16 Celebrities Who Don’t Let Depression Hold Them Down (And Neither Should You)
Depression sucks. But if you suffer from it, you’re not alone. Over 300 million people worldwide are experiencing the same thing. And that includes celebrities. As our culture becomes more aware of, and compassionate towards, mental health issues, famous people are speaking out about their struggles with depression – and what helped them overcome it or manage it. A generous few have even established foundations or started programs to help others step out of the darkness and into the light. Read these stories and be comforted and inspired by these kindred spirits who don’t let depression hold them down.
Cover Photo: AMC
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The actress and mom of many experienced depression as early as her teenage years. Though her mood issues improved as she aged, the death of her mother in 2007 sent her in a nosedive. She’s said that staying busy, be it through acting and humanitarian work, has helped her find a mentally healthier place.
At the end of the ‘90s, the actor was at the top of his career but his mood plummeted. "I was doing the same thing every night and numbing myself to sleep, the same routine,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “Couldn't wait to get home and hide out. But that feeling of unease was growing and one night I just said, 'This is a waste.'" An up-close-and-personal view of poverty in Casablanca shook him out of it and he reported not experiencing any recurring episodes of depression in the decade following that trip.
“The Boss” shared with Esquire that he experienced two breakdowns, one at age 32 and another in his 60s. He delved into his past as the son of a father who suffered mental illness and now uses medications to “keep me on an even keel.”
The actor experienced “wild bouts of depression” as a child due to medications for learning disorders and ADD. Getting off the meds was how he found his way out, and he’s decided not to let his own daughter be unnecessarily medicated.
“The Rock” knows about depression intimately; he saved his mother from a suicide attempt when he was only 15. His own depression hit after an injury killed his professional football dreams. A breakup added insult to the injury. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere,” he told the Express. “I was crying constantly.” While he now considers himself healed, he’s a vocal advocate about mental health. “The key is to not be afraid to open up,” he tweeted in 2018. “Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
The rapper with a rough upbringing disclosed his struggles with depression after the death of a close friend and relationship issues with his ex-wife in his memoir The Way I Am.
The Oscar-winning actress experienced depression after her second child was born. Though her doctor recommended antidepressants, Paltrow decided to sleep and exercise more and go to therapy to pull herself out of it. “Sometimes it's really dark and scary and painful,” Paltrow told the Goop podcast, “[But] I came to understand that if you delve into it, that's how you move through it.”
The funnyman told 60 Minutes that he’s suffered from depression for much of his life. While he was on Prozac for a time, he eventually transitioned to using positive thinking, natural supplements, and a healthy diet to mitigate his symptoms.
The smooth, unshakable Mad Men star experienced a devastating bout of depression around age 20 after his father’s death. Antidepressants and therapy have helped the actor function. “It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help,’” Hamm told InStyle. “In the long run it’s way better, because you have to fix it.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt left the entertainment business after a successful stint on 3rd Rock From the Sun to pursue a college degree, but found himself dealing with depression over his future instead. It wasn’t until he returned to acting that the darkness lifted.
The pop star claims she went through a "situational depression" when the sales of her 2017 album Witness proved disappointing. She credits a deeper connection with a higher power as well as time spent rebooting at the Hoffman Institute for her recovery; she now gives out gift certificates to the facility to friends who are struggling. "The biggest lie that we’ve ever been sold," she told Vogue Australia, "is that we as artists have to stay in pain to create."
The Scandal star struggled with depression during her college years, and used food and exercise to cope. It wasn’t until a teacher intervened and she found her way to therapy that she was able to break free. “Therapy helped me realize that maybe it’s okay for me to communicate my feelings,” she told Essence magazine. “Instead of literally stuffing them down with food, maybe it’s okay for me to express myself.” She continued that therapy into adulthood; she also meditates and sees a nutritionist.
The singer’s lifelong struggle with depression led her to become a mental health advocate through her Born This Way Foundation. “We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness,” she said in a speech at the 2018 SAG-AFTRA Foundation's annual fundraiser Patron of the Artists Awards.
The gold medalist swimmer suffered bouts of depression following the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic games. After the 2012 games, he hit his lowest point ever. He stayed in his hotel room for several days, barely eating or sleeping. "I didn't want to be in the sport anymore...I didn't want to be alive anymore,” he told CNN. After seeking treatment, he incorporated stress management techniques into the programs provided by the Michael Phelps Foundation. He’s also been an outspoken advocate for bringing mental health issues into to light. “People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change,” he says.
The actor’s depression became so severe in 2007 that he attempted suicide. Hospitalization, medication, and fatherhood were all reportedly helpful in getting him to a better place.
After her divorce from Ryan Phillipe in 2007, Witherspoon had trouble getting through the days. She credits her girlfriends with taking care of her during that difficult time. Getting older helped her perspective on mental health, too; by her 30s, she realized, “I am purely responsible [for my life]—no relationship, no children, no nothing is going to make you a happy person,” she told Glamour magazine. “Every day you have to choose to find and cultivate your own happiness.”