One of the challenges anyone coping with mental illness will often endure is confronting the social stigmas that can be associated with their condition. North American culture in particular has a nefarious way of marginalizing people who are mentally ill. These people are often excluded from social narratives and are rarely represented realistically in the media. Due to the stigmas associated with mental illness, many people who cope with these conditions are made to feel insignificant or burdensome.
People with mental health issues are often given the impression that they are not worth as much as those who do not cope with mental illness. Stigmas like these are worth fighting and disproving for a number of reasons, most importantly because people with mental illness have always contributed exceptional work to society and culture – be that through art, politics, civil rights or technological advancements.
In this post we are going to identify six successful people who have helped to disprove the stigmas associated with mental illness.
Adams was an American patriot who also served as the Second President of the United States of America. Before his presidency, Adams was an extremely accomplished lawyer, political theorist, Founding Father and diplomat. While he was helping to shape America into the country we know today, Adams suffered from severe bouts of depression and mania. In his diaries he wrote in detail about his “great anxiety and distress.” But his depression and anxiety never stopped him from succeeding and influencing millions of people during a time of political turmoil.
By the time Leonard Cohen was a teenager, he had started to show symptoms of depression, a condition his mother had coped with her whole life. On the topic, Cohen told Vanity Fair, “I didn’t know what it was. I was ashamed of it because it would be there even when things were good, and I would be saying to myself, ‘Really, what have you got to complain about?’ But for people who suffer from acute clinical depression, it is quite irrelevant what the circumstances of your life are.”
Leonard Cohen would go on to lead an accomplished and fulfilled life as one of Canada’s greatest and most successful songwriters, having written such standards as “Hallelujah,” “Bird On a Wire” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
Stephen King is one of the most commercially successful writers of all time and has been a household name since his first novel was published in the 1970s. He has written countless novels, all massively popular and some met with much critical acclaim. He has also coped with addiction for the majority of his adult life, suffering from severe alcoholism to the point of serious physical harm. Through counselling and self-care, the world-famous novelist reports that he has learned to cope with his illness and lead a healthier life. King has discussed his addiction in detail in his non-fiction work and in interviews, using his fame as a platform to talk about mental health.
Demi Lovato is successful pop star who started her career as a Disney Channel performer. Since the early 2000s, she’s transformed into a worldwide phenomenon, selling countless records and performing in sold out stadiums all over the world. She has also been very vocal about her struggle with mental health issues, championing for conditions such as bi-polar disorder and eating disorders. She’s publically discussed her conditions in detail with a number of sources with the hopes of removing the stigmas associated with mental illness. She’s also been an important advocate and voice for countless young people who cope with life-threatening eating disorders.
For the past four decades, Oprah has been the veritable Queen of the World. She went from being the host of America’s most successful talk show to becoming one the most wealthy and influential women on the planet. Her charisma, charm and energy made the world fall in love with her, but it’s her social and philanthropic efforts that have changed the world for the better. Many people don’t realize she’s been coping with anxiety and depression for most of her life. She’s discussed it publically, using her influence as a platform to undermine the negative stigmas associated with mental illness.
Not only did Carrie Fisher portray the feminist icon Princess Leah in the Star Wars franchise, but she continuously championed mental health in the pubic eye. She also used the platform of her fame and success to battle the negative stereotypes surrounding mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder and addiction. Fisher’s legacy is sparkling, not just for her successes as an actress, but for her work promoting mental health awareness. In her final Guardian column, Fisher wrote to a girl who was struggling to accept her bipolar disorder diagnosis: “You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching.”