Odds are you most likely have been affected by or interacted with someone who has been affected by mental illness in your lifetime. And if you’re thinking something along the lines of, “I’ve never met anyone with mental illness,” that’s probably because they didn’t tell you due to the intense stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. Most people do not feel comfortable talking about their issues as it’s seen as something to be kept private because of the core fear that we all possess: having the world find out that we are different and treating us differently because of it. We have been ‘othered’ to the point where people who are struggling feel so alone because no one feels safe talking about it anymore. I have assembled a list of 15 notable figures who have decided that they will no longer stay silent in hopes that their voices will help shatter the stigma we’re fighting against everyday. And who prove that mental illness won’t keep you from having a happy and successful life.
There was no conceivable way to make this list without discussing Carrie Fisher. She paved the way for so many people to feel comfortable about talking, openly and honestly, of their personal struggles with mental illness. Though we are becoming a society which is gradually accepting all the ways that make each individual different (now that I’m thinking about it, Carrie’s openness was probably a contributing factor to our increasing tolerance) that was not the case in the late 20th century; which makes Carrie’s bravery all the more inspiring. In her memoir, Wishful Drinking, she has the following to say on this ridiculous stigma:
“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls…At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”