There's no escaping mental health challenges—everyone has them. So, if you struggle with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse you've got lots of company.
Mental health Battles
Here we spotlight some accounts of brave singers, actors—even royalty—battling big emotions and in some cases mental illness, as the whole world watches. Ryan Reynolds, Meghan Markle, Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes along with 11 others, prove that no amount of money, glamour, physical health, or privilege can fend off the heartbreak and devastation of despair. But when the glitterati shares their struggles by speaking out, it normalizes the problem and helps the rest of us feel less alone.
Actor Ryan Reynolds
Although Canadian-born actor Ryan Reynolds is often cast as a savage superhero, he admits to struggling with stress and anxiety both on and off the screen. Growing up Reynolds says he was shy and often used humor to deflect attention away from himself—and to keep him safe. "I have three older brothers. So I was less a brother and more of a moving target in our house," Reynolds told NPR in March (2022). "And I developed a bit of a silver tongue as a kid." On Instagram, Reynolds once referred to his anxiety as his "lifelong pal" and told SELF that his parents didn't model the best mental health coping skills. "They were part of a generation that didn't really discuss mental health." Today, the father of three young daughters encourages conversation at home around difficult feelings and shares his personal struggles in an effort to destigmatize common issues like anxiety. Reynolds seems to be living proof that tough guys can—and should—have a soft side, too!
Child Actor Amanda Bynes
Britney Spears may have put the word "conservatorship" on the map but she isn't the only star who wants out. What is a conservatorship? A conservatorship (aka guardianship) is an unusual legal arrangement intended to protect someone—often an elderly person—from potentially harming themselves. The court appoints a conservator, or guardian, to make financial and medical decisions until the protected individual is able. It's meant to be a temporary solution. Thanks in part to the FreeBritney movement, conservatorships have come under increasing scrutiny for being largely unregulated nationwide. Now 35, actor Amanda Bynes, who starred in her own show as a child, has been under her parents' guardianship since 2013, according to multiple media outlets, after legal and substance abuse issues plagued her. But nearly a decade has passed and Bynes is ready to be rid of their rule. In a short video on Instagram (in March 2022), Bynes thanked her followers for their "love and support" and let them know her day in court was fast approaching. (Conservatorship can only be granted and lifted by the courts.) NBC News reported that Amanda's mother, Lynn Bynes, supports her daughter's intention. Stay tuned to find out if the courts return control of her finances to Amanda Bynes.
Singer Britney Spears
In November 2021 Britney Spears' 13-year conservatorship was finally ended by a Los Angeles County judge. During this time the singer and actress had no control over her finances or aspects of her personal life, such as getting married or having more children. After fans in April 2019 suspected Spears was forced to check into a mental health facility, her private court battles became more public, and she spoke out about her situation for the first time in June that year. This inspired an explosion of support led by the FreeBritney movement. In June 2021 Spears testified to conservatorship abuses by her father, including being forced to wear an IUD and being medicated without her knowledge. It became more clear to the world that while tabloids reveled in her "erratic" behavior in the late 2000s and 2010s, the superstar was surrounded by people who did not have her best mental health interests at heart. On Instagram shortly after the judge's decision, Spears said: “I'm not here to be a victim. I lived with victims my whole life as a child. That's why I got out of my house, and I worked for 20 years and worked my ass off. ... I'm here to be an advocate for people with real disabilities and real illnesses. I'm a very strong woman, so I can only imagine what the system has done to those people. So hopefully, my story will make an impact and make some changes in the corrupt system.”
Actor and Royal Meghan Markle
Conversations around race, estrangement, and mental health continue to plague the royal family now that the series Harry & Meghan has been released on Netflix (December 2022). The six-part series, which was produced in collaboration with the couple, airs less than two years after the now-infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey. In that March 2021 interview (seen by 17 million people), Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and former actress of the television series Suits, revealed to Oprah that she suffered from a culture of isolation and silencing when she was part of the royal family. Being told "no" by senior human resources staff at Buckingham Palace when she asked for help, triggered thoughts of suicide. "I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was very clear and real and frightening,” Meghan said during the interview. Says psychologist Doreen Marshall, PhD, vice president of mission engagement for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "Seeing her speak about it helps people understand that suicide is not a forgone conclusion for anyone having suicidal thoughts. It doesn't mean that you will die by suicide or even attempt suicide. But it is an indicator that your mental health may need attention."
Singer Bruce Springsteen
In his 2017 book, Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen writes about his personal struggles with depression and mental health in his family. “As a child, it was simply mysterious, embarrassing, and ordinary,” he writes In a later interview aired on the New Yorker Radio Hour podcast (in January 2021) he explained his energetic concert performances as a form of catharsis: “I had had enough of myself by that time to want to lose myself. So I went onstage every night to do exactly that.” He also described other ways he coped in Esquire magazine (2018). “I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself. I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years, and I’m on a variety of medications that keep me on an even keel; otherwise, I can swing rather dramatically and . . . just . . . the wheels can come off a little bit. So we have to watch, in our family. I have to watch my kids, and I’ve been lucky there. It ran in my family going way before my dad". Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Actor Angelina Jolie
Actress Angelina Jolie opened up about her battle with depression in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Magazine in November 2015. In her teens, Jolie Pitt suffered from depression, which she attributes in part to her “unhealthy” hometown. “I grew up in L.A., where focus is very inward. I didn’t know why I was so destructive and miserable. I didn’t appreciate or understand my life.” Her unhappiness was further compounded by guilt. “I was raised in a place where if you have fame and money and you’re decent-looking and have the ability to work in this industry, you have everything in the world. Then you attain those things and realize you still couldn’t be more empty. I didn’t know where to put myself.”
Actor Cara Delevingne
At just 15-years-old, model turned actress Cara Delevingne hit “a massive wave of depression, anxiety, and self-hatred,” she told Vogue in June 2015. She took numerous psychotropic medications, saw an armada of therapists, and found herself contemplating suicide in her New York apartment. “I was packing my bags, and suddenly I just wanted to end it. I had a way, and it was right there in front of me. And I was like, I need to decide whether I love myself as much as I love the idea of death,” she told Vogue.
Actor Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt spoke candidly about his battle with depression in the 1990s. "I used to deal with depression, but I don't know, not this decade—maybe last decade. But that's also figuring out who you are. I see it as a great education, as one of the seasons or a semester: 'This semester I was majoring in depression,’ he told the Hollywood Reporter in January 2012. "I was doing the same thing every night and numbing myself to sleep, the same routine. Couldn't wait to get home and hideout. But that feeling of unease was growing and one night I just said, 'This is a waste.'"
In 2011 actress Catherine Zeta-Jones revealed that she has bipolar II disorder, which causes severe depression. Speaking to Good Housekeeping about battling the illness, she said, “Finding out that it was called something was the best thing to ever happen 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. There are amazing highs and very low lows.” “There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help,” she told People magazine in April 2011.
Actor Winona Ryder
Following the breakdown of her high-profile relationship with actor Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, then 19, began abusing alcohol, having anxiety attacks, and spiraling into depression, she told The San Francisco Chronicle in January 2000. “There was a time when I was 19 that I really, really, really thought I was going crazy. I was exhausted and going through a terrible depression.” After falling asleep with a lit cigarette and setting herself on fire, Ryder sought treatment, briefly, in a mental institution herself, and finally with a private therapist.
Actor Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington spoke out in May 2015 about de-stigmatizing mental illness and mental health. She also opened up about seeing a therapist in the magazine, noting that keeping tabs on mental health is just as important as monitoring our physical wellbeing. “My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things as healthy as my teeth,” she told Glamour magazine. “I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to the shrink?”
Actor Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson experienced depression during his early 20s when his football career stalled. Speaking to Men's Health magazine in 2022, Johnson told other men who may be dealing with depression: “I think one of the defining, seminal moments in my life was when I really realized the power and the value of asking for help. You know, really kind of checking your ego at the door. As guys, we have a tendency to not ask for help. Ego gets in the way, and we start stuffing things deep down in our guts, which is not a good thing. ... You gotta ask for help. There’s no shame in that.”
Actor Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow opened up about her experience with postpartum depression in an interview with Good Housekeeping in February 2011. “I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t access my emotions,” she revealed. “I thought postpartum depression meant you were sobbing every single day and incapable of looking after a child. But there are different shades and depths to it.”
Actor Jon Hamm
"Mad Men" actor John Hamm experienced chronic depression at just 20-years-old following his father’s death. He looked to therapy and antidepressants to recover, as well as the structured environment of college and work. "You can change your brain chemistry enough to think: 'I want to get up in the morning; I don't want to sleep until four in the afternoon," Hamm told The Observer in September 2010.
Actor Amanda Seyfried
Actress Amanda Seyfried opened up about her use of antidepressants as part of her ongoing treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a common side effect of which is depression. “I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off it. Whether it’s a placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool?” she told Allure magazine in October 2016. “A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category, but I don’t think it is,” she continued. “It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there.”