“Women have to take the time to focus on our mental health—take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish.” — Beyoncé
‘Mental health’ — a term that often gets overlooked even while the world engages in talks over well-being. As our life gets increasingly complicated, demanding and stressful, mental health is something that deserves more attention. In the US, mental illness is something common and nearly one in five adults in the country live with a mental ailment (the figure was more than 46 million in 2017). Mental illness can differ in its degree of severity, but it is something that can’t be ignored. Mental illness is also not something exclusive for the common man. Even many of the most successful individuals have battled with this problem at some phase of their lives and found ways to overcome it.
While mental illness is something which remains largely undiagnosed, those suffering from it also often refuse to professional help, fearing social stigma. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only two in every five persons who experience anxiety or substance use disorder seek help in the year when the disorder sets in. Moreover, the WHO says that while the overall rate of psychiatric disorder is almost the same for men and women, still striking gender differences are cited in the patterns of mental ailments.
Why is gender a critical determinant of mental health?
Gender determines mental health and illnesses. Gender differences take place specifically in the rates of common mental problems like anxiety, depression and somatic problems. These disorders are more common in women, besides depression which is also rampant among women.
There are several women celebrities who have made their ways to the top while battling mental illnesses and problems and their success stories are inspiring for many commoners, especially women. Here we take a look at some of those women achievers whose success have become even more special since they came through a real fight against a serious obstacle like mental health.
Oscar-winning actor Halle Berry admitted in an interview with Parade in 2007 that she was so depressed after her break-up with her former husband David Justice that she tried to end her own life. Divorce was a brutal experience for her, and it pushed Berry, 54, into depression. But then she had a unique experience that stopped her from going forward with the drastic step. She said: “I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming when I had an image of my mother finding me.” The image of Judith, her mother, reminded Berry of all the hard work the former put in to raise her children and ending that life would be an “incredibly selfish” thing.
“My sense of worth was so low. I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me. Because someone didn’t love me didn’t mean I was unlovable. That’s what the break-up of my marriage reduced me to. It took away my self-esteem. It beat me down to the lowest of lows. I promised myself I would never be a coward again,” Berry said. She has had more experiences of separation in her life, but she did not try the ultimate step of ending her life, irrespective of the depression she faced.
Takeaway: We have our failures in life but if there is no life, there is no scope for betterment.
She is only 28 but the singer-songwriter-actress has already seen a lot of life. In 2018, she said her top priority was to focus on her own well-being. She admitted that she has had issues with depression and anxiety and she never ignored that. She also said that her mental health challenges are something that she would face for the rest of her life and it was okay for her since she chose herself over anything else.
Gomez also said that her long-time mental battle emerged from her physical challenges as well. She revealed that she underwent a kidney transplant because of complications from auto-immune disease lupus and her anxiety and depression had originated from the lupus. The woman was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
How did she handle the mental health challenges? She spoke on Miley Cyrus’ ‘Bright Minded’ Instagram Live show where she discussed her bipolar disorder. She had previously spoken about getting help for her depression and that doctors diagnosed her but stopped short of revealing the diagnosis in detail. One way in which Gomez addressed her problem was by talking with older women who do not belong to her industry. “I have a few older women that I look up to that aren’t in the industry. I call them. And I think talking through what it is you’re feeling is extremely helpful, and I think there’s wisdom in all of this in women and with other people,” she said. She also said that at times she has to cry it out to release the energy in her and take a deep breath and then go back to her tools.
“I understand I’m a big empath, so I feel so much of what world is feeling so maybe I need to take a step back from that or whatever it is but also just being there for other people actually helps me too,” Gomez said, besides adding that by adding to the knowledge about things that make us scared, we get better prepared to handle them.
Takeaway: It is always a wise idea to talk to people whenever you feel yourself to be vulnerable. It also helps in taking the problem head on.
Lady Gaga, the 34-year-old singer-entrepreneur has never run away away talking about mental health. She once revealed how she would “get depressed” while waking up every day. After her ‘Joanne’ tour that concluded in February 2018, Lady Gaga told ‘Billboard’ that she started feeling anxious about the attention she would get while leaving her home and instead of addressing the issue, she took to heavy drinking and smoking. “I used to wake up every day and remember I was Lady Gaga – and then I would get depressed…My existence in and of itself was a threat to me. I thought about really dark shit every single day,” she was quoted as saying. The singer even said that it was like “peeling all the layers of the onion in therapy, so as you dig deeper, you get closer to the core, and the core of the onion stinks.”
But then the ‘Chromatica’ singer decided to change tracks. As somebody who has seen the worst of life — be it sexual assault, mental health, chronic pain — she gradually stood out as one who somebody identified with issues. She became open about her own life journey and helped others to cope with the same challenges. In January this year, she spoke with Oprah Winfrey on ‘Oprah’s 2020 Vision’ tour where she said how she continued to help people understand the issue of mental illness and its relation with chronic pain. She also broke down the stigma which exists around mental health medication.
During the 2019 Grammys, Lady Gaga said while accepting an award for ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star Is Born’: “If you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.” She got a grand applause for their words.
Takeaway: Never ignore your mental health problem because by addressing it, you not only take care of yourself but also help others in similar circumstances
Beyoncé Knowles is someone who is not just somebody from the glamor industry but also someone from whom entrepreneurship skills can be learnt. But the 39-year-old has another top quality, and it is about advising women on the issue of mental health. Beyoncé said in an interview with ‘The Sun’ in 2011 that she was forced to take a break, the reason being her mental health.
“It was beginning to get fuzzy. My mother was very persistent, and she kept saying that I had to take care of my mental health. So, I went to see museums, ballets, the Great Wall of China and everywhere I had been to but never got to see,” she said.
That was a learning phase for Beyoncé on how to deal with mental issues even while being successful. She feels spiritual well-being and physical fitness are very important and sparing time for mental health is essential. She thinks the real issue is “purpose” and not “perfection”. She told Elle in 2016 that it is essential to take care of our bodies and advised women to address their mental health without feeling selfish or guilty. “The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself,” she said.
Beyoncé was also honest enough to say once that being a self-made businesswoman is both a blessing and burden.
Takeaway: Be super honest with the fact that you can have a mental health issue and have no guilt about it. That will make you more than able to deal with the situation.
Actress-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow had a serious postnatal depression after her son and second child Moses was born in 2006. The Oscar-winning actress felt she could not connect with her newborn and the result was that she found herself going into depression. She could not understand why she was not having the euphoria in dealing with her son while she had it with her daughter Apple who was born in 2004.
In 2012, she said on TV show ‘The Conversation’: “I couldn’t connect to anyone. I felt like a zombie. I felt very detached. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t figure it out. It never occurred to me.” Her former husband Chris Martin helped her realize the mental problem she was facing. She was not convinced in the beginning that she was having a postnatal depression but after she researched, she understood that she was indeed. Her next thought was that she was a failure as a mother but as time went by and she gained control of her emotion, she realized that the problem is not uncommon and women with such issues need help and should not be judged, even by other women and mothers.
“When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter was born two years earlier. Instead, I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life,” she was quoted as saying by Us Magazine.com. Paltrow also invested in an accessible therapy startup a few months ago which shows her concern for people’s mental fitness in the times of coronavirus when mental well-being is under threat.
Takeaway: Moms who are also entrepreneurs need not think their mental health problem is something unique. As long as there is a mind, there will be problems and it is very important for women/mothers to back each other at times of such crisis.