15 Celebrities Share How They Fought Their Mental Illness To Help Others Find Courage

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 18 percent of American adults experience some form of mental illness. That’s one in five individuals. Four percent experience disabling symptoms that impact daily activities. Despite the prevalence of mental illness, many people avoid discussing it. This is certainly the case for celebrities, who run the risk of ruined reputations. Nevertheless, 15 highly-regarded stars have publicly shared their mental health challenges. They jeopardized their careers so others could be encouraged and empowered. Here are their inspiring stories, bright beacons of light on the path to mental wellness.

1. Ellen DeGeneres – Depression

Ellen DeGeneres - Depression

Low Point – In 1997, Ellen publicly disclosed her lesbian identity on her television show, “Ellen.” Advertisers withdrew their support, and the show was canceled. Ellen’s relationship with Anne Heche became grist for the tabloid gossip mills. Ellen sank into deep depression, and her career went dormant.

High Point – Hosting the Emmy Awards Show shortly after 9/11/01.

Winning the War – When Ellen divulged her lesbianism, she received letters from gay teenagers who refrained from committing suicide after she went public. Knowing that her disclosure was helping others gave her strength. She resolutely worked through fear and dejection. She says, “Everything bad that happened to me taught me compassion.” Ellen believes the most important goals in life are to have integrity and contribute to the welfare of others. Her lifestyle and work are a profound testimony to this principle.

RELATED ARTICLE: 13 Warning Signs of Mental Illness

2. Leonardo DiCaprio – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

1Leonardo DiCaprio

Low Point – In 2004, while playing the lead character in “The Aviator,” OCD symptoms surfaced in full fury. Repetitive tendencies were reinforced by portraying Howard Hughes, who also suffered from OCD. It was many months before Leonard regained stability.

High Point – Winning the Golden Globe Award in 1997 for his role as Jack Dawson in “Titanic.”

Winning the War – Leonard DiCaprio uses his strong will to combat OCD urges. He says he has to resist the temptation to walk through a doorway several times and step on every sidewalk blob of chewing gum. He has vowed to himself that OCD will not rule his life. In fact, he uses the condition to enhance his craft. Leonard says, “Portraying emotionally ill characters gives me the chance to really act.” Isn’t that a resourceful spin on a limitation?

3. Hayden Panettiere – Postpartum Depression

0Hayden Panettiere

Low Point – During mid-October 2015, Hayden Panettiere realized she needed help to overcome postpartum depression. She had been battling the disorder for 10 months, since the birth of her daughter in December 2014. Beset by moodiness, sadness, and feelings of doom, she admitted herself into a treatment facility.

High Point – Receiving the Academy Award in 2007 for the film “Heroes.”

Winning the War – As of November 5, 2015, Hayden says she’s starting to feel like herself again. She states, “Women need to know they’re not alone, and that they can heal from postpartum depression. It’s painful and scary, and women need a lot of support.” Let’s applaud Hayden for being proactive in seeking professional help! WebMD advises that early treatment of mental illness offers the greatest chance of recovery.

4. J.K. Rowling – Depression

J.K. Rowling 1

Low Point – As a single mother in her 20s, the acclaimed author of the Harry Potter book series battled severe depression and contemplated suicide. Separation from her husband triggered the condition. However, the sense of responsibility for her daughter spurred her to get professional help.

RELATED ARTICLE: 10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone With Depression

High Point – After nine months of cognitive behavioral therapy, Ms. Rowling overcame depression and suicidal thoughts.

Winning the War – While depressed, Ms. Rowling channeled her energy into authoring her first Harry Potter novel. Dark feelings were embodied in book characters known as “evil dementors.” Writing the fictional story was the first step in her healing process. Ms. Rowling has shared her experience of mental illness to dispel the stigma associated with it. She states, “I was never ashamed of being depressed. I went through a very tough time, and I’m proud I got out of it.” How fortunate for all Harry Potter fans! Since 1997, the seven-book series has sold more than 450 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages.

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