The star of the CW series Supernatural, Jared Padalecki, recently started a campaign to raise money for those who struggle with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. As part of the campaign, the actor opened up about his own battle with clinical depression, which throughout history, has been an illness kept hidden by people who were told their condition was “all in their head.” Even with education and public awareness campaigns, such as the one started by Padalecki, it is still difficult for some people who struggle with mental illness to see that help is available. However, when well-known, public figures such as Padalecki come forward to share their own personal battles with depression, those who share the mental illness may find that they are not alone.
Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway spoke in 2007 about the depression and anxiety she felt while a teenager. Looking back, the star of the movie Les Misérables refers to her teen self struggling with depression when she says, “I am sorry she was hurting for so long.” Much like Padalecki, Hathaway says that she was able to work through her mental troubles, and did not take medication.
Another Oscar-winning movie star, Gwyneth Paltrow, wrote on her lifestyle blog that after the birth of her second child in 2006, she was not as happy as she had been after the birth of her first, and was severely depressed. The author of two cookbooks describes the time that followed as “one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life.” Paltrow was never formally diagnosed as suffering from postpartum depression, and says she “didn’t know [she] had it until it was over.”
In addition to Padalecki and the above stars, actress Ashley Judd has come forward to share her own story of depression, which was the result of a childhood in which she never put down roots and was moved from relative to relative. Looking back with newfound awareness, Judd believes she was clinically depressed as early as 8 years of age. Recognizing that she needed help, the movie star entered a treatment facility, where she stayed for 47 days. Judd now expresses a new happiness with life, saying, “Now, even when I’m having a rough day, it’s better than my best day before treatment.”
Former child model and actress Brooke Shields famously opened up about her own battle with postpartum depression, when she admitted to having suicidal thoughts after the birth of her daughter, Rowan Francis. After going public with her depression, for which she was treated with antidepressants, actor Tom Cruise famously chided her for taking medication to treat her illness. The controversy was enough to start a nationwide conversation, raising awareness of postpartum depression, which Shields admits she had never heard of before hearing of the symptoms from someone she barely knew, and realizing that hers were the same.
Unfortunately, not all battles with depression end in a success story or a recovery like the ones of Padalecki, Hathaway, Paltrow, Judd and Shields. Perhaps the most famous star to lose the struggle against mental illness was actor Robin Williams, who took his own life in August of 2014. The Oscar-winning actor had been fighting through severe depression when he took his life at the age of 64, and had opened up publicly about his struggles with alcohol and cocaine addiction. Even so, fans were shocked to learn how much pain lurked beneath the surface of the man, often referred to as a comedic genius. His death, and the stories of other well-known and admired stars who have struggled with mental illness, may help to lessen the stigma of depression, and with awareness campaigns like that of Padalecki, those less famous, but in just as much pain, will know that they do not suffer alone.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Photo by Adi Sujiwo – Creativecommons Flickr License