One’s a Prince. Literally. Another is a successful model and TV host. Still, another won seven Olympic gold medals. Who are they? All people who have talked openly about their mental health.
When celebrities, like Prince Harry (aka the Duke of Sussex, or just Harry), Chrissy Teigen, and Simone Biles, share their mental health challenges openly, it gives all of us permission to not feel okay. “We tend to think celebrities have charmed lives. When they share their mental health struggles it normalizes having conversations about mental health,” says Dr. Margo Jacquot, Founder and Chief Care Officer at The Juniper Center. “And that is a benefit to all.”
Grief Has No Time Frame
Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, when Harry was 12. However, it was almost 20 years later when he discussed it with The Telegraph’s Bryony Gordon. “I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and…shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he confessed.
That public statement opened a door to so many conversations: The impact of childhood trauma, the individual and personal nature of grief, and the repercussions of not acknowledging one’s mental health. He also helped normalize getting help, when he shared “I sought counseling after 20 years of not thinking about the death of my mother.”
Harry’s candid sharing of how unprocessed grief was impeding his personal and professional life 20 years later and publicly working through the grief to come to “a good place,” brought this conversation to the forefront.
Loss and Miscarriage
The grief of a miscarriage is often forgotten, ignored, or even discounted by others. From a medical perspective, in most cases, physical recovery from miscarriage takes only a few hours to a couple of days. For those experiencing miscarriage, however, the loss can be deeply felt and enduring.
Chrissy Teigen and her husband, musician John Legend, shared their very personal story publicly on Instagram, as it was happening. Her public sharing can help others experiencing the same tragedy by acknowledging that something did, indeed, happen. In fact, 7 million comments flooded Teigen’s feed in response, including condolences and many sharing their own stories.
This public discourse also helps by giving friends and loved ones permission, even tactics, to start a dialogue. “I’m hearing how devastated Chrissy was after her miscarriage, how are you feeling?” That conversation alone can allow someone space to grieve and feel the feelings that accompany such as loss.
The Pressure behind Sports and Competition
Simone Biles is another recent public figure who acknowledged the importance of mental health and self-care when she withdrew from all but one event (balance beam, for which she earned Bronze) at the Tokyo Olympics. Biles said she was experiencing the “twisties,” a loss of awareness of her position in the air, a situation that she had never experienced before, and which greatly affected her mental health and performance.
Not only did Biles share her mental health concerns publicly, but she has also been very powerful in her response to negative feedback about her decision to put her well-being first and make what she affirms as “the right decision to withdraw.” A mental health challenge is something that happens (to one in four people at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.) It’s not who you are. Nor does it negate all that you have done before and are still to do.
As Biles herself posted on social media in response to the backlash, “For some of you that may be how you define me but keep talking because I can’t hear you over my 7 Olympic medals which tied me for the most decorated gymnast EVER as well as most decorated American gymnast,” (followed by two blushing emojis).
Having high-profile athletes such as Biles talk about the importance of their mental health gets people talking more about mental health in general. And that’s only good. It also could benefit youth sports by inspiring coaches, parents, or athletes to think critically about their own experiences — and whether there is room for change.
If you broke a bone, there would be no question of rushing to the orthopedist. A psychologist or other mental health practitioner is the professional to consult for mental health issues. There are so many modalities and so much known about brain science to help people feel better, but many still resist because of stigma.
Rather than passing judgment, perhaps the best and right thing to say when a well-known celebrity or public figure talks about their mental health struggles is “Thank you.” When celebrities share their mental health challenges, it normalizes having conversations about mental health—which means less shame for those struggling privately and more support from others who may be able to help them seek treatment before things get worse.
At The Juniper Center, we believe it’s time to #demolishthestigma around mental health.