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What Pop Culture Can Teach Us About Mental Health and Addiction

Why is it that when we hear the news of a celebrity entering the rehab, the problem of addiction suddenly seems real? Why do we feel such deep sorrow when we learn of a beloved celebrity’s suicide? Why is it that mental health disorders suddenly become validated when someone famous is the one struggling with mental illness?
When we hear of someone rich and famous suffering from the same maladies as us, these powerful influencers suddenly seem human and real. We might think, “Wow, I guess I don’t feel so bad about myself now, knowing that even someone successful as Kate Spade battled depression, too.”
Their flaws, their humanness, gives us a sense of perspective that anyone, no matter how famous, wealthy, intelligent, or beautiful can be vulnerable to addiction or mental health disorder.

Recent Mental Health or Addiction Events Involving Celebrities

Each time a news report appears about a celebrity struggling with addiction or getting treatment, it offers us opportunity to consider our own lives. We can pause and take stock, and ask the hard questions. It might lead to a realization that, “maybe I could use some help, too.” Consider these recent events regarding celebrities.

Britney Spears

Britney famously battled through a mental health crisis about a decade ago, culminating in the shocking action she took, of shaving her hair off. After years of mental stability, Britney had recently faced a setback due to a family crisis.
Admirably, Britney took proactive action and entered a mental health treatment program to rest and receive the needed interventions. This can show how important it is to recognize the symptoms of deteriorating mental wellness and to be assertive in seeking help.

Demi Lovato

After six years of sobriety, Demi Lovato relapsed, hard. Demi had battled multiple substances of abuse for many years, including co-occurring mental health issues. In recent months, Demi experienced a near-fatal overdose, during which her life was spared with the swift intervention of naloxone.
Demi’s frightening story show how vulnerable people in recovery are to relapse, and how deadly a relapse can be. Public was made aware, through Demi’s overdose scare, of the importance of naloxone.

Famous Suicides

Since 2017, four celebrities chose to end their lives, including Kate Spate, Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, and Avicii. It is sad when someone is lost to suicide, knowing that their sense of despair and hopelessness was so intense leaving them with no option.
Celebrity suicides are happening at a faster clip, mirroring the society. These deaths increase the public’s suicide prevention awareness, disseminating important information about warning signs for suicide.
Many famous figures openly discuss their struggles with mental health disorders or addiction. This transparency helps reduce the stigma that still clings to these common issues, making people comfortable in discussing the topics and reaching out for help.
For instance, when you realize that famous people like Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper struggle with addiction, or that Amanda Seyfried, Sophia Turner, and Stephen Colbert suffer from depression or anxiety, it somehow makes it okay to admit, I suffer from that too…, and follow their example by getting help.

Mental Health Disorders and Substance Use Disorders Prevail

Famous people are reflections of society at large. Their lives may be in spotlight, but what it reveals indicates the culture itself. They are famous because we can relate through their art or music. So when a celebrity is battling addiction or a mental health disorder, we can extrapolate that to apply to society, as a whole.
Indeed, our culture is hurting. Suicide rates rise, tens of thousands die each year to drug overdoses, alcoholism claims 88,000 lives annually. Young adults are being vulnerable to mood disorders, putting them at risk of self-harm or suicide ideation.
If nothing else, witnessing a celebrity struggling with the same things gives us a glimpse of mental health status of our culture, and, sadly, it doesn’t look so good.

Types of Mental Health, Addiction, or Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The positive effect of newfound awareness from a celebrity’s struggles is that people are ready to address the need of help. For many, mental illness and addiction do not fix themselves. These disorders require expertise in psychiatry and addiction recovery.
Knowing which type of treatment format one needs depends on the individual’s problem area, how severe the problem is, how it has impaired daily functioning, and practical considerations such as financial resources.
Celebrities typically don't have to worry about financial aspects, but for most people, knowing what insurance will cover, what the out of pocket expenses will be, and how long a leave can you secure from work are concerns when planning to get treatment.

Residential Treatment

A residential treatment program is the best option for a moderate to severe mental health or addiction problem. These inpatient programs offer 24-hour care and an intensive treatment approach.
Treatment will include psychotherapy, group therapy, medication management, education, 12-step programming, holistic activities. A residential program may span one-month to 12-month period, based on the severity of the condition.

Outpatient Treatment

The outpatient treatment option allows the individual to remain at home while receiving treatment for a specified number of hours each week. Outpatient programming is similar to residential programming, but less intensive.
Outpatient therapy is available in a wide range of intensities, including basic outpatient counseling services, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and partial hospitalization programs (PHP).
Celebrities willing to publicly share about their struggles with a mental health disorder or a drug or alcohol problem do a great service to the public at large. They can influence others to seek help.

About the Author

Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the behavioral healthcare industry for over 12 years. She is the founder of The Treatment Specialist, a national online resource and helpline for those seeking treatment for addiction and mental health conditions.
Dedicated to guiding individuals to the help they seek, Marissa believes that with right support and guidance, those struggling will have opportunity to turn their lives around and enjoy a healthy happy life. She is a proud mother and wife and enjoys long distance running, traveling, and music.

 Marissa Katrin Maldonado