The Mental Health Foundation asked whether celebrities speaking out about mental health issues helps to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.
We believe it does, and there are quite a few reasons which have lead us to that conclusion.
Firstly, in a lot of people’s eyes, celebrities are role models, and people that they look up to. To see a celebrity speak out about mental health is going to have a massive effect on their opinion of the matter, and if their role model speaks openly about mental health, the people who look up to them will most likely have their opinion changed if it was previously negative, or reinforced if it was positive. Even if they do not consider them to be role models, celebrities have a heavy influence on people’s actions and perceptions.
In today’s media society, celebrities are tools through which the media communicates, and therefore whilst a ‘normal’ person suffering from a mental health disorder may not be considered newsworthy, a celebrity most certainly will. It then becomes the duty of the media outlet to handle it in the correct way, but regardless the issues will be given prominence and news will be spread. Most importantly, what happens is a dialogue begins; in schools, coffee shops, the workplace and at home.
Finally, the achievements of celebrities can provide hope and inspiration for others suffering from mental health issues that they can and will succeed in what they do. To find out that a successful sportsman, musician or actor has been suffering from the same mental health problem that you have, can allow someone to see that they too can still lead a successful life. In addition to this, it may give someone the confidence to finally speak to someone about what they are going through.
In conclusion, as long as the issues are never trivialised or commoditised, then what celebrities are doing when they speak out is positive for the mental health community, and society as a whole.