To mark mental health awareness week the BBC have written this article on celebrities who have mental health conditions, and discussed whether if they talk about their condition in public it helps or hinders ordinary people who have the same condition.
The article’s author suggests that if society chooses our role models for us it can leave us feeling worse. Very often celebrities are in a more privileged position with access to better care and support. Indeed private counselling and psychotherapy can be exclusive because of the fees charged, although some counsellors like myself have reduced fees for those on lower incomes.
Last year Mind used quotes from Stephen Fry to increase awareness of mental health issues, did they do a disservice to ordinary people who have depression and bi-polar?
Celebrities are a brand, they can very easily disseminate information and garner public support for a cause, raising money in the process. This is a valuable and worthy cause, but what does it feel like for distressed people to be compared to a celebrity? Is it alienating or liberating?
Personally I feel it depends on who is reading or looking at the endorsement. The issue I have with celebrity endorsement of health issues is what it does to the ordinary voices, of the people who live with their anxiety, grief, depression, anger, self-harming and pain day in, day out. When were their voices last heard (if ever)?
I hope that celebrity endorsement helps to alleviate some of the stigma surrounding mental health and emotional wellbeing; I fear we are not listening to suffering of ordinary people.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.