by Anne-Marie Varga
Medically Reviewed by:
Danielle Wade, LCSW
by Anne-Marie Varga
Medically Reviewed by:
Danielle Wade, LCSW
In the limelight it could be easy to hide the truth, but these celebs have been honest about their depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation to encourage others to seek help.
Fame, fortune, beauty — celebrities seemingly have it all. It’s easy to let jealousy get the best of us; I constantly find myself yearning for their paychecks, their mansions, and their opportunities. And it’s easy to convince ourselves that these people live perfect lives.
But not even all the recognition in the world can shield famous individuals from depression, anxiety, and the various struggles that we can all relate to.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 21 million adults — that’s 8.3% of the U.S. population — experienced at least one major depressive episode in the year 2021. In 2020, it was estimated that 1 in 5 adults reported having ever been diagnosed with depression.
With diagnoses continuing to rise, it’s becoming more common and more important to openly discuss mental health. And those with greater platforms harness greater power in reaching more people in order to continue those conversations.
Here are six celebrities who have been open about their depression and anxiety:
Though the pop superstar says he’s dealt with depression since his formative years in elementary school, Ed Sheeran expressed that his mental health took a toll following the death of his best friend, Jamal Edwards.
In February 2022, Edwards passed away from cardiac arrhythmia caused by cocaine use. Shortly after, Sheeran’s wife, Cherry Seaborn, who was 6 months pregnant, was diagnosed with a tumor that was inoperable until she could give birth.
Sheeran expressed in an interview with Rolling Stone that his anxiety and depression worsened, even leading to suicidal ideation. “I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore…” he told the magazine. “You’re under the waves drowning. You’re just sort of in this thing. And you can’t get out of it,” he continued.
Sheeran also discussed the shame he carried, lamenting that his feelings “seemed selfish, especially as a father.” From the suggestion of his wife, Sheeran sought therapy to grapple with his depression. He’s since released an album and a docuseries on Disney+ addressing the turbulent time of his life and its effect on his mental health.
Constance Wu’s breakout role in the TV series “Fresh Off the Boat” made her a recognizable name in the Hollywood community. In May 2019, following a social media fiasco surrounding the show, Wu experienced severe depression and a suicide attempt.
The ”Crazy Rich Asians” actress told Good Morning America in an interview that she felt she was “essentially canceled for coming off as ungrateful,” after she tweeted about her disappointment that “Fresh Off the Boat” had been renewed for a sixth season. “I was canceled for not being the Asian people wanted me to be,” she said.
After another Asian American actor DM’d her and criticized her tweets, Wu attempted suicide but was found by a friend. During a conversation on Red Table Talk, Wu shares, “They checked me in [a psychiatric emergency room]… I had to be in therapy with a psychiatrist and a psychologist for a while.”
Though the experience was challenging, Wu says it “made [her] realize how important it is to reach out and care for people who are going through a hard time.”
Singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer, Jack Antonoff is recognized for his work with some of the most prevalent musicians to date (the likes of Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and The Chicks) as well as the frontman of his own band, Bleachers.
But outside of the recording studio, the Album-of-the-Year-Grammy Winner says he’s battled with depression and anxiety since childhood, following the death of his little sister. The event, coupled with another death in his family, and as he told ABC News, left him feeling as if “anything horrible was possible.” Since then, he’s expressed feeling as though a part of him “moves forward and [another part is] frozen.”
Antonoff also spoke to BBC and discussed how music and songwriting have helped his mental health, saying, “Some people need to build things to communicate, and I know people who can’t feel their existence unless they’re being very physical in some kind of way. I’ve always needed music. I see it as a language.”
Grammy-award-winner Kendrick Lamar has also channeled his mental health struggles into art. The rapper, who is recognized for his progressive and socially conscious musical style, penned the song “u” for his album ”To Pimp a Butterfly.” In the lyrics, the Compton-born musician chastizes himself for leaving Compton to live a privileged life.
He raps “I know depression is restin’ on [my] heart for two reasons,” and “if I told [my] secrets the world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.”
In an interview with MTV, Lamar expressed that he struggled with depression when he was touring and promoting his music while simultaneously shouldering the guilt of leaving his city.
He told MTV “when I was on that tour bus and things is happening back home in my city or in my family and I can’t do nothing about; it’s out of my control … And that can draw a thin line between you having your sanity and losing it.”
He continues to explain that he copes with his mental health by writing music and traveling. “The more and more I got to travel,” he said, “I got to see other people’s problems … their struggle was 10 times harder.”
Meghan Markle has made headlines in recent years, largely due to her high profile marriage to Prince Harry. Following the couple’s decision to step back from Royal Duties in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sat down for an interview with Oprah during which they discussed their experience in the Royal Family.
In it, Markle expressed that during her time in the United Kingdom, she experienced suicidal ideation. “I was really ashamed to say it at the time,” she told Oprah, “But I knew that if I didn’t say it, then I would do it … I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Despite seeking help while a working member of the Royal Family, Markle claims she was denied the mental health assistance she asked for. “I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help,” she said.
Markle and her husband have since made a life for themselves in Montecito, California, where they’re raising their two children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.
The formerly ranked #1 tennis player in the world, Naomi Osaka, has been open about her mental health journey since 2021. During the 2021 French Open, Osaka refused to take part in the press conference because she chose to “safeguard her mental well-being.”
She was consequently fined $15,000 and threatened with expulsion from the tournament. Osaka instead chose to withdraw and released a statement on her social media.
In it, she wrote, “I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that … I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.” The move, at the time, was unprecedented in professional tennis.
Osaka told Good Morning America that “saying out loud that I’ll take a break and come back when I am truly in love with the sport … it gave me time to reset myself.” Osaka says that she uses journaling to calm her anxiety, stating “I think that keeps my thoughts in order … it gives me clarity on what I want to do and what I want to accomplish.”
The more that I see these celebrities — among others — openly talk about their mental health, the more I find that they seem more human.
I don’t see them as characters on the screen or photos on social media but as real people with real struggles. Their celebrity seems to fade away. It’s instead momentarily masked under the blanket of depression that we, here, seemingly share at some point in our lives.
In an age of social media, where access to other people’s lives is abundant and comparisons storm our brains, it’s important to remember that things aren’t always what they seem.
That fame, fortune, and beauty? I guess it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Medically reviewed on August 22, 2023
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About the author
Anne-Marie Varga has a dual degree in English Literature and French from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in Digital Media from New York University. She’s an aspiring novelist based in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently working in children’s book publishing. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely watching the Great British Bakeoff or doing her part to dismantle the patriarchy. You can check her out on Instagram, Twitter, or at her website.