Are Celebrities Changing How We Talk About Mental Illness?

In the not-so-distant past, getting labeled with a mental illness could spell the end of a career in Hollywood. Although stigma undoubtedly still remains, a shift in celebrity culture around mental health seems to be occuring as more and more celebrities are coming out and talking about their own mental health challenges.

ssilvermanIn only one week during October of this year alone, we saw Lady Gaga and Sarah Silverman talk about their lifelong depression challenges, Cara Delevigne and Travis Barker open up about going through suicidal periods, and Hayden Panettiere and Sharon Osborne share their struggles with post-partum depression.

Still other celebrities have been willing to support the cause of ending mental health stigma by lending their voice to Public Service Announcements created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the video sponsored by Philosophy in partnership with the Hope and Grace foundation and Each Mind Matters, and many others.

So, does all this openness in Hollywood really make a difference in the fight against stigma?  According to Psychology Today: “High profile people who disclose their experiences with mental illness bring a positive light to health and wellness. Research supports this, with data showing how positive stories result in more people seeking help as a result of a celebrity’s disclosure. Stigma research has shown that the telling of positive stories about living with mental illness significantly reduces the myths of mental illness. When the public learns about a person who lives with a clinical disorder, manages it well and experiences a rewarding life, stigma is reduced.”

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But here’s the really interesting part: according to research, sharing your own story may have a larger impact on the attitudes of the people in your daily life than a celebrity’s public disclosure. This strategy for change dubbed “TLC3” by researcher Dr. Patrick Corrigan (for: targeted, local, continuous, credible, contact) appears to be one of the most powerful tools for reducing stigma in the long-term. In short, that means when everyday people talk openly about their struggles and their recovery with other people they encounter in their lives, real attitude change can happen.

Each Mind Matters supports and celebrates those in Hollywood and all across the state that are starting honest conversations about mental health. To learn more about sharing your story, check out our resources at: http://www.eachmindmatters.org/get-involved/share-your-story/