Demistifying Mental Illness

Catherine Zeta-Jones hasn’t talked about it publicly yet, but I’m betting she eventually will.

The actress has just spent some time in a treatment facility for bipolar disorder. Although she has talked about having melancholy moods before this is the first time Mrs. Michael Douglas has acknowledged that she has the mood disorder, marked by high highs and low lows. Now that she and Michael can exhale following his year-long battle against cancer, she finds herself struggling with her own health – which she probably ignored while the focus was on taking care of her husband.

Demi Lovato is just 18, a product of the Disney kid-star-making machine whose quest to seem perfect landed her in treatment for what she is now calling a “full nervous breakdown”. Her family finally intervened when Demi punched a dancer during a rehearsal. She’s out of treatment now and speaking to her fans through Seventeen magazine about her experience and why putting pressure on oneself to strive for perfection is unrealistic and unhealthy.

These women have a lot of power to help take the stigma out of what so many people, men and women, experience at some time in their lives: mental illness. And it can be just that – an illness, that you treat and get past. If these stars who seemingly have everything can still go through emotional dips and dives then maybe others will be more understanding when their friends follow suit. Telling them, “chin up” or “look on the sunny side!” really doesn’t help. No one wants to be depressed or overly anxious or seemingly out of sorts. And no one gets help until they are ready. But by living honest lives and sharing their so-called flaws, maybe Zeta-Jones and Lovato will have done a little bit of good for others who are suffering.