Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Celebrities and Mental Health Awareness


Geek’d Con 2023 has come and gone at last. Over 18,000 people joined us at the Shreveport Convention Center to celebrate all things Geeky and have some fun. This year was pretty much a dream come true for me. I worked hard (and I’m still icing my back days later) but I also got to meet some really cool people, visit with returning Geek’d Con regulars and friends, as well as meet some awesome guests. I had some pretty special interactions with many of the celebrities who joined us this year, but the one that resonated the most and almost had me in (good) tears was Kevin Smith. 

Yes, you read that right. The King of Geekdom (as far as I’m concerned) was here in Shreveport, in person - along with his wife, daughter, and the rest of the primary View Askewniverse crew. 
(c) 2023 Townsquare Media

With a lot of our guests, I felt somewhat awkward and my anxiety was bubbling under the surface as I struggled to find things to talk with them about other than generic fangirling. Taking into consideration the WGA/SAG strike, I didn’t want to bring up anything that would put them in an awkward position. There was a singular exception to this - Kevin Smith. 

Why, you might ask? It was simple. The first thing I said after I expressed how wonderful it was to meet him was to thank him for his public stance advocating for mental health awareness. We had a nice chat for a few minutes on the topic, and we shared a brief hug after he signed my staff badge.

You see, 3 months ago I stumbled across a video on YouTube where Kevin Smith had done a 30-ish minute talk about his own mental health journey. It’s even titled “Trauma is Trauma: A Mental Health Talk with Kevin Smith.” It was released from People’s channel. In this video, he discussed points that struck a chord with me on a very deep and personal level. There are too many people who still do nearly competitive comparisons between traumas - surely an injury or a near-death experience is worse than playground bullying trauma, right? Wrong. 

There’s still a stigma surrounding mental health in our society and it’s refreshing and relieving to see people with such far-reaching platforms as Smith sharing their experiences and helping to break down the negativity that surrounds the issues. 

I’ve struggled with mental health issues for most of my life, and it’s a hereditary issue just as much as it is affected by events throughout my life and that of my family. My daughter struggles with her own issues and it breaks my heart and tears me up inside that there are so many uphill battles in this allegedly enlightened age that we live in. 

My own depression and ADHD have built anxiety road-blocks and fed into the traumas I’ve experienced - and I didn’t even realize I had ADHD until a few years ago now that I’m already in my 40s. If mental health wasn’t such a wonky topic and wasn’t such an onerous taboo back in the day, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the hiccups in my life could have gone differently if I’d had appropriate treatment. 

This isn’t just an issue for me - Selina also has her own share of mental health dragons that have to be combated on a regular basis. (She encouraged me to share this with you, so sharing with permission, I promise.) Selina also struggles with ADHD, though also has issues with auditory processing and PTSD as well. 

You can say that Mental Health is a very important topic for both of us. 

With that in mind, here are a few celebrities that are using their platforms and wide reach to increase mental health awareness.

1) Jared Padalecki - 
He’s been open regarding mental health for several years now, while he was still filming Supernatural (2005-2020) to present day. He has used his Facebook page to also promote mental health, discuss his own journey, and hold fundraising campaigns for mental health awareness and charities. He now is involved with a company called Mantra that is focused on wellness of the mind and body.

2) Kristen Bell -
She captured the hearts of millions voicing Anna in the Frozen (2013) movies and is accustomed to being in the public eye due to her marriage to a fellow actor. Beyond the red carpets and all that pomp and circumstance, however, she’s a person just like you and me and has been advocating for mental health awareness for a few years now. 

3) Ryan Reynolds -
From the outside looking in, it would seem that Ryan Reynolds has everything and shouldn’t have a care in the world. He has a wonderful career, amazing family, and successful businesses as an entrepreneur. The truth is that he’s just like you and me under all the perks his hard work has earned for him. He’s been vocal about his own struggles with anxiety and traumas in his past. Unfortunately a lot of the filmed segments I could share with you would violate WGA/SAG strike guidelines, so I can only encourage you to search that up for yourself. Here is a short, however, that briefly touches on the topic.

4) Chris Evans -
One of our most well known pop culture icons bringing to life a wholesome comic book icon has been brought to life by Chris Evans. He’s no stranger to anxiety either. He’s opened up about it and has shared his personal journey. 

5) Lady Gaga - 
Even worldwide music phenoms such as Lady Gaga experience mental health issues sometimes. This particular rock icon has been very open and forthcoming with sharing her struggles and mental health advocacy.

6) Selena Gomez -
Selena Gomez has experienced quite the rollercoaster throughout her career. From her breakout role as a Disney Channel star through her music career, she’s tried to be as real as possible with her fans. That has further manifested in mental health advocacy as well as raising awareness for the autoimune disease that afflicts her. I can relate deeply to this, as my own autoimmune journey isn’t with Lupus but MS - and it impacts my mental health on a daily basis. She has shared her journey through a documentary as well as starting her own company to advocate mental wellness. 

7) Howie Mandel - 
While in the past there might have been a lot of talk about Howie Mandel being a germaphobe, there probably hasn’t been as much about the fact that he’s suffered with severe anxiety along with his OCD. He’s not shying away from telling his story of how mental illness has affected his life and that of his family in hopes to raise awareness and understanding for those experiencing similar issues. 

8) Bonus - I found a video on YouTube that has many celebrities sharing their mental health insight on the Tiffany Maxwell channel. Some are individuals I’ve already mentioned and some included in this compilation have not been included in this list for varying reasons - and yet still their message matters. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or other mental health distress, there are resources available to you. Below are just a few of the options available. Just remember, you are not alone.

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Anxiety Hotline – Available 24/7 - National Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787 to speak to a professional about anxiety symptoms and get help with mental health resources.
  • Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer Crisis Counselor 24/7 or
  • Text CONNECT to 741741 for free, 24/7 help for specifically anxiety.
  • Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - 24/7: Dial or Text 988