The Face of Mental Illness: Celebrity Edition
Ooooh, I woudn’t want to be in Brian Williams’s shoes right now.
Of course, there’d be a lot of room, given he seems to have shoved BOTH his feet in his mouth last Thursday.
During what’s probably been the most stigmatizing statement I’ve heard all year, Williams announced that Ariel Castro, the Ohio man who held three women captive for a decade, was “arguably the face of mental illness.”
Let’s paint that picture again, just for good measure:
Brian Williams told America that Ariel Castro, a man who kidnapped three women and held them captive, raped them, and beat them for 10 years, was “arguably the face of mental illness.”
Not just the fact, but arguably the face.
I mean, wow.
Unsurprisingly, mental health consumers and advocates far and wide are enraged, and rightly so. Williams’s comment adds fuel to the mental health stigma fire we’ve been trying so hard for years to put out. Using his national platform to tell us that Castro represents mental illness was just incorrect, irresponsible, and outright ignorant.
Psych Central’s Her Bipolar Life blogger Kat Dawkins did a great job of ripping Williams a new one, pointing out there are no public reports of Castro being mentally ill, we’ve become too comfortable labeling people as mentally ill because of their crimes, and that, because one in four Americans has a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, you’d think there’d be way more of these unthinkable crimes.
Because Castro is such a public image now — and given the nature of this blog — I thought I’d take a minute to show you a few other public faces who have a mental illness or have dealt with some mental health issue and aren’t also kidnappers and rapists.
- America’s favorite blue-collar rocker Bruce Springsteen battled suicidal thoughts and depression as early as the 1980s.
- Jersey Shore‘s Vinny Guadagnino left the show early one season to deal with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
- Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones hasn’t been silent about her bipolar disorder; she “proactively” sought in-patient treatment in 2011 and 2013.
- Alanis Morissette spoke openly about her postpartum depression as well as the songwriting that helped her recovery.
- Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter Mariel Hemingway has been one of the most vocal celebrities with mental illness, speaking candidly about her own mental illness and drug addiction as well as her family’s high suicide rate.
- After releasing his 1995 album Wonderful, “Goody Two Shoes” singer Adam Ant was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has since become active in educating people about mental illness.
- Singer-songwriters Britney Spears and Demi Lovato both dealt with mental health issues under the public spotlight; both have gone on to regain control of their health, careers, and lives.
- Joey Pantoliano (The Sopranos), Paige Hemmis (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) and Glen Close and her sister Jessie Close all created organizations to help others living with mental illness based on their own mental health issues.
Here’s the deal: There is no “face of mental illness.” Everyone is susceptible to mental illness. Celebrities and everyday people. Males and females. Children, adults, and seniors. Professionals and retired folk. American, Canadian, British, and Asian.
Law-abiding citizens and criminals.
Tsk, tsk, Brian Williams.
Sparks, A. (2013). The Face of Mental Illness: Celebrity Edition. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 5, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/2013/08/the-face-of-mental-illness-celebrity-edition/