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As we increase our awareness of how mental health issues affect our everyday lives, it becomes increasingly important to talk about our personal experiences. In working with people with mental health challenges, I’ve found that a dialogue will not only offer a therapeutic opportunity to share stories, it also helps others know that they aren’t alone.

Some of the most powerful voices out there are the ones that belong to celebrities. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed many celebrities speaking about their experiences with mental health issues. I’ve seen the positive effects that these celebrities can have, particularly on students, and the overall impact celebrity voices can have on person’s ability to speak of their own experiences.

 In what ways does celebrity influence help us better understand and communicate our thoughts and feelings towards mental health? Here are some of the greatest assets of celebrity influence that I’ve noticed in the mental health community.

Removing the stigma

Some people believe that there is a direct correlation between fame, money, and happiness. Although there is some truth to the idea that money can help improve a person’s circumstances in life, there is not a direct link towards happiness and wealth. Even still, many people view celebrities as being immune to unhappiness, and that mental health issues are only experienced by people within certain demographics. This leads to the misconception that mental health issues make a person “less than,” a statement that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When celebrities come forward about their mental health issues, it helps other people remove that “less than” mentality. Despite their money and fame, seeing someone you look up to tell the world that they are impacted by the same issues that you have can be comforting. The more people we have coming forward overall, the less prominent the stigma becomes.

What’s our takeaway?

With popular celebrities like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber becoming more open about their struggles with mental health, other people suffering from mental health issues will know that they aren’t alone. In the past few years, I’ve noticed a more positive conversation amongst many students surrounding their own mental health struggles, and part of this may be because so many of their idols are joining the conversation.

Because of this, through leading by example, I’ve found that many celebrities have addressed some of the methods that can be used to cope with mental illness in the press. Oprah, as an example, has been one of the most prominent voices in the conversation revolving around mental health. By speaking of her personal experience, Oprah has inspired thousands of people to come forward with their own mental health struggles, leading them to resources that have offered a greater sense of acceptance and personal joy.

Although celebrity culture can influence our society in a negative way (e.g. beauty industry standards and the pressure for people to look or dress a certain way), I believe that we can view some of the mental health dialogue that they’ve inspired as a positive step towards a better sense of wellness.

If you require more information about what you can personally do to help remove the stigma regarding mental health challenges, talk to your Student Assistance Program today.