#NoShame: Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Britney Spears and 17 other celebs who’ve battled mental Illness

by Rachel Ogbu

Mental health is an increasing priority for the average person. But what about the celebrities or famous people we’ve come to follow so closely? They aren’t exempt from mental health issues, either. Some are more private about their mental health, while others strive to raise awareness in hopes of debunking misconceptions about disorders.

Catherine Zeta Jones may be the new face of bipolar II disorder, but it’s no role she hoped to land. Despite now speaking publicly to help remove some of the stigma that comes with the condition, who’s to say Jones would’ve done so it if reports of her treatment hadn’t gotten out? “She went to go get some help and some other patient probably in there said, ‘Hey, you won’t believe who’s in here now,'” husband Michael Douglas said during an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” What’s the difference between bipolar I and II? According to WebMD, they possess many of the same characteristics — the highs and lows — but with bipolar II, the person never reaches full-on mania.

Long before he was winning Oscars — or making headlines for all the wrong reasons — road warrior Mel Gibson was doing battle with an unseen, off-screen foe: bipolar disorder. Known for his onset pranks and proclivity for after-hours partying, Gibson broached the subject during a 2002 documentary interview with a former classmate. “I had really good highs but some very low lows,” Gibson told filmmaker Sally McKenzie for “Acting Class of 1977,” which aired on Australian television in 2008. “I found out recently that I’m manic depressive.” Numerous articles have been written, linking bipolar mood disorder with artistry. In 2008, a study at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that those with the condition expressed “enhanced creativity,” but recommended more research to determine why.

Some celebrities, such as actress and model Brooke Shields (pictured at right) have even written about their experiences. Shields has publicly discussed her bout with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter in 2003. Lasting longer than your typical “baby blues,” postpartum depression includes prolonged feelings of anxiety, worthlessness and restlessness in new mothers. She said that at one point, she “didn’t want to live anymore” because her depression was so severe. The actress sought treatment early on and learned to manage her disorder with professional help and medications.

Along with 20 million people in the U.S., British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson has dealt with depression. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Thompson said she battled clinical depression in the past, with her career saving her from “going under.” Like other people living with clinical depression, Thompson said she felt sad and hopeless, and was unable to get out of bed at times.

In recent years, Herschel Walker, a Heisman award-winning running back and former NFL player, has gone public about his troubles with dissociative identity disorder, a complex mental health disorder. People with DID are influenced by two or more distinct personalities, or identities, which prevent them from acting like themselves. Walker has received treatment for the disorder and wrote a book about his experiences. “I feel the greatest achievement of my life will be to tell the world my truth,” he said in an interview with ESPN.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps has risen to stardom at a fairly young age,and Deborah Phelps, Michael’s mother, said she wanted to share Michael’s story and his struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Diagnosed when he was 9 years old, Phelps had trouble concentrating in school, his mother said, but personally prescribed medication and swimming helped Phelps manage the disorder.

Music star Elton John discussed his uphill battle with substance abuse and bulimia on Larry King Live in 2002. Bulimia is an eating disorder in which people binge, or uncontrollably consume large amounts of food, and then expel the food by vomiting or using laxatives because they don’t want to gain weight. Discussing his substance abuse and bulimia, John said he had been “sober and clean” years. “And it was the best thing I ever did. But, you know, those three words — I need help. If only I’d said them earlier,” John explained.

Maybe you remember Sinead O’Connor from her 1990 “Nothing Compares 2 U” video, the close-up shot and somber blue lighting. Or perhaps your image of the Irish singer recalls her ripping a photo of Pope John Paul II on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1992. To O’Connor, the notion that she always had to be controversial proved to be an artistic impediment, and she took a step back. In a 2007 interview with The Times of London, the now 44-year-old singer and mother of four reveals how treatment for bipolar disorder helped mend what she calls a hole in the center of her being, with symptoms that included suicidal thoughts as far back as age 23.

In 1994, alternative rock icon Kurt Cobain joined the so-called 27 club — an unfortunate group of singers and musicians such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, to name a few, who all died at 27 years of age. Cobain’s death left many asking why? Did depression drive him to suicide? Why would someone check out at the height of professional success? Though we may never have all the answers, for Beverly Cobain — the singer’s cousin and a registered nurse with a background in mental health work — sought to turn her family tragedy into an opportunity to reach youths contemplating suicide. “Kurt was diagnosed at a young age with attention deficit disorder, then later with bipolar disorder,” Beverly said in an interview with CVS Health Resources, later adding, “As Kurt undoubtedly knew, bipolar illness can be very difficult to manage, and the correct diagnosis is crucial. Unfortunately for Kurt, compliance with the appropriate treatment is also a critical factor.”

Jim Carey is the perfect example of the sad clown. He makes people laugh to cover up the sadness he feels inside. Carey has admitted having “peaks and valleys” and admits his depression is the motivation behind the comedy movies he produced.

Zach Braff

“Scrubs” actor Zach Braff told Parade magazine that he suffers from depression and revealed his character in “Garden State” is very similar to his real life. Braff said, “To have millions of people go, ‘I watched your movie and related,’ was the ultimate affirmation that I’m not a freak.”

Sheryl Crow:

Singer Sheryl Crow has spoken suffering with depression. In her Blender magazine interview, the singer admitted, “Depression has been part of my existence for as long as I can remember. I miss things I never even had.”

Pete Wentz:

Fall Out Boy star Pete Wentz opened up about his long battle with depression in an interview with Playboy.

Wentz said he’s had to see therapists since he was a child and is often suicidal. The musician stated, “The hardest thing about depression is that it is addictive. It begins to feel uncomfortable not to be depressed. You feel guilty for feeling happy.”

There are others in Hollywood that suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Cameron Diaz:

Gorgeous actress Cameron Diaz has an obsession with dirty doorknobs. She opens doors with her elbows so she doesn’t have to touch germy doorknobs. She also scrubs her home and washes her hands constantly.

David Beckham:

Soccer hunk David Beckham likes things to be symmetrical. Beckham insists on having his shirts hung up by color and has to have everything even.

His wife, Victoria Beckham, stated, “He’s got that obsessive compulsive thing where everything has to match. If you open our fridge, it’s all coordinated down either side. We’ve got three fridges – food in one, salad in another and drinks in the third. In the drinks one, everything is symmetrical. If there’s three cans of Diet Coke, he’d throw one away rather than having three – because it has to be an even number.”

Actor Brad Pitt has discussed his battle with depression at the start of his Hollywood acting career, saying it was “a great education.”

Speaking to Hollywood Reporter magazine, Pitt – famous for his star roles in box-office hits Mr & Mrs Smith, Snatch, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – admitted: “I got really sick of myself at the end of the 1990s.

“I was hiding out from the celebrity thing, I was smoking way too much dope, I was sitting on the couch and just turning into a doughnut and I really got irritated with myself.”

The magazine’s editor, Stephen Galloway, gave the Daily Mail newspaper a preview of the interview and revealed that Pitt’s experience with depression. He explained: “[Pitt] hasn’t had that in this decade but he definitely wrestled with it in the past.”

Pitt, 48 and partner to fellow actress Angelina Jolie, told Galloway that he felt like “the ultimate loser back then,” despite heading towards the top of his professional game.

Brittney Spears:

Spears is one of the most recognized stars that are suffering from mental illnesses. She has never been diagnosed with bi-polar, schizophrenia or depression; although there is a huge amount of speculation that is going around from both the public and her closest friends. Spears suffered a meltdown in 2008 that has gotten her kids taken from her and she lost custody of them. She was institutionalized and given an evaluation for different mental illnesses.

Majekodumni Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek, is a Nigerian reggae singer and guitarist. Fashek first gained national fame on a television show in the early 1980s as a member of Benin-based reggae group Jastix. His bandmates included Ras Kimono and Amos McRoy Gregg. They toured for many years with fellow reggae group The Mandators. In 1988, shortly after Jastix disbanded, he began a solo career and quickly became the best-known reggae artist in Nigeria. His song “Send Down The Rain” was a hit, and he won six US-based PMAN Music Awards.

Fashek disappeared from his Gowon Estate home in December 2012 without telling anyone where he was going to, then reappeared sometime last week, looking haggard, weak and unaware of his surroundings; worse than he’s been in recent times. The Reggae icon, who said he takes cocaine whenever he can afford it, is currently hospitalized as friends say his mental health has deteriorated drastically since his return.

He has become a shadow of his old self, breaking bottles and behaving very abnormal. In fact, he has not been himself since he returned to the country. Right now, he is hospitalized. We are trying to  stabilize his condition.” Haija Oluremi Dangaji, CEO of his management company, A-Plus Entertainment, said.

Rashidi Yekini, dealt with his mental illness the way he could.

Post-death revelations from members of his family indicate that he, at a point, set his certificates, awards and dresses ablaze.

Yekini’s sister, Rafiat Adetunji, who spoke to the media in Ira, Kwara State, where he was buried gave a vivid picture of the health challenge the goal merchant had, Adetunji said, “At a point he gathered all his awards, certificates, and clothes and burnt everything. Even the time we went to pick him to go to hospital, there was only one cloth in his house. He had burnt everything.

According to her, Yekini never told anybody about what he was going through. The family members got to know about Yekini’s strange behaviour when some of his neighbours in Ibadan complained that he was hostile to them.

Adetunji said when their efforts to take Yekini to a hospital in Oyo State failed, as he resisted their entreaties and even overpowered them, they sought the assistance of the then, Oyo State Police Commissioner, Adisa Bolanta in 2010.

According to her, Bolanta ordered that Yekini should be brought to him. When Yekini was brought before the CP, the football star said he was alright and the CP did not know what next to do or how to assist them since Yekini appeared to be alright.

Adetunji said, “After that, we got information that Yekini went to the bank and withdrew some large sums of money, gave out some to people and spread the rest into the air. We also heard that sometimes he would go to the Liberty Stadium and be clearing grasses.

“In an attempt to get legal backing so that we could treat him, we also went to court. It was in 2010 that we went to the police and the court. But Yekini said he was alright and so the court could not help either.

The football star lived a solitary life before his death, having allegedly driven away his tenants and prevented people, including many family members, from having access to him.


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