Prince Harry and William have come forward to talk about their struggles with their mother’s death. Stephen Fry has shared his experiences with manic depression for years. Selena Gomez openly sought treatment for anxiety and depression. More and more, celebrities and larger-than-life public figures have come forward to talk about their struggles with mental health. It’s amazing, it’s progress. But it’s not enough.
Are these celebrity proclamations moving, brave, and hugely beneficial? Absolutely. With the ignorance and stigma that still remain amount mental health issues, it is a huge step forward to have role models and public figures speaking frankly. And, crucially, it makes us see how prevalent mental health disorders are.
But awareness that these problems exists, that they’re so prevalent, isn’t enough if we’re not engaging with it in our day-to-day life. Celebrities talking about their struggles is an important way of showing that these disorders and struggles can affect everyone— even the rich and famous. And it’s so important to understand that. To see that it’s no one’s fault. That is just happens. But if we don’t go that next step— if we don’t start to look around and offer support to those in our own lives— what’s the point?
Because when we realize that the struggle is everywhere, when we finally acknowledge that one in four people will suffer from mental health problems every year, then we need to start seeing it around us. The people in our lives are, for the most of us, not rich and famous. They’re just normal people, going about their lives. They may not have the support, the privilege, or the finances to seek help. So a lot of them just won’t talk about it. And some of them will go as far as they can to hide it. Without services and support, far too many people continue to suffer silently, feeling completely isolated from those around them.
One in four. When you think about the numbers, it’s terrifying. How many people do you work with? How many people are in your family, in your friend group? With one in four being affected, that’s so many people we interact with on a daily basis, so many loved ones who are struggling. So many people that we can try and be there for.
You don’t need to jump right in. No friend wants to be bombarded with invasive questions about mental health and many may not talk to you until they feel comfortable. But know the signs and don’t ignore them. The friend who constantly cancels because ‘they can’t be bothered’, but seems exhausted and flat every time you see them. The one who is obsessing. The one with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. You may already have inkling about who is struggling, maybe you’ll only start to notice when you look around. But for almost all of us, they’re there.
There are bigger changes that need to made, of course. More mental health services, more funding to provide those services, and there’s still a long way to go when it comes to perception and attitudes about mental health. But in the meantime, we can use the awareness that celebrities are spreading as a wake up call— as an opportunity to help those of us who aren’t shiny and famous. Those of us who are just struggling.
You don’t need don’t need to accuse or confront, in fact that may isolate them further. You just need to be there. To make the extra effort. Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed— there are services and information available to help us help the people we care about. And it’s fine to start small. Find safe spaces to spend time together, offer to come to them. Be open about your own struggles and see if they follow suit. Suggest ways to spend time that are pressure-free, where you can just be quiet together. When they’re ready, they’ll talk. But even if they don’t, you’re still there.