The former Destiny’s Child singer, who previously opened up about her depression, wants to be an advocate for mental health
Michelle Williams is a survivor — and now she wants to help others struggling with mental health by destigmatizing the conversation.
The former Destiny’s Child singer, who revealed earlier this month she had sought medical help for her mental health, thanked fans, friends and family for their support — and reaffirmed her commitment to helping others who are battling similar issues.
Thank you ALL sooooooooooooooo much for every message of love and support sent! My family, friends and fiancé have been AWESOME! Sitting here reflecting on the past two weeks. I had no plans of what I was going through being public BUT now that it is I have a made an even BIGGER commitment to the mental health awareness area. So many people are suffering, hurting, hopeless, lost and don’t see a way out but there is. Depression sucks, but my faith in God and my commitment to doing the work to stay well is my way out! You have to do the work even when you’re tired and feel the heaviness. Take one step at a time! Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you can just get up out the bed and brush your teeth and shower…..DO IT. For people dealing with depression , that is a HUGE step! Now don’t be depressed AND stinky…..pick a struggle! 🤣 (y’all know I had to add some humor) Anyhoo…..I love you all very much! Talk soon! ❤️ (yes I need a fill and my roots need to be flat ironed….bye…..I haven’t lost my humor) ❤️ Oh……Miss Tina cooked a HUGE meal for me the other night too, I just wanted to make y’all jealous! 🤷🏽♀️
“Sitting here reflecting on the past two weeks. I had no plans of what I was going through being public BUT now that it is I have a made an even BIGGER commitment to the mental health awareness area,” she captioned a photo of herself on Instagram. “So many people are suffering, hurting, hopeless, lost and don’t see a way out but there is. Depression sucks, but my faith in God and my commitment to doing the work to stay well is my way out!”
Williams also stressed the importance of taking small steps to make changes.
“You have to do the work even when you’re tired and feel the heaviness. Take one step at a time! Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you can just get up out the bed and brush your teeth and shower…..DO IT. For people dealing with depression , that is a HUGE step! Now don’t be depressed AND stinky…..pick a struggle! 🤣 (y’all know I had to add some humor),” she wrote.
The singer also opened up on “The Talk” in October about having struggled with depression symptoms since her teenage years, explaining she “didn’t know what to call it” back then. She continued dealing with mental health issues during her Destiny’s Child tenure, she said, and reached the point of feeling suicidal in 2013. On July 17, she publicly addressed seeking professional help.
Williams is among many stars choosing to speak candidly about mental illness in recent months: Mariah Carey revealed in April that she had struggled with bipolar disorder since her 2001 diagnosis, when she was hospitalized for a public breakdown. Carey “lived in denial and isolation and constant fear someone would expose me,” she told People magazine, until she sought and received treatment recently. She now receives therapy and medication for her bipolar II disorder, the mag reported, which is marked by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomania.
“I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder. I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone,” Carey said.
Meanwhile, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson opened up in April about being “devastated and depressed” after witnessing his mother’s suicide attempt when he was 15. Reality star Kendall Jenner revealed that she has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, while model Chrissy Teigen wrote about her postpartum depression in an essay for Glamour. Actress Glenn Close, who was diagnosed with depression in 2008, has dedicated her past few years to shining a light on mental health.
In this case, celebrities really are just like us: About one in six U.S. adults — or 44.7 million people — lived with mental illness in 2016, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Media coverage plays its own role in reducing fear and shame around mental illness, added Theresa Nguyen, vice president of policy and programs at Mental Health America — telling Moneyish that while such celebrity revelations inspire positive reactions now, they could seen as a career liability 20 years ago.
Patrick Corrigan, a distinguished professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, acknowledged that “famous people coming out surely lights up the discussion” — but said disclosures of mental illness from “the average person, the person you sit next to at work or in church or you go to family functions with,” can have far greater impact.
Coming out to the people in your life can provide “a real benefit” in creating a support network, Cook said. “You can finally get the social support that you need because you’re not secret about it anymore,” she said. “And you can finally get the help that you need,” whether it’s medication, therapy, support groups or other treatments.
“When you don’t share, you can often feel very alone in your process of recovery,” Nguyen said.
“When you start to share, you meet a lot of other people who empathize and share about their own experiences as well — especially strangers, sometimes, who aren’t as close to you and don’t carry the other interpersonal conflicts that sometimes family has when you share.”
It can help to “have a community,” Nguyen added, or even just a single soul you can count on. “If you have a friend or someone you know who knows you well and can just check you when you’re going down that path, it’s sometimes easier to just have somebody else say, ‘That’s not you; that’s your depression brain,’” she said. “The more, the better, but even just one person is quite powerful.”
Of course, one barrier is stigma — a word Nguyen dislikes because it’s “too arbitrary” and “reinforces a negative feeling.” (“If we’re actually going to tackle stigma, then we have to talk about what it actually is, which is fear, shame and discrimination,” she said.) Sixty-eight percent of Americans don’t want someone with mental illness marrying into their family, according to research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and 58% don’t want to work with people with mental illness.
Educating people on the genetic roots of mental illness doesn’t work to decrease stigma, said Corrigan. “What does work is interaction with people who’ve lived experience with mental illness,” he said, drawing a parallel to shifting attitudes around the gay community. “Mental illness is fundamentally a hidden stigma like being gay, and so when you come out, you humanize it far greater than any other kind of message,” he said.
This article was originally published April 12, 2018, and has been updated.
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