Mental health issues are more common that we think. As part of our human experience, we’ve all suffered some form of mental distress. And in that, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Nothing.
Mankind has been struggling with mental health issues way before we started being open about it, and nowadays – finally – the stigma is at least a little less.
Everybody hurts, and celebrities and well-known personalities of today and yesterday most certainly aren’t immune.
Mental issues are various and different, so let’s take a look at the most common ones we suffer and some of those most famous sufferers.
The British singer Adele may be famous and loved worldwide, but her deep anxiety regarding live performances, that manifested into stage fright, almost ruined her career. The pressure of delivering the best show was just too much.
Artists and creative folk often suffer anxiety attacks. Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionist genius, had his fair share of mental troubles. His anxiety, hallucinations and manic episodes haunted him his whole life. Until finally, at the tender age of 37, he sadly committed suicide.
Stress is the first and most common sign that something isn’t quite right. Ignoring the messages our body is trying to send us can be deadly. Here’s a recent article on how stress harms us. [CLICK HERE] . Sadly a few years ago, this was the case for a young Merrill Lynch summer intern called Moritz Erhardt, found dead in his London flat after working 72 hours straight. Listen to my BBC Radio 2 interview on this sad story here.[CLICK HERE]
Similarly, for Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, whose intense life created controversial literature, tormented relationships, debts and drug abuse. Aged only 38 he faced the severe consequences of stress and long-term laudanum abuse. Soon after he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and lead to his premature death a few years later.
Half a million people in the UK suffer from work-related stress. Work related psychological breakdown can occur without notice. Sadly, I’ve seen it many times.
In 2007 Britney Spears had one of the most notorious public breakdowns in pop history, shaving her head and attacking paparazzi. Pursued by a ruthless global media, over a year later her psychosis still remained popular in the tabloids.
Even my favourite philosopher Frederich Nietzsche suffered too! While witnessing a horse being beaten in Turin the genius collapsed to the ground, and at only 44 years old, suffered a breakdown He was put in an asylum until his death in the following year.
J.K. Rowling, one of the richest and most successful writers of our century, endured clinical depression for many years. Financial troubles, a failed marriage and the burden of being a single mum became unsustainable after her own mother died. Creativity came to the rescue as she started writing, breathing life into the truly legendary Harry Potter series.
Abram Lincoln may well have been described as “melancholic” but in truth experienced depression most of his adult life. While his condition was volatile as he reacted to emotional trauma, his used his famous coping mechanism to muddle through – wit and humour.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Recently in the news for his departure from the Royal family, Prince Harry was 13 when his mother – Princess Diana – died dramatically in a car accident. During his 20’s Harry acted out like a rebellious child - smoking weed, drinking and clashing repeatedly with paparazzi outside nightclubs. The pain of a hurt teenager led him to openly share his struggle with PTSD and found an organisation - Heads Together [CLICK HERE] - to bring raise mental health awareness.
Ever thought how Shakespeare would have defined PTSD? The monologue of Lady Percy in Henry IV Part 1[CLICK HERE] evokes and describes the misery of war created in those serving in the armed forces. It makes a beautiful read!
6. Bi-Polar Disorder
Carrie Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia of Star Wars, openly spoke about her experiences being bipolar. The actress shared how she gave names to her opposite moods: Roy, "the wild ride of a mood", and Pam "who stands on the shore and sobs."
Winston Churchill, the UK Prime Minister who led forces against Hitler, also suffered from Bipolar. He regularly referred to his “black dog” depression and admitted to making the most of his manic phases to concentrate on work. In fact, he published no fewer than 43 books and in 1953 won the Nobel Prize in literature.
Certainly, suicide is the most tragic and final chapter of any mental health issue. All too often we read of celebrity suicides in our newspapers. Welsh footballer Gary Speed in 2011, actors Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2014. Two cases of banking suicides in Hong Kong also strike close to home: a 33-year-old J P Morgan executive named Li who jumped from the Head Office in 2014, and Lui Yau-man, a 31-year-old UBS executive who did the same in 2015. Many are the theories on the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’. We’ll never truly know.
The most famous and rational suicide in history was probably that of Socrates. The Greek philosopher who changed the course of modern thinking decided, with complete mental awareness, to commit suicide, even explaining his reasons in detail. In this way he was the exception that proves the rule: his suicide was an act of profound reasoning rather than silent desperation.
There are truly countless other stories of celebrity figures, politicians, artists, and philosophers who have shared their mental struggle. Take note of their bravery and take care of your Mental Health. Don’t ever be ashamed of seeking help or sharing your experience. You are never alone.