By Cheryl Steinberg
Here’s a macabre statistic: almost 15 million Americans suffer from some form of major depressive disorder annually. People find mental illnesses like depression difficult to talk about and the negative stigma associated with it doesn’t make things any easier. Mental illness is just as legitimate as physical disease or injury but, because it goes unseen, it’s difficult to grasp. If you have major depression, you’re in good company with these 8 celebrities who have major depressive disorder (you might be surprised)…
#1. Ellen DeGeneres
Beloved talk show host and avid fan of dancing, Ellen DeGeneres was not always so wildly successful. Back in 1997, she decided to take the brave step of coming out on her semi-biographical sitcom, Ellen, and although the episode in which she made her big reveal was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show, Ellen’s ratings fell drastically the following season and it was soon cancelled.
During this time, DeGeneres faced a dark period in both her career and personal life. With a failed attempt at another show, The Ellen Show, (it was quickly cancelled); offers drying up; her personal relationships falling apart, it’s no wonder that DeGeneres’ mental health took a major blow.
Nowadays, though, it seems the actress-turned-talk show-host has won the battle with depression and Ellen has since become one of the most bankable television names in the world.
#2. Jon Hamm
Mad Men star Jon Hamm faced major depression early on, in his adolescence: his father died when the actor was 20 years old, leading to a deep depression. His struggle with depression lasted for years but he was always proactive with seeking help; Hamm says that both therapy and antidepressants helped treat his depression. About acting, Hamm has said: “The theater department seems to be the way station for the orphans and all the people who don’t fit in anywhere else” and it seems that he has put his early experiences with depression to good use while crafting his art. With a hugely successful acting career at his feet, it seems Hamm has finally arrived as a force in Hollywood. Recently, the actor completed a 30-day rehab program for alcohol addiction.
#3. JK Rowling
J.K. Rowling rose to fame with her whimsical and inspiring Harry Potter book series. Before long the books were a worldwide phenomenon and Rowling was the richest female author on the planet. But, before all of that, Rowling struggled with serious depression. The author would later admit that things got so bad for and that she even contemplated suicide.
Before she found her voice with writing, Rowling was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She would scribble bits and pieces of what would become the Harry Potter epic on crumpled napkins in between jobs. She persevered and now the world has some amazingly touching and uplifting literature to show for it! It is said that Rowling, like Hamm, used her depression as inspiration – at least in part – while writing; a famous example of this is her concept of Dementors, which are “soul-sucking fiends” that act as guards in the magic world’s infamous Azkaban prison. The Dementors “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them” by performing the Dementor’s kiss, which works by sucking the happiness and soul from its victim.
#4. Brad Pitt
Another one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors to do battle with major depression is the ever-popular Brad Pitt. With credits like 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Moneyball, Inglourious Basterds, and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise to only name a few – or six – things weren’t always so great for the star.
Pitt revealed in the past that he fought depression back in the ’90s, telling the press that he felt like he was “wasting away” and that he turned into a “stoner” without any direction or ambition. Pitt says he was disgusted with his reliance on marijuana and that he sank into depression and self-loathing. Also around this time, Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston was on shaky ground and has said that that was another contributing factor when it came to his mental state. He has said that neither he nor Aniston really had what it took to be in a relationship together and that they “faked it” for a long time.
Pitt has reportedly said that his marriage with Angelina Jolie restored him so much that it completely changed his life around. Pitt has told reporters that Jolie “lives life” in a way that few others do and credits Jolie in getting him re-focused on his artwork and living a fulfilled life.
#5. Russell Brand
Russell Brand is no stranger to strife. The actor-and-comedian-turned-activist has battled addictions in the past, from drugs to sex – and celebrates more than a decade of continuous sobriety. But, also in the past, Brand struggled with both depression and bulimia, both of which he sought treatment for multiple times.
Brand draws on his own emotional turmoil for laughs and Brand is in good company (as far as this author is concerned) with the likes of Mitch Hedberg (RIP), Louis C.K., and Joan Rivers (RIP) – to name only a few. Nowadays, Brand channels his energies into positive, proactive endeavors by speaking out about addiction, recovery, and the need for support among fellow recovering addicts after they leave rehab.
#6. Winona Ryder
The 80s It-Girl went from being in the spotlight to the fringes of Hollywood in a New York minute. Her credits list Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Dracula, and Girl, Interrupted (with Jolie) but a very public break-up with superstar Johnny Depp led to severe anxiety with depression. As a result, Ryder sought therapy and was even institutionalized for a brief stint due to her mental illness. And then there was the oh-so-public shoplifting incident, which must have dealt her a heavy blow.
It seems, though, that Ryder has made a bit of a comeback with her roles in Black Swan and the show Homefront. However, Ryder’s depression seems to be a pervasive force in her life as she refuses to take lead roles in film work due to the emotional stress that it puts on her.
#7. Pete Wentz
Fall Out Boy bassist and songwriter Pete Wentz routinely struggled with mental issues stemming back to his teens; he is diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and has taken medication for it since the age of eighteen. In 2005, while supposedly at the top of his game, the famous musician and a friend got loaded on alcohol and other drugs and ended up playing a grim game of Russian roulette. At one point, his depression got so bad that he tried to overdose on Ativan. Wentz detailed the story of his suicide attempt in an interview with Playboy:
“I was isolating myself further and further, and the more I isolated myself, the more isolated I’d feel. I wasn’t sleeping. I just wanted my head to shut off, like, I just wanted to completely stop thinking about anything at all.”
Wentz now has two children and a supportive girlfriend and credits a good support system of great friends with helping him keep his depression at bay.
#8. Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones has been waging a war with her own mental health for a while now and has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder type II – the depressive subtype of the disorder. The star of such films as Chicago and Oceans 12 experienced a serious bout of depression while her husband of 15 years, major Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, fought throat cancer. Douglas has said of his wife’s condition that he had no idea the extent of her suffering.
In April 2011, Zeta-Jones sought treatment for bipolar II disorder and checked herself into the high-end Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut. The actress again sought help in treating her bipolar disorder by checking into a health care facility again in April 2013.
Zeta-Jones treats her major depression with therapy and medication.
Please don’t suffer in silence. There continues to be a negative stigma attached to depression and other psychological disorders however the tides have begun to change. Mental illnesses are just as real and just as painful – if not more so – as physical illnesses. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to talk to someone today – or tonight. We’re here 27/7 to take your call.