Mental illness has long had a stigma associated it, and Hollywood is working to shine a light on the problem, both for those in and out of the entertainment industry.
Kita S. Curry has made a career of studying mental health as president and CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, the nation’s leading provider of community health and substance use programs. Curry spoke to Variety about the struggle many actors and musicians have with depression and substance abuse, due both to their hectic schedules and dealings with fame.
“I think that when you become well known, it’s hard to know if people like you or like your halo,” she said. “If you are depressed and already feel like you’re a failure, you never live up, it’s hard for people to understand the dark voices that can tell us what losers we are when people seem to successful.”
On Thursday night, at its 22nd Annual Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards, the organization is honoring “Jessie’s Girl” singer Rick Springfield, along with actor Oliver Platt, NFL player Joe Barksdale and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation for their work in raising awareness of mental health. Springfield, in particular, has been open about his struggles with mental illness and his suicide attempt as a teen.
Curry said that particularly in recent years she has seen stars using their platform to draw attention to issues of mental illness and suicide, and cited Logic’s crisis helpline anthem “1-800-273-8255.”
“In Hollywood I believe more people have been honest, especially recently, about their mental health problems and addictions and how important it is to get help,” she said. “On the flip side, media that surrounds musician or actor suicides can sometimes sort of precipitate a contagion of other suicides. Like ‘God, if Robin Williams can’t make it how can I?’ The media around stars that take their lives often has a negative consequence but the fact that they’re talking about their struggles and about getting help is really positive.”
Curry added, “When a football player stands up, and a musician stands up, then we show people that you can do a lot of things in life and also have an illness as long as you get help.”
Didi Hirsch established the first suicide prevention center in the U.S., responding to more than 100,000 calls each year, and provides care for 100,000 adults and children each year.