Designer clothes, luxury cars, and million-dollar homes can give off the impression that celebrities have it all. But for many famous people with depression, fame and wealth are no protection against mental illness. The smiles on the red carpet and charismatic interviews with the press often hide the fact that these A-Listers struggle every day with the disease, even while accomplishing amazing things in the public eye. Famous or not, celebrities with depression prove that mental illness does not discriminate.
Depression isn’t simply feeling sad or “down in the dumps” for a few days. Sadness and grief are normal human emotions whether you live in the Hollywood Hills or suburban New Jersey. Everybody feels sad from time to time. Depression, however, is something far more serious. It’s a diagnosable condition classified as a mood disorder that can lead to severe and long-lasting symptoms such as low energy, loss of appetite, lack of interest in things, and overwhelming sadness.
The serious health complications that can occur if depression is left untreated, can be life-threatening. Fortunately, effective treatments do exist, but because of the stereotypes surrounding mental illness, many people, including celebrities, would rather struggle than draw attention to themselves and seek help. Despite the stigma, some celebrities with depression are stepping forward and opening up to share how they are living with the condition. Many of these stars have used their platforms to help raise awareness and encourage others to seek help. The following are just a few celebrities who have spoken openly about their fight against depression. Below are some notable examples:
1. Simone Biles
The gold medalist and survivor of sexual abuse is no stranger to opening up about mental health. She described herself as becoming depressed after the Tokyo Olympics were canceled in March 2020. Over a year later, when competing in the rescheduled Olympics, Biles withdrew from the final competition due to concerns over her mental wellbeing. In an interview with Health.com, she described herself as someone that prioritizes her mental health and made time to see a psychologist every two weeks.
2. Ariana Grande
Although Grande is a global superstar and has won over 95 awards throughout her young acting and music career, she finds that her depression and anxiety often cripple her ability to do her job. The pop star has canceled meet and greets with fans and other tour events because of her battle with anxiety and depression. Grande has sent heartfelt apologies to fans through her Twitter and Instagram accounts saying how much she wishes she could control the attacks. Like many musicians, she finds making music to be extremely healing, however, she says performing on tour isn’t healthy for her. In an interview with Self magazine, Grande revealed that she has been in therapy for over a decade and her mental health is an ongoing process.
3. Johnny Depp
A chameleon on screen, Depp has spent his entire adult life on the big screen. But the talented star has had some personal struggles from financial woes to divorce that led him down a dark path of alcoholism and depression. He opened up in an interview with Rolling Stones about his hardships and how he is recovering. He revealed how he relies on therapists to manage his frequent panic attack and anxiety to avoid spiraling into severe depression. He finds writing and music to be therapeutic and often turns to them when he is feeling down.
4. Lady Gaga
The nine-time Grammy award winner has not kept silent about her battle with depression. The pop diva, who has battled several mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, has been very open about her health. Inspired by her fans, she became more transparent on the topic when she heard about their battles with bullying and homophobia, depression, and self-confidence issues. After discovering a gay fan, who had been bullied for his own sexuality, took his own life at 14, Gaga felt compelled to establish the Born This Way Foundation to help disenfranchised and depressed teens know they are not alone. She even disclosed that she takes medication daily to deal with depression but finds the biggest release from her dark thoughts through music.
5. Michael Phelps
The U.S. Olympic swimmer who has won 28 Olympic medals, is extremely open about his struggles with depression. Despite all the accolades, the Olympian told CNN, that he went into a dark place after the 2012 Olympic Games. For nearly 5 days he sat alone in his bedroom, questioning whether he wanted to be alive. He had spent his entire life training in the pool and didn’t feel like he had a purpose anymore. All he knew was, eating, sleeping, and swimming, and wasn’t sure how to live a “normal life.” Knowing that he was going down what could be a serious path, he told himself there had to be a better way, which compelled him to seek help for his depression and anxiety. Because getting treatment for his depression saved his life, he now considers himself an advocate for mental health saying, “It’s OK not to be OK.” His PSA commercials encourage those who are battling depression to get help.
The soulful singer told Vanity Fair that she slips in and out of depression quite easily and that she has a very dark side. The 10-time Grammy award winner has been candid about her depression stating that it began when she was just 10 years old. Although she says she doesn’t have any suicidal thoughts now, she does admit to seeing a therapist regularly. Most recently, Adele says she suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her son. But while most women who experience this type of depression don’t want to be around their children, Adele felt attached to hers. She felt as though she wasn’t enough. She encourages mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression to seek help stating, “It makes you a better mom if you can give yourself a better time.”
7. Jim Carrey
The funny man behind some of the best comedic acts and voices has spoken openly about how he struggled with depression throughout his life. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he uncovered how his years of fame partially contributed to his mental illness, pointing out that it can feel futile to spend one’s whole life curating and creating an identity for ourselves. He believes everything is based on ego; a desire to be important to someone and to matter but grappling with a singular identity only leads to pain and suffering. He shared with news correspondent Steve Kroft, that he doesn’t have depression any more thanks to leading a very clean, spiritual life, and daily antidepressants. He stays clear of any substances including drugs, alcohol, and even caffeine.
8. Kristin Bell
The successful actress, wife, and mother who appears to be a ray of sunshine in front of the camera, has had a serious battle with depression behind the scenes. In an interview with Off-Camera, Bell shared that she has struggled for years with anxiety and depression and has always treated it with medication. She is very confident in her confession and describes it as something she inherited; her mother and grandmother also struggled with mental illness. She encourages those who grapple with depression to seek help with her choice words, “You would never deny a diabetic his insulin, but for some reason when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately crazy or something.”
Queen B wasn’t always the strong, confident diva we see today. After the breakup of Destiny’s Child in 2006, Beyoncé admits she suffered from depression saying that she “didn’t eat and stayed in her bedroom most of the time.” She felt lonely, uncertain of her future, and hopeless – as if her identity had been taken from her. She credits her mother’s persistence to take care of her mental health as the main reason she was able to overcome the disease. In 2011, she finally took her mother’s advice and after a long struggle, took a year off to focus on herself. She spent time doing the things she loved like going to the ballet, and the theater, traveling, and ultimately fighting her mental illness through renewed self-discovery.
10. Chrissy Teigen
Like Adele, Teigen struggled with postpartum depression. In an open letter to Glamour, she wrote about her mental illness, though she admits she hesitated to do so. In the letter, she shared that for a long time, even getting out of bed was painful and she didn’t have an appetite. The celebrity who loves to both cook and eat said she would go days without a bite of food. In her letter to Glamour, she also says that she felt guilty for being depressed because she had what seemed like the perfect life. But postpartum depression can affect anyone – even celebrities. Like anyone, she couldn’t control when the mental illness occurred, which is part of the reason why it took her so long to speak up. The emotions felt so horrible, she said to Glamour, that she wasn’t sure how to describe the way she was feeling. She encourages other women who struggle with depression of any kind – postpartum, anxiety, or a combination, to seek help. Beyond depression, Teigen regularly shares her thoughts on body issues, and other anxieties on her Instagram and Twitter pages.
Everyone experiences depression differently. Celebrities are just like us in that they often struggle with depression, anxiety, and other types of mental illness. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help. Like all of the celebrities mentioned, you too can be free to live a happier and healthier life.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Depressive Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
- World Health Organization. (2021, September 13). Depression. WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression