I read the article 25 Famous Women on Dealing With Anxiety and Depression and instantly thought — what about the men? Do famous Men not suffer with anxiety and depression too? Or do they just not open up about it as much? Is it still considered weak or unmanly if you admit to having panic attacks? Is there something “soft” about you if as a man you are depressed or suffer from crippling anxiety and nerves?
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. ~ Tim Winton
In putting together the final touches to this article I read this one today. If you don’t read anything else below, you should read this. It’s moving and disturbing and for those who don’t mind spoilers, has a happy ending. But it nearly didn’t and a lot of men’s stories don’t.
I’ve also added some links at the end. If you or someone you know is suffering in silence then I always recommend speaking to either Liz or Jo. But you might also want to take a look at the sites at the end of the article for additional support and information.
Did you know that (by way of a quick unscientific experiment) if you type into Google “talks about her depression” you get 40,900,000 results. But that if you type in “talks about his depression” you get just 2,810,000 results.
Justin Baldoni, Actor and “outspoken feminist” in his breathtakingly good TED talk shares his efforts to reconcile how society dictates he shouldbe (strong, emotionless, manly) versus the man he actually chooses to be — not just a good man but a good human. And he has a challenge for all men: “See if you can use the same qualities that you feel make you a man to go deeper,” “Your strength, your bravery, your toughness: Are you brave enough to be vulnerable? Are you strong enough to be sensitive?”
Of course it’s not just famous men who speak out about depression. But it’s easier to find articles where the author or interviewee is famous. Reading about men who have spoken out just proves it’s a complete fallacy though that being rich, famous, royal or just a man must make life instantly easier and that somehow having depression or anxiety can’t be real if you are any of those things. That money, fame or gender somehow preclude struggle. And yet despite the conversation, men are still apologising when they discuss mental health, as though listing everything you have, should somehow make you so grateful that you can’t possibly have a mental illness too. What is wrong with you!
I was scared and depressed for a while. Not that I had any reason to f-ing be depressed — I mean, I was going to college and everything. It was not like I was hungry. ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor
All the interviews I have since read do give me hope though that men are starting to change the way they think about themselves. It’s a cliché for sure, but slowly but surely there is a revolution coming and one day soon (especially as a parent of boys) I sincerely hope that men will stop being told to “man up” and to suppress their feelings and to only act tough.
So, back to depression and the dialogue around it. It was this beautiful and sad open letter by the actor Wentworth Miller, that made me sit up and notice that men were starting to talk more openly. He’d put on weight, got papped while out walking and the internet did its thing. It exploded with cruelty. Unbearable cruelty. And yet his response was dignified and calm and heartbreakingly honest and the support he then received from the online community was heartening, and I hope for him outweighed the initial torrent of abuse.
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Actor and Activist
In researching other men to join this article I discovered he was not alone. Not by a very long stretch. I asked in a Facebook post of my own who had read an article by a famous man discussing depression recently. The names kept coming. I had to call a stop at 37 but I could have gone on to at least 100.
Some weren’t a surprise. Some were known to have been troubled in the past, some had lost their battles and some were starting to open up and ask for help. But there were others where the initial thought was “really? but he’s so good looking / popular / funny / rich / famous etc” and that’s when you realise that you too have a preconceived idea of what beauty, fame and cash (most people’s idea of what to ask for when granted their magic three wishes) is supposed to do for us.
I used to deal with depression, but I don’t now, not this decade — maybe last decade… also figuring out who you are. I see it as a great education, as one of the seasons or a semester: This semester I was majoring in depression.
~ Brad Pitt, Actor, activist
Actor and comedian Stephen Fry was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 37 and is President of the mental health charity Mind. Now aged 60, he recently spoke about the way in which bipolar disorder affects his life.
“There was and still is, and I still feel it occasionally, a danger of becoming sort of professionally mentally unstable, and that’s what I am, that’s who I am.. It’s a condition I live with. I’m always prepared to talk about it…I’m not going to kid myself that it’s cured because it isn’t, that if I keep picking at the scab, it’s not going to be good for me. It’s not going to be good for my mental health.”
~ Stephen Fry, Comedian, Writer and Actor
“Depression never discriminates,” “Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.” ~ Dwayne Johnson ( AKA The Rock)
Ah, the old ‘pull your socks’ up brigade. If only it were that simple. I’d love to pull my socks up and get on with things. Ignore this little voice in my head that tells me I am worthless and no one likes me and actually I only make things worse for people. Some days I can. Some days it’s just too loud. And sure, my life is actually pretty good. I have a good career, financially I’m OK, so what have I got to worry about? And that’s the thing. Depression, for me anyway, isn’t always about what’s going on in the external world ~ Iain Lee, Writer and Comedian
The UK grime star’s incredibly frank revelation helps to reduce the stigma often seen around mental illness but is also a big step in encouraging more people to seek help — black men especially.
People just want to keep the machine going. They don’t so much care how healthy you are. My highs are really high and my lows are very low and I’m not able to regulate between the two. Through actual therapy and having kids it’s way more under control and something I can see when I’m on the roller coaster, and control it more.” ~ Pete Wentz, Bassist with Fall Out Boy
Swimmer and winner of 28 Olympic medals
“It’s OK to not be OK” and that mental illness “has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day,” “I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change.”
Ant McPartlin, TV Presenter
As I write, the UK media are having a field day with Ant McPartlin; gleefully shouting about his separation from his wife, his stint in rehab and his more recent car crash. Is it any of our business? No! Is he getting help for his mental health? Yes!
“I feel like I have let a lot of people down and for that I am truly sorry. I want to thank my wife, family and closest friends for helping me through this really difficult time. “I’ve spoken out because I think it’s important that people ask for help if they’re going through a rough time and get the proper treatment to help their recovery.” ~ Ant McPartlin
Desperation will allow you to do incredible things in the name of survival. I had created an environment for myself, a way of living for myself which, on the outside, seemed incredibly gregarious and vivacious. “I don’t believe I have any chemical predisposition towards depression, but ..I was suffering from a spiritual malady for years and I indulged it. ~ Colin Farrell, Actor
“A Man Like You” | A Short Film from Harry’s
“Medical attention is medical attention whether it’s for your elbow or for your teeth or for your brain,” “And it’s important. We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness, when it’s actually a strength.”
“..there’s something to be said for pulling yourself out of the grind for a period of time and concentrating on recalibrating the system. And it works. It’s great.”
~ Jon Hamm, Actor
You see that common theme again? They all speak about the good things in their lives and how grateful they feel for them but it’s as if they also feel that they don’t deserve to be depressed when they have fame or fortune.
As if it can’t hit you when you’re at your highest point in life but should only be allowed and explained at your lowest.
I love the singer Will Young. I once danced next to him at a party.. he gave me a frankly terrified smile and danced himself backwards out of harm’s way! Ah we could have been best mates… Sadly, Will pulled out of his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing citing anxiety as his reason.
“It’s very isolating. There’s a part of my brain that is telling me that you’re about to die, you either shut down, freeze or you run. The only thing I can do is go to bed. ~ Will Young, Singer and Actor
“I would get anxiety attacks … It was heart palpitations, shortness of breath, coldness and shivers, strange stuff, and we’d be like, ‘You’re totally fine. You’re not having a heart attack.” ~ John Mayer, Singer songwriter
Kevin Bacon is such a prolific actor that a game was created specifically in his honour. The premise is that any actor can be linked to Kevin in six steps or less. Try it, it’s great fun! The actor himself though wasn’t best pleased when he first heard about it as he discusses in this great Ted Talk that goes on to showcase his philanthropic website sixdegrees.org
He’s also spoken out about his anxiety and experience of panic attacks — something he covers in songs he has written for his band The Bacon Brothers.
I find writing songs extremely therapeutic. It is like if my therapist goes on vacation. It’s a good time to pick up a guitar and talk about what’s going on.
I take extremely personal subjects and put them in the songs.
I wrote a new song called Shaking, it starts out being about earthquakes in Southern California, but it’s a metaphor about anxiety.
~ Kevin Bacon, Actor, Philanthropist and songwriter
“I had to get off Prozac at a certain point…You need to get out of bed every day and say that life is good. That’s what I did, although at times it was very difficult for me.” ~ Jim Carrey, Comedic actor
One of my team members offered to write a statement saying that I’d been taken ill, but I didn’t want to do that. I was done with putting out statements that masked what was really going on. I wanted to tell the truth. Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of; it affects millions of people every day. ~ Zayn Malik, Singer
A red carpet lasts, what, 30 minutes, tops? But that to me is like 30 minutes of walking on hot coals. It’s not like a junket — junkets you sit in a room and they bring ’em in. I can do that all day and not have a meltdown. But the premiere — that’s overwhelming. It’s the volume of it: You’re in the center of this thing. You can fight a whole army if they line up one at a time. But if they surround you, you’re f-ed.” ~ Chris Evans, Actor, Captain America
As a teenager, Kevin Breel Writer – Comedian and Mental Health Activist almost took his own life. His story, so beautifully told in this TEDxYouth Talk, gives voice to a silent struggle and offers a message of hope with four words.
ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD. Remember that you are not alone. There are others going through the same thing. ~ Adam Levine, frontman of Maroon Five
“I’ve talked with so many people who were unwilling to do anything about their anxiety disorder because they were too embarrassed. I want to let people know that they are not alone.” ~ Donny Osmond, child star and Singer and Actor
I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years..has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well. My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help? And then I started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with,”
~ Prince Harry, Sixth in line to the UK throne and co-founder of the mental health charity Heads Together
Jason Fox, Former royal marine commando and presenter of SAS: Who Dares Wins. ‘Foxy’ has described how he left the armed forces signed off sick and prescribed antidepressants. However, he found himself hiding from his friends and family and in his own words, “failing at life”. It was much later on that he realised he was actually suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He regularly gives talks about his experience and has since co-founded the charity Rock 2 Recovery, which helps armed forces personnel, veterans and their families in dealing with (PTSD).
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a happy human being. All the comedians I’ve known have been deeply depressive people, manic depressive
~ Kenneth Williams, Actor and Carry On star
I had a breakdown in the mid 1980s and as a result of that I realised that I get depression from time to time. What I would say is that in general and in theory I’m very very good at being open. In practice, at times, if I am feeling just a bit kind of down and fed up with life I’m probably not but I’m conscious of the need to be. And therefore sometimes that will trigger me at the right moment to hopefully say and do the right thing.
~ Alastair Campbell, Former political aide and Author
Fortunately and unfortunately, left to my own devices, I’m inclined to sabotage everything. I’ve got a disease that wants to kill me and it’s in my head, so I have to guard against that. Sometimes it overwhelms me and sometimes it’s a tool I need to get on stage. Sometimes I live in bliss and it’s wonderful. But most of the time I’m human — having a human experience, trying to deal with the trials and tribulations of what goes on between my ears.
~ Robbie Williams, Singer
The belief structure about what it is to be a man… the understanding of what emotions are and how to process them constructively… our young men are bereft of that. They also feel that they’re bereft of any kind of support structure because they should be dealing with things on their own
~ Former QPR and Watford football player Clarke Carlisle
I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64,” he writes. “Not a good record. Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track … she gets me to the doctors and says: ‘This man needs a pill.
~ Bruce Springsteen, Rock God
It is the toughest fight I have ever had to face and the darkest period of my life,” the former heavyweight champion admits. I did not know how I was going to get through. ~ Frank Bruno, Boxing Legend
I went into therapy and they told me it was because I was scarred by the bullying. Imagine being bulling as a kid for your nationality, then being bullied because people hated your success
~ Peter Andre, Singer and TV Presenter
In an effort to calm the chaos in his mind following the death of his mother, Liam Malone, Paralympic champion taught himself meditation and mindfulness techniques. He credits these tools with transforming him from an anxious young man, into a medal-winning Paralympian in just 3 years.
People think, they hear anxiety, anxiety, high-pressure life, you’re on television. It’s nothing to do with that. I’ve had heightened anxiety and mild panic attacks at the playground with my own children and wife there, and the feeling was so terrifying and so gripping that I literally had to leave and excuse myself.
~ Carson Daly, Chat Show Host
Actor Zach Braff talked about his personal experience with depression in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle.
When I had my anxiety I didn’t know anyone else who had had a similar experience so I thought I was going mad. At my worst I felt so ill I called an ambulance once. A panic attack came on without warning and I genuinely thought I was going to die…I was tingling all over from the lack of oxygen.
~ Scott Mills, Radio DJ
For a long time that wasn’t a thing (anxiety) that we talked about. I don’t remember people talking about it… when I was growing up. I’m starting to get a better understanding of that part of my life. ~Chance the Rapper
I’ll leave the final word to Wentworth Miller:
..the reality is you might have to be your own tribe. You might have to be your own best friend. That’s not something they are going to teach you in school. So start the work of loving yourself.
If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, addiction, panic attacks, feeling over-whelmed or just simply want to talk, please get in touch to book a one-to-one session with either Jo or Liz. Sessions are either in person or via Skype and are completely confidential.
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