When celebrities speak up about what matters to them, the world listens—and especially teens and young adults. By sharing their personal passions and challenges, film and pop stars influence the way society views important issues. That’s why celebrity mental health advocates can make a powerful positive difference.
Recently, two of the biggest celebrities in the pop world have added their voices to the effort to address the teen mental health crisis. Lady Gaga is promoting a mental health program targeted toward adolescents. And the singer-songwriter Lizzo has opened up about her own experience of sadness and depression.
The Lady Gaga Mental Health Foundation
The megastar and Oscar winner Lady Gaga is the founder of Born This Way, whose mission is to provide evidence-based programs and campaigns supporting young people’s emotional and mental wellness. Now Born This Way is partnering with Teen Mental Health First Aid, a program that was launched in Australia in 2014. The course teaches high school students how to recognize when their friends are struggling with mental health, and what steps to take.
Lady Gaga, who has spoken publicly about her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of being raped as a teenager, is helping to bring the program into American schools. “My dream is that this happens in every school,” she says in a moving video about the initiative.
Celebrity Mental Health Advocates Who Have Shared Their Struggles
If you Google “Who is Lizzo?” you’ll find lots of information about the singer and rapper. And you’ll also learn that she has been very open about her depression and about going to therapy.
Lizzo is only one of dozens of celebrities who have shared stories of their mental health challenges. Prince Harry has talked about the breakdown that forced him to deal with the emotions he suppressed after the death of his mother, Princess Diana. His experience inspired the younger members of the Royal Family to establish a mental health foundation.
In addition, Demi Lovato has spoken out—and even written a song—about her bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and addiction. Actors Ryan Reynolds and Gina Rodriguez have opened up about their struggles with anxiety. Lili Reinhart, a star of the show Riverdale, has tweeted about her depression and encouraged her followers not to give up on themselves. Kristen Bell has shared her experience with anxiety and depression. And these are just a few of the many celebrity mental health advocates who are making a difference.
How Celebrity Mental Health Advocates Make an Impact
Celebrity mental health advocates further teen wellness in various ways. Here’s a breakdown of the positive impact they can make.
1. Help reduce stigma around mental health issues.
In the Lady Gaga mental health video, she says, “It’s okay not to be okay.” When celebrities talk openly about their experiences, they help to normalize mental health issues. Hence, they chip away at the longstanding stigma and discomfort around this topic.
2. They have the funds and influence to get programs started.
When celebrities back mental health initiatives, they get attention. As a result, schools, communities, and policymakers are more likely to sign on. For example, while the Lady Gaga mental health program is in just a few schools now, the attention it’s garnered will likely inspire other schools to get involved. Or it might inspire other foundations to start similar programs.
3. Pop stars and actors have an especially big influence on adolescents.
In one survey, 25 percent of teenagers reported that they were more influenced by celebrities than by the people they know. Therefore, it’s clear that teens listen closely to what celebrities say. And their messages around mental health are particularly important, as today’s teens and young adults suffer from anxiety and depression more than any generation before them.
4. By sharing their personal stories, they encourage others to do the same.
Adolescents facing mental health challenges often hesitate to share what they’re going through. They’re afraid that their friends and family might think worse of them because of it. When they see celebrities bravely sharing their vulnerabilities, they gain courage to do the same. Hence, they find out that they’re not alone.
5. Celebrities show teens that mental health struggles don’t have to define who we are.
These mental health advocates remind us that it’s possible to pursue your passion and accomplish amazing things even when you face mental health issues. Thus, their journeys show teens and young adults that mental health challenges are just one part of who we are—and they can be overcome with treatment and support.
In summary, celebrity mental health advocates can be larger-than-life role models. They serve as reminders that recovery and thriving are possible, and that mental health problems don’t have to keep young people from achieving their dreams.