Social media is a forum for many things in the lives of young adults and teens. While most of it’s geared toward entertainment it can also be used to bring awareness to important issues that might otherwise stay in the shadows. There is a recent trend in social media that is catching on, which may help change the conversation about depression that teens and young adults might otherwise avoid having. Celebrities like Sarah Silverman, Jared Padalecki, and Cara Delevingne are sharing their personal experience struggling with depression. By being open with their experience they are starting a conversation among their fans about what depression looks like, and more importantly that there is nothing to be ashamed of for having it.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness such as depression. The stigma that’s attached to depression is in part due to the negative thinking that goes with it leaving people feeling ashamed, which often results in it becoming a secret that goes untreated. It is estimated that 50 percent of young adults who dropped out of college due to mental health issues didn’t seek out mental health services of counseling services on campus or outside therapy. Stigmas about depression often come from not understanding how common it is and how it affects everyday people. Common stigmas about depression give rise to inaccurate stereotypes, such as the following:
“Depressed people can’t control their emotions”.
“People with depression are probably damaged”.
“Depressed people are just whiners who feel sorry for themselves and make excuses.”
“People with depression are just weak and lack any willpower to get over it.”
“People with depression are antisocial.”
While stigmas such as this may have kept depression a secret for many young people, a new awareness is being brought from celebrities who have experienced it firsthand. Television star of the show Supernatural, Jared Padalecki is leading a charitable effort to raise awareness for mental health issues, and opened up in an interview about his struggle with depression. The actor shared, “I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense is my point. It’s not just people who can’t find a job, or can’t fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes.” The CW actor went on to share these encouraging words, “I say constantly that there’s no shame in dealing with these things. There’s no shame in having to fight every day, but fighting every day, and presumably, if you’re still alive to hear these words or read this interview, then you are winning your war. You’re here.”
The actor’s effort in raising awareness for mental health issues is fundraising a baseball T-shirt, which has the message, “Always keep fighting.” So far over 27,500 shirts have been sold and the proceeds are going to the group To Write Love On Her Arms, whose focus is helping people struggling with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
Comedian and actress Sarah Silverman is best known for her comedy, but her humor sprang from the battle to overcome depression on a daily basis. Silverman took a break from comedy in the recent dramatic film I Smile Back, as a woman struggling with depression and addiction. She revealed in a magazine interview that she was only 13 years old when she first became depressed and described it as “something shifted inside me. It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud. You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it’s, ‘Oh my God, I f—ing have the flu!?’ It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years.” Silverman was open by saying she also suffered from severe panic attacks and often avoided spending time with her friends, and instead staying home from school.
Silverman disclosed that she learned to take her depression one day at a time, and that rather than trying to mask her pain with heavy medications such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, she would allow herself to experience her natural emotions. “I’ve lived with depression and learned to control it, or at least to ride the waves as best I can. I’m on a small dose of Zoloft, which, combined with therapy, keeps me healthy but still lets me feel highs and lows.”
Supermodel and actress Cara Delevingne opened up about her past struggles with depression Women in The World conference in London, and disclosed that she was suicidal as a teen. “I was completely suicidal, and didn’t want to live anymore. I thought that I was completely alone,” she explained. Even having the support of her family couldn’t stop her from having depressive thoughts. Delevingne eventually sought out help in therapy, and combined with anti-depressants, has helped herself overcome her severe depression. Delevingne now hopes to use her celeb status to help young girls recognize that “depression is not something to be ashamed of. My message has always been to accept yourself no matter what, to love yourself, to embrace your flaws,”I think flaws are the things that make us special.”
Sharing personal experiences in social media can help end stigmas about depression that keep many young people suffering in silence. It is truly a sign of inner strength to speak honestly about how depression affects the way people think and feel about themselves. When celebrities share something deeply personal that connects with their fans they are also giving a voice and starting a conversation that could help young people get help. Hope is a light that shines brightest when we feel understood and supported. Hopefully this is a trend on social media that will continue.