First, it started with a surge of suicides.
Fear and Loathing’s author Hunter S. Thompson shot himself in 2005, then Michael Alfonso, aka Mike Awesome the wrestler hung himself in 2007. Infinite Jest’s writer David Foster Wallace hung himself in 2008. Another model hung herself, Gia Allemand, in 2013.
The iconic comedian Robin Williams hung himself in 2014, followed by alternative rock musicians Chris Cornell and, his close friend, Chester Bennington who both hung themselves in 2017. In 2018, the producer Avicii committed suicide by self-inflicted injuries with a broken wine bottle until he bled to death and there was yet again another hanging—Katie Spade handbag designer. Another death in 2018 included Playboy Playmate of November 1992 and former glamour model Stephanie Adams.
These surges of suicides heavily reported by the media encouraged an increase in civilian suicides.
Chester Bennington is an interesting case whereby his friends, family and fans failed him. The star released an album, One More Light, before passing which was a huge change in direction from his normal rock and roll metal music. The style had changed to slower electronica and the lyrics of every song seemed to relate to death, depression, or pain in some manner of speaking.
Signs of his impending doom were there all along but due to diagnosed depression, alcohol abuse and substance misuse, the signs were missed or trivialised. When you live with a person suffering from mental health problems on a day to day basis, sometimes those signals can easily slip through the net.
A common assumption is depressed people don’t laugh or smile. They can, whilst still experiencing depression. See the video filmed, 36 hours before he took his own life, by Chester’s wife that shows how easy it is to miss cries for help in the average family environment.
Mental health is as an active problem within the celebrity world. We only need to think back to Michael Jackson when he performed as a child with the Jackson Five and was first thrown into the spotlight. This, added to the problems well recorded with his father, led to a regression back to the age of the ten-year-old boy.
He also had a strange relationship with Macaulay Culkin, the child star in Home Alone (yet another sufferer of drug-abuse and mental health issues) said the King of Pop had nothing but good intentions and was like a best friend to him growing up. He is the Godfather to Jackson’s daughter Paris. The pair appeared to bond over their shared memories of abusive fathers.
Charlie Sheen is another shining example, not of a child star but the son of a celebrity he was always in the eye of the public. He’s not an actor to admit to his own mental health problems but instead hides behind a mass of drugs, alcohol and delusions of grandeur that exhibit symptoms similar bi-polar which has been a suggestion condition that may affect him. However, he has been quoted saying ‘all money and fame brought me was misery’.
Since the conclusion of the epic fantasy TV and book series Game Of Thrones stars of the show including Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams (playing leading ladies and sisters Sansa and Arya Stark) have spoken out on mental health. The pair have advised how the being thrust into the unexpected fame provided by the show severely impacted them during the crucial stages of puberty and beyond.
Negative comments from hundreds of thousands of internet trolls left the two women and friends hiding inside with each other throughout their spare time during filming. People picked on the teenager’s changes in weight, physical appearance and the condition of their skin whilst the two young girls were going through hormonal changes. Both of the actresses suffered from depression.
Sophie Turner confirms her mental state has improved greatly since starting a combination of medication and therapy. Now both women are considered powerful feminist icons and spokeswomen of mental health advocacy.
Not all celebrities are embracing this new open line of communication regarding emotional wellbeing, as Good Morning Britain’s controversial presenter Piers Morgan showed through a disagreement with Sophie Turner on Twitter.
The widely hated Piers claimed there is a wave of celebrities trying to make mental health fashionable alongside Coronation Street’s Beverley Callard. Sophie didn’t rise to the immature bait offered by the middle-aged Piers, instead backing up her words with facts without tagging him. That’s what is called adulting the right way.
It’s sad for society when a woman barely out of her teens has to guide men almost in their sixties to what is morally and socially compassionately correct. Karma has a way of coming back to bite people in the butt and now Piers has rightfully been removed from the air. Susanna Reid his ex-co-star is probably celebrating somewhere with a big bottle of champagne.
One singer who has been at the forefront of removing the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses is the one and only Demi Lavato. She’s reached out to the community to share her story of bulimia, anorexia and bi-polar. Having been well-known since childhood and a previous attendant of rehab, her fans and the world appreciate her honesty about the darker times of her life.
All these names that have been dropped are just the tip of the iceberg. Mental health affects 1 in 4 people, that’s 25% of the population, possibly more. It has no preferences; it doesn’t discriminate and can’t pick a ‘type’. Mental health illnesses attack whoever they can at will.
There is the question of the toxic circumstances around people that help to grow disorders. Common trend seems to be famous parents, childhood stardom and social media. Is it just for children to be used in media production if the impacts on them are so detrimental?
The newest, younger generation is more on board with proactive promotion of the awareness around mental health in society. Whereas some of the previous generation of stars are less inclined to be an active, positive part of the debate.
The important thing is more powerful people using their position and access to popular platforms to engage audiences in thinking about mental health differently.
If any of the topics discussed in this article have affected you, or already impact your life, please look at the NHS mood zone for help or check out the our mental health support group Mind Space MK. Our next meeting is on June 3rd, Monday, at the old bus station (now Unity Park Station) in CMK.
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