Buzz Aldrin was the second person to ever walk on the moon, as part of the original Apollo 11 mission alongside Neil Armstrong. He’s been very open about his descent into depression and alcoholism in the years following that high. He was an early proponent of that openness, in fact, in an era where few people – especially few men – were talking about their mental health struggles.
After Robin Williams lost his battle with depression, Wayne Brady opened up about his own struggles with the disease. He said that depression was a factor in his divorce, but he didn’t realize how badly he needed help until he had a complete breakdown on his 42nd birthday. He told Entertainment Tonight that he’s done keeping his struggles a secret, because “these secrets kill.”
Jim Carrey has been open about his inner world for a long time. He talked about his depression in 2004 as “a low level of despair you live in,” and said recently that he felt like his body gave up on playing the character he’d built himself up to be. He’s turned his attention to art, and his perspective to a sort of nihilistic Buddhism, and he’s taken folks along for the ride in delicate, captivating glimpses along the way.
Stephen King has been very open about his personal problems, including a depression that lasted from the time his mother died, until well after his first success with Carrie, and again while rehabilitating from his injuries after being struck by a car in 1999. He also has been very open about his concurrent struggles with addiction.
In 2011, Gwyneth Paltrow spoke about her struggles with postpartum depression in 2006, after the birth of her second child. ““I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t access my heart. I couldn’t access my emotions. I couldn’t connect.” She credits then-husband Chris Martin for recognizing and naming the problem. She didn’t recognize it because her experience didn’t fit the pervasive stereotype, and for that reason she advocates open discussion about this particularly charged form of depression.
Kerry Washington struggled with the abrupt loss of anonymity that came with fame. She started sinking into depression. Today she’s a tremendous advocate for mental health care, particularly for veterans, and has remarked that “…sometimes I decide whether to read comments based on how close I am to a therapy appointment.”
Cohen had a successful career writing introspective, moving songs for decades. He was still touring and releasing new material when he passed away at the age of 82. But he’d dealt with depression since his teenage years. He described it as “a kind of mental violence which stops you functioning properly from one moment to the next.” He did seek treatment over the course of his life, while also explaining that “for people who suffer from acute clinical depression, it is quite irrelevant what the circumstances of your life are.”
Chris Evans has talked about juggling his social anxiety and his depression with the loss of anonymity that comes from fame. He talks about the importance of separating the depression and anxiety – what he calls “brain noise” - from who you actually are.
Donald Glover has a hit TV show, a burgeoning movie career, and a successful career as a rapper and soul musician. But in 2013 he posted a series of Instagram posts that had people scared for him. After claiming he wasn’t depressed, he just felt tired, hopeless, and worthless, he finally owned up to having depression on a podcast.
As a model, Chrissy Teigen has been very open about her insecurities, and she’s become a fierce advocate for body positivity. She’s also an advocate for mental health. She says that Lexapro helped her overcome her postpartum depression after the birth of her first child, Luna. She wrote a deeply personal, moving op-ed for Glamour about that experience, and it’s well worth the read.
J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while struggling with her divorce and the care of a newborn child. She’s also struggled with her depression, and she’s been a mental health advocate ever since. “It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there,” she says, “because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of felling — that really hollowed-out feeling.”
In 2017, Jon Hamm spoke with InStyle about seeking treatment for depression, alcohol addiction, and grief. He was open and unapologetic, affirming that “Medical attention is medical attention whether it’s for your elbow or for your teeth or for your brain. And it’s important…It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help.’”
Anthony Hopkins has been open about a few of his struggles, including a difficult time in school caused by dyslexia, and a lifelong paranoia about whether people like him. But he’s also admitted that he has a tendency to “edge towards depression,” as a “melancholy Welshman.”
In the late 90s, Jackson spoke with Rolling Stone about the difficulties of growing up under a microscope, and about the malaise that hit her after completing a tour in 1995 that compelled her to seek professional help. "Things started resurfacing, and they wouldn't go down. And that's when the crying started. And sometimes I didn't know if I was going crazy or not. I just wanted it to end and find out what the hell is going on with me."
Lady Gaga has always reveled in (and encouraged) the diversity of the people who were drawn to her work. And she’s spent a lot of time trying to remind people that their differences don’t have to make them feel alone. To that end, she’s spoken at length about her mental health struggles. “I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life, I still suffer with it every single day. I just want these kids to know that that depth that they feel as human beings is normal.”
Kendrick Lamar made headlines when he won the first-ever music Pulitzer that didn’t go to a classical or jazz album. But while recording his previous effort, To Pimp a Butterfly, he admits that he struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and “survivor’s guilt” for his friends and family who are still trying to get out of Compton.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke experienced severe depression that kept him from writing for the better part of ten years. That period included his conscripted service in World War I, and several years afterward. When he finally did return to writing, he crafted the Duino Elegies, widely regarded as his most important work. He said of depression, “…bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”
As early as “Help!,” John Lennon was open about his struggles. He told Playboy that the origin of the song was that “I was fat and depressed, and I was crying out for help.” He sought treatment, including a foray into primal therapy in 1970. His attempts to sort through his emotions with primal therapy resulted in the song “Mother”.
At this point, Bill Murray is as famous for his quiet, introspective indie films as he is for his SNL-fueled comedy days. In 2008, he spoke to Associate Press about his depression following his wife’s filing for divorce. He’s developed a reputation for showing up in random places to party with strangers, and it’s not hard to reconcile those two things together.
In 2017, Trevor Noah talked about his depression while accepting an award in Montreal. He said that Jim Carrey’s openness about his depression helped Trevor recognize his own. “I didn’t know what that thing was. I just thought I liked sleeping for weeks on end sometimes…” He talks about the link between comedy and depression, which is a well-documented phenomenon.
Wil Wheaton emerged as an Internet celebrity, years after his turn as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s used his platform to be open about his struggles with depression and the pointlessness of avoiding medication when you need it. “Mental illness is exactly the same as a physical illness. Your body has something that’s out of whack – in our case, it’s how our brains handle neurochemicals and stuff – and there’s medication that can help us help ourselves feel better.”
Brooke Shields discussed her postpartum depression freely, and then doubled down on the importance of doing so. After Tom Cruise lashed out at her (calling her “irresponsible” for taking medication), she talked about the relief of knowing her despair was biochemical, and said, “Once we admit that postpartum is a serious medical condition, then the treatment becomes more available and socially acceptable.”
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dwayne Johnson has been talking about his fight with depression since at least 2015, when he spoke with Oprah’s Master Class about it. He traces a lot of it back to the childhood trauma of watching his mother attempt suicide. When he was 15, she walked into oncoming traffic and he had to pull her to safety. In April 2018 he tweeted, “Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone”
In October of 2016, the rapper announced that he had checked into a rehab for depression and suicidal urges in a Facebook post. “My anxiety and my depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it.” His comments sparked a long-overdue conversation about masculinity, race, depression, and hip-hop.
Ellen went from a stand-up comedian to a sitcom star to a widely-beloved daytime show host. But when she came out, she seemed on the verge of losing everything. She was joked about on every late-night show in the nation, and her own show was cancelled. “I moved out of L.A., went into a severe depression, started seeing a therapist and had to go on antidepressants for the first time in my life. It was scary and lonely." Today she dedicates her show to uplifting and celebrating other people.
In a 2015 interview with Howard Stern, Conan talked about being treated and medicated for his depression. He also talked about the myth of needing depression to be a comedian. “I used to think I needed to be incredibly unhappy to be funny…And people tell you that’s not true…and you get to a point where you don’t care if it’s true, you know? I’d rather be happy.”
Dolly Parton admitted that “depression runs in my family on both sides and I have to be wary.” She’s battled with the illness before. A partial hysterectomy in 1984 affected her weight, her hormones, and her ability to have children. In her depression, she picked up a gun and started to think about taking her own life. The sound of her dog running up the stairs to see her pulled her out of it. She’s said since, with her trademark openness and humor, “I'm not happy all the time; that's Botox!"
Patton Oswalt’s made a living analyzing and observing, and he’s certainly turned that mindset inward more than once, talking about depression jokingly, but also sharing his methods of coping with art, and music, and other sources of beauty as respites. He also contrasted his depression with his grief at the loss of his wife, and taken time to educate people who say depression “isn’t real”.
Sci-fi author Kurt Vonnegut suffered many mental health issues, including survivor’s guilt from the bombing of Dresden in World War II, and the grief of losing his mother to suicide. Even at the height of his literary fame, he struggled with depression, and tried to overdose on sleeping pills and alcohol in 1984. He survived, and kept advocating kindness until his death in 2007.
In 2007, Halle Berry admitted to a suicide attempt at the worst part of her 1997 break-up with her ex-husband. She described feeling unlovable, and said “I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me.” Berry credits counseling and therapy with helping her, then and now.