This year marked 10 years since Britney Spears shaved her head. At the time, the world – myself included – collectively watched slack-jawed as one of our favourite childhood performers seemed to suffer a momentary breakdown. In the years since, the ‘I now understand Britney’s meltdown’ memes have been doing the rounds. But how far have our attitudes really come when it comes to celebrity mental health?
I know I for sure have a lot more understanding of the kinds of pressures a life in the spotlight can bring, thanks in large to the behind the scenes look into the lives of celebrities due to new technologies like social media, a more mature and educated view of mental health, and the increasing number of people in the spotlight speaking out.
Kid Cudi, Kehlani, Selena Gomez and Professor Green have all recently spoken out on mental health. Stormzy addressed the topic on his chart-topping debut album ‘Gang Signs And Prayer’. In the song Lay Me Bare he spits: ‘Like man’a get low sometimes, so low sometimes, Airplane mode on my phone sometimes, Sitting in my house with tears in my face, Can’t answer the door to my bro sometimes.’
In an interview which quickly went viral, Stormzy said: “If there’s anyone out there going through that, I think that for them to see that I went through it would help.” And he’s right. In particular when it comes to men, black men, and the hip hop community, the notion is more often than not that men don’t cry, men don’t feel, men don’t need help. For one of the most outwardly positive and successful artists in the UK to speak so openly and honestly sends the message that that is not in fact the case; that it’s okay to not be okay.
In the biggest ever study of its kind, Help Musicians UK found 71% of respondents had experienced anxiety and panic attacks and 67% had experienced depression. The charity suggested musicians may be up to three times more likely to suffer from mental health compared to the general population.
‘Some aspects of being an artist – such as touring – are counterproductive to what we imagine a healthy lifestyle to be,’ explained David Brudö, CEO and Co-Founder of personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente.
‘Being an artist is often like a kind of self-imposed torture,’ added Alastair Mordey, Programme Director at The Cabin Chiang Mai, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. ‘Someone who is already more sensitive than the average person places themselves in the spotlight and is then subject to all the pressures that brings. In particular, the flying, lack of sleep, availability of drugs and alcohol, and the likelihood of leaning on drugs and alcohol due to lack of any other viable support structures is what does the damage.’ Results from Help Musician UK’s study found that is indeed likely the case.
And then, of course, there is the age-old theory that artists are already predisposed to emotional and mental health disorders by virtue of being creative people…
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! xxx