Celebrities Who Are Leading Conversations About Mental Health
By Paige Miller
The month of May is National Mental Health Month. Many women throughout the world are coming out about their mental health challenges and how we as a community can change the way we think about ourselves. Demi Lovato, J.K. Rowling, Halsey, and Kenzie Brenna are a few women role models who have suffered from a mental health disorder.
Demi Lovato, a 25 year old singer and songwriter, suffers from severe bipolar depression. Demi suffered from many eating disorders and depression when she was in middle and high school. After punching her co-dancer on set of a TV show, her parents decided that she needed to enter rehab. During her treatment at Timberline Knolls, Demi was finally diagnosed with bipolar depression. When this news finally hit Demi Lovato, her songwriting began to fall and she was seen as a different person. Except this did not keep Demi from the cameras. She used her depression as a way to speak out to other young teens and adults who were suffering from mental health illnesses. Demi Lovato produced a documentary called “Simply Complicated” and a book called Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year where she explains her own story. She also created a website called Be Vocal which allows people to go and read other stories about people suffering from mental health illnesses so they know that they are not alone. Demi has focused on her saying “Bipolar disorder may be a part of my life, but it isn’t who I am,” in order for her to get through her life. Demi Lovato has used her bipolar depression as a way to be a role model for young teens.
Most famous for her book series Harry Potter, behind the books J.K. Rowling suffered from severe depression. When Rowling was divorced by her husband, she became depressed and thought that suicide was the best answer. At the time J.K. Rowling was a single mom and did not have a lot of money. She thought she was a failure to her daughter. After her daughter saw how Rowling was acting, she told her she needed to seek help. When J.K. Rowling finally got help she was able to use her failure as a way to succeed. She began to write her first book out of many, Harry Potter. She used characters as a way to explain what she had been going through but in a secret way that only she would know. J.K Rowling makes sure that anyone who is suffering from any mental illness knows that they are not alone. As J.K. Rowling says “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” When someone suffers from mental health they feel like they are empty inside, and J.K. Rowling wants to stop that feeling. She has used writing as a way to release her depression and wants other people who are suffering to find something they love to do to release it too.
Halsey, a new American singer, attempted to take her life when she was 17 years old. When Halsey was in high school she felt bullied and misunderstood, and thought that the best way to end that feeling was suicide. After a suicide attempt, she was put into a mental hospital with kids of all ages, showing her that she was not alone. Halsey had been diagnosed with bipolar disease when she was 16 years old but never did anything about it. After her attempt she knew that she needed change. When Halsey was released from the hospital the first thing she did was turn on the radio. From that very moment Halsey knew that music would be her way of expressing herself. Her song “gasoline” was the first song that she was open about being bipolar. Songwriting allows her to express herself without anyone judging her. Halsey is a role model for many young teens who are experiencing any mental illness because she wants people to know that they are not alone.
Kenzie Brenna, is a body positive blogger, who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder. Body Dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness that allows people to see their body as a flaw in their appearance. Brenna wrote a letter to herself that stated, “I’m not ashamed of her. I’m not mad at her for not getting her s**t together. I don’t wish she looked differently. I don’t want her to change. I understand her.” She knew she could not change herself and if she tried it would be very hard. She wanted change, but knew it was going to be very hard. Kenzie started posting pictures of her body on social media to help her overcome her illness. She started to create hashtags such as #CelluliteSaturday, to show that you do not need to airbrush or edit your photos. After her posts became popular, she started her own blog to promote body image and started her own bootcamp.
Adwoa Aboah, Creator of Gurls Talk
By Ryan Hammel
Adwoa Aboah, a 25-year-old British fashion model who grew up in London, created an online platform in 2015 after a failed suicide attempt called “Gurls Talk” with the goal to build a community for young women to find their voice and to discuss mental health, body image, boyfriends, sexuality, parents, race, and anything in between; no topics are off limits. It is meant to be a safe space to talk about topics, as she previously experienced insecurities of her own, and wished she had a reliable platform like Gurls Talk to fall back on.
Aboah describes herself as a child in an interview with Vogue Magazine stating, “I was unsure of myself, and lost, a young girl who had no idea who she was.” She recalls her self- consciousness mainly revolving around her ginger afro, which she would spend hours trying to flat iron each day until she decided to just shave it all off. She also suffered from drug addiction for a while and suicidal thoughts. Aboah reminisces on her continuous struggle on trying to be someone else. One of the ways she overcame her negativity and codependency issues was directing her energy towards anything positive. This lead to the creation of Gurls Talk.
Aboah’s creation of the website Gurls Talk manifests her desire for all women and girls to be confident and embrace themselves. In an interview with CNN, she says, “‘Gurls Talk’ is everything I needed when I was growing up. It is a community and a safe space where one is able to share about anything without the fear of stigma or shame.”
The Gurls Talk community now consists of over 160,000 online viewers. Aboah has held events in London, Los Angeles, Mexico, and New York.
An interesting concern is how Aboah is a widely renowned model. While she acknowledges that the modeling industry can be part of the problem in creating an unattainable image for young girls to aspire too, she says it’s never specifically been the cause of her own issues.
When being asked what advice she would give to her 16 year old self, she says to CNN, “I would tell myself there’s light at the end of the tunnel, Adwoa. Things look scary but there will be a day where you wake up and you feel less scared, more confident, and you will love yourself. So just keep at it.”