Mental and Proud – Celebrities – v – Us

This post sprung from another blog I was reading today about the recent articles regarding Stephen Fry “coming out” over his latest battle with mental illness and a suicide attempt. 

I must confess to hiding my mental health from most people, so won’t ever criticise someone for “coming out” about theirs.  However, I do think there is a difference between celebrities and ‘us’ talking about our mental illnesses. 

If Stephen Fry told my immediate neighbours about his Bipolar, I think they might see him as being “a bit theatrical, eccentric, even a drama Queen”.  However, if I shared my own MH, I suspect they might see me as “weird, depressing, or even frightening”.   I don’t think celebrities have the same social fears because, regardless of what they do or say, people will always fall at their feet

I do think that by saying “it is easier for them”, would be a bit of a cop-out.  However, when I read the recent article about Fry’s MH, I did wonder if it was a bit arrogant of him to think it might never jeopardise his own career.

I would agree that the reality of their mental torture is no different or easier than our own.  However, if I didn’t have the financial problems (from years of being unable to slog my guts out to earn basic money) I imagine life would be a little easier.  To be able to employ a good therapist and Personal Coach, or someone to do cleaning, shopping, and dog walking when I am in bed unable to face the world, would make some of my related issues a lot easier to bear.

When I was 18 years old (which wasn’t yesterday!) I “came out” as gay to a church full of charismatic Christians.  At the time, it was still illegal to be (practising) homosexual under the age of 21 in Scotland and only just legal for over 21’s. 

It is an integral part of my character to be completely honest about who I am and what I think.  I always thought it was a predisposition of life to be true to others and ourselves.  Therefore, to hide my mental health behind an extrovert/average intelligence goes against the grain.  Whenever I read an article relating to a celebrity’s mental health, I cannot help but feel ashamed.

Thinking back to when I ‘came out’ and the proceeding years of thousands of other men and women doing the same – we all stood up to the most disgusting prejudices, so that one day we might get to where we are today.  When I was in my early 20’s and just starting the first long term relationship, we could never have dreamed of the understanding and acceptance that gays experience today.

Perhaps it is time to ‘come out’ about my mental illness.  It might not see the acceptance we long for in this lifetime, but it can go a long way for future generations to live openly about theirs – “Mental and Proud”!!!

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6 thoughts on “Mental and Proud – Celebrities – v – Us

  1. releasing lunacy

    Hi Cat, I think being a celebrity and disclosing mental illness can be easier in some respects and more difficult in others. I think of someone like American news anchor Mike Wallace and his disclosing his depression versus the breakdowns Brittany Spears had a few years ago. Being respected versus being hounded by the media. Just like in every person’s life, it seems to be the individuals circumstances that dictate how well or not other people will take it. But having money and fame likely does go a long way in making it easier to deal with the potential negative fall out.

    I don’t share with people about my mental illness. My family knows I suffer from depression and my immediate family knows I’m on disability. Aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc. I tell I work from home. I too am a generally honest and forthright person -except for that! I don’t tell people about my history with self injuring or dissociative identity disorder or PTSD.

    That’s amazing about your coming out -at church no less- at such a young age and during that more hostile and unaccepting time! Everyone who came out then paved the way for an easier time of it now. It could/should be that way for those w/ mental illness, but I’m just not strong enough to deal people’s negative perceptions about me and the mental illnesses in my life.

    Take care,
    rl

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    1. Cat Post author

      Rl…Being honest and forthright people (apart from MH) does feel hurtful that a part of us is not acceptable to many. It doesn’t feel good to hide. However, “coming out” isn’t necessarily a good thing either, if it has a negative impact on our (already difficult) lives.

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  2. Cate Reddell

    I’m sure that your coming out, at 18, has contributed to the great acceptance of different sexualities, although I’m quite sure it didn’t feel that way at the time. I think, as you say, coming out about mental illness will lead to greater acceptance in time. I just wish we could speed up that time for all of us.

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  3. Ellen

    I share your views about disclosing mental type struggles. I think that’s exactly right – someone who is in a high status position will be treated much differently than an ordinary person. At work, there was a campaign against stigma for mental health issues, and I think a VP came out about being bipolar. It’s supposed to be fine to tell everyone about your mental health, but it’s not. A VP is much different from an ordinary worker. If I told co-workers about having PTSD, they would find that depressing and strange, and it would harm my career.

    It’s not true across the board though. If for instance we were neighbours, and you shared your MH story with me, it would make me feel closer to you, and wanting to share my story with you also.

    Interesting the parallels you see with coming out as gay.

    take care

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    1. Cat Post author

      Ellen…. Recently I did share my depression with a handful of acquaintances and was pleasantly surprised when a couple revealed their own struggles. However, I’m not so sure I would have the courage to reveal the other MH problems I battle with

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