longer go on without help and support’, that it’s okay for them to admit the same.
It makes me feel hopeful every time it happens.
But, it should happen because they want it to, not because they suffer in the public eye and we feel entitled to know the details.
We’re better than this. Let’s keep talking about mental health, every day.. It shouldn’t be a secret, a shame we force people to hide away. There is no shame in being mentally ill. Talk about it, talk loud to everyone. Never, never feel ashamed because you talk to a therapist or you need medication to help you get by. There is no shame in any of that.
But, there is shame in treating someones mental illness like entertainment.
Lets do better.