Advocates and celebrities share stories of mental illness

Some 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. From a nonprofit campaign to two famous musicians, many are sharing their personal experiences to help remove the stigma around the disease.

Communicators know there is magic in storytelling. That was evidenced this week with three instances of human vulnerability in stories about those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.

In Texas, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and its partners recently launched a campaign dubbed, “Okay to Say.”

According to the website, the goal is to “increase awareness that most mental illnesses are treatable and to offer messages of hope and recovery to Texans and their families.” The website also says:

To change the dialog around mental health will take more than a short-term campaign. Okay to Say is envisioned to be a dynamic, ongoing, community-based movement that will engage Texans statewide in talking openly about the hope and recovery surrounding treatable mental illnesses.


The online community is a result of a statewide survey that found:

  • Three in four Texans have a friend or family member that has experienced a mental health issue.
  • Nine in 10 Texans think it’s harder to talk about mental illness than physical issues.

RELATED: Business editors: Test your pitch, hear hot topics, score more ink in this 90-minute webinar. The #OKtoSay hashtag is gaining momentum on Twitter and Facebook. Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has divulged details of her battle with depression. And, a Texas billionaire grocer’s story featured in The Washington Post was shared on the OKtoSay Facebook page:

Depression_OKtoSay_tweetsmessages Depression_HEB

The OK to Say campaign has also shared recent news from New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen that he has suffered from depression most of his life: Depression_OKtoSay_BruceFB

Springsteen’s disclosure is in his new memoir, “Born to Run,” that will be released this month as the singer-songwriter celebrates his 67th birthday. Yes, he’s on the media circuit to promote the book. Still, his willingness to address the sensitive issue of mental illness helps open the dialogue for others who may be affected by the condition. Springsteen wrote that his “crushing” battle with clinical depression began some 30 years ago when he saw a psychotherapist. A post on said:

Springsteen wrote: “I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64. Not a good record.” Describing his wife Patti Scialfa’s reaction to his illness, Springsteen said: “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.'” In his book, Springsteen reveals that his family has a history of mental illnesses, including acrophobia and hair-pulling disorders. He wrote: “As a child, it was simply mysterious, embarrassing and ordinary.” Springsteen’s father, Douglas, also struggled with mental illness and Springsteen explained that his dad didn’t know the parameters of the illness.

Springsteen also penned a song about depression:


The common denominator

You may not think Springsteen and teen pop star Selena Gomez have much in common. However, Gomez also revealed this week that she has canceled a concert tour to focus on her mental and physical wellbeing. Advocate Health newsjacked the story:

Selena Gomez has had quite the year. Her album went gold, she delighted fans with carpool karaoke, achieved a sold out tour and more. Many might think the pop star would be on cloud nine, but recently, she announced that she was taking a leave of absence due to her struggle with depression and anxiety. Last year, Gomez was diagnosed with lupus, and she found that depression, anxiety and panic attacks were side effects of the illness.

A psychiatrist at Advocate Health offered insights, too:

“This is a very impressive decision made by this young adult,” says Dr. Ahmad Bashir, a psychiatrist at Advocate Dreyer in Aurora, Illinois. “Many people just try to keep pushing through their busy schedule and ignore their depression. She obviously has the ability to take time off, which many don’t, but sharing her story could help a lot of people realize it is okay to acknowledge the issue.”

What stories can your organization share to help destigmatize depression and other mental illnesses?


(Image by DoD News Features, via)


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