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Why Celebrity Accounts of Depression are Vital

Written by Jaleesa M. Jones

Original Article Published on September 2, 2016 on Burlington Free Press

why-celebrity-accounts-of-depression-are-vitalAs Run-D.M.C. got in the studio to record their fifth album, Back From Hell, the Devastating Mic Controller was losing control.

Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels was drinking a case of Olde English 800 a day to numb himself from the pain of losing his creative freedom in the group and, at points, his will to live. “People looked at it as, ‘You shouldn’t feel this way because you’re D.M.C., you’re famous, you have this or that,'” he told USA TODAY. “But status and material things do nothing for how a person feels.”

For McDaniels, who was later diagnosed in 1999 with spasmodic dysphonia, a voice disorder that involves “spasms” of the vocal cords, the first “thought was, ‘Oh my God, what’s an MC without a voice?’ It went from these depressed thoughts to, ‘If I can’t do this anymore, then what’s the sense of being alive?'”

McDaniels reflects on his struggle in his new memoir Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide. He — along with stars like Selena Gomez, Cara Delevingne, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Demi Lovato, Trevor Noah, Kristen Bell and Lady Gaga — are part of a wave of celebrities coming forward about their experiences with depression, a condition that impacts roughly 15 million adults each year, according to 2014 figures, the most recent data available from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Gomez shared Tuesday that she was taking a hiatus from her Revival world tour due to depression, brought on by her lupus. “I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges,” the singer-actress said in a statement to USA TODAY. “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off.”

Delevingne also withdrew from the spotlight when her depression returned just as her modeling career began to blossom. The star opened up to Esquire in August, sharing that she has struggled with depression since she was 16. “I was suicidal,” she said. “I realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die. I felt so guilty because of that and hated myself because of that, and then it’s a cycle. I didn’t want to exist anymore.”

“I would run off to the woods and smoke a pack of cigarettes,” she continued. “And then I would smash my head so hard into a tree because I just wanted to knock myself out.”

Bell, who began struggling in college, described her depression as a feeling of being permanently trapped in the “shade.” “I’m normally such a bubbly, positive person, and all of a sudden I stopped feeling like myself,” she wrote in a May essay for Time. “There was no logical reason for me to feel this way. I was at New York University, I was paying my bills on time, I had friends and ambition — but for some reason, there was something intangible dragging me down.”

Celebrity disclosures aren’t a new phenomenon. Actress Gene Tierney published her autobiography, Self-Portrait, which addressed her chronic depression, in April 1979. 

Still, Rajiv Menon, a cultural analyst for branding company TruthCo., says the number of celebrities opening up now is striking — and it didn’t occur in a vacuum.

 

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