the creative heroes starting vital conversations about mental health in 2017

Artists including Lady Gaga, Chance the Rapper, and Olly Alexander are removing the taboo around discussing mental illness.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
10 October 2017, 10:23pm

Image via YouTube

Depression among adolescents has seen a 30% increase in the past decade. Although this statistic is chilling, today's young adults are speaking out about their suffering. This openness is no doubt inspired by a wave of celebrity attention from figures like Selena Gomez, Pete Davidson, and Lady Gaga. In Logic's powerful song "1-800-273-8255," the rapper struggles with overcoming suicidal thoughts, hauntingly rapping,"I don't wanna be alive/I just want to die." It has become one of the biggest songs of the year.

In light of World Mental Health Day, which was created by the World Health Organization to "raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of better mental health," we revisit the inspiring creative heroes who have shared their paths to mental wellness this year.

Olly Alexander's Growing Up Gay illustrates how the LGBTQ community is affected by mental illness

Lead singer of Years and Years Olly Alexander has always been forthcoming about how his struggles with depression and anxiety are related to his queer identity. He has said they are a byproduct of the bullying and self-hate he experienced as a closeted teen. This year, he partnered with the BBC to produce Growing Up Gay, a documentary that focuses on the high prevalence of mental illness in the LGBTQ community. The hour-long program is filled with honest, intimate moments: Olly reading a teenage diary filled with heartbreaking passages about his battle with bulimia, his mom crying about not noticing the warning signs, and Olly sitting and talking with his best friend (who identifies as lesbian) about the emotional scars high school left her with. Growing Up Gay shows young LGBTQ viewers that while it is possible to live a happy, healthy life as a queer young adult, things do not just magically "get better" overnight. It often takes a lot of personal healing.

Lady Gaga's Five Foot Two shows how the singer's depression affects her fibromyalgia

In 2017, pop stars went transparent. Katy Perry livestreamed a therapy session. Demi Lovato is set to discuss her substance abuse in an upcoming documentary. And Lady Gaga's Five Foot Two is a feature-length effort to convince us that the meat-dress-wearing pop star is really just a down-to-earth Italian girl. Aside from all the cowboy hats and horse riding, there are some deeply personal moments in the Netflix original. There's a stirring scene in which Gaga talks about the loneliness and depression fame breeds, saying: "But like, I just... I'm alone, Brandon. Every night. And all these people will leave, right? They will leave and then I'll be alone. And I go from everyone touching me all day and talking at me all day to total silence." Gaga also shares the debilitating pain her fibromyalgia causes her, which she says can be worsened by depression. As we watch the singer lie on a couch, crying from the pain of her severe spasms, the oft-overlooked fact that mental illnesses can have physical symptoms is made poignantly clear.

Selena Gomez and Petra Collins explore eating disorders in "Fetish"

Selena Gomez used her personal struggle with depression and anxiety, which is often a side-effect of lupus, as inspiration for her Petra Collins-directed visual for "Fetish." In the video, Selena is seen smashing dishes in a kitchen and crying in a rainstorm. Selena was candid about the personal meanings behind the video (including an eating disorder and self-harm), saying, "The kitchen scene was so liberating, to lose control of my body and lose sight of myself." Selena also talked about how difficult the path to recovery can be, and how it sometimes requires removing toxic people from your life. "It's a lonely journey to really figure out where all this stuff is coming from," she told Business of Fashion about shedding her insecurities and self-criticalness. "And to detach from it. It becomes an addiction, it becomes a habit, retraining your mind to not go to these negative places when you say something wrong, do something wrong, when you wear a certain thing or represent a certain culture. But it is lonely, I had to lose a lot of people in my life to get there."

Chance the rapper opens up about PTSD

Chance has created a much-needed conversation about mental health in the black community, admitting it was something that just wasn't talked about when he was growing up. "I think anxiety is also something that I'm just now being exposed to," he said in an interview with Complex. He goes on to say that while he suspects he may have PTSD from his friends dying, he doesn't want to allow anything to "hinder" him. "A really big conversation and idea that I'm getting introduced to right now is black mental health. 'Cause for a long time that wasn't a thing that we talked about. I don't remember it. I don't remember people talking about anxiety; I don't remember, when I was growing up, that really being a thing." But, like many people, Chance has reservations about receiving medical treatment for his anxiety. It is estimated that only 20% of young adults with anxiety receive treatment. "I'm kind of scared of medication," he admitted. "I'm cool with self-medication. I like to smoke weed and shit to chill out... I'm not really trying to try no new drugs, even if they're prescribed."

Pete Davidson reveals he's been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder
In September, Pate Davidson publicly revealed that he has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. People with the mental disorder often experience severe mood swings and self-destructive behavior. Davidson appeared on SNL last weekend to talk about his diagnosis and raise awareness. "As some of you may know, I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a form of depression," Davidson shared. "Depression affects more than 16 million people in this country, and there's no cure per se, but for anyone dealing with it there are treatments that can help." Prior to his SNL appearance, Davidson talked about how hard it was to get a grip on his life and mental health during an appearance on WTF with Marc Maron. "This has been the worst year of my life, getting diagnosed with this and trying to figure out how to learn with this and live with this," Davidson candidly said in the interview.

World Mental Health Day