Eight Highly Accomplished Individuals Who Live With Mental Illness and Fight The Stigma

A huge part of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses involves the notion that a person living with a mental illness will be unsuccessful. This claim is simply not true, and I chose eight accomplished and/or famous people who live with a mental illness and also fight the stigma and #breakthesilence to prove it.

1. Elyn Saks

In a Ted Talk, Saks shares her inspiring story.

“As a young woman, I was in a psychiatric hospital on three different occasions for lengthy periods. My doctors diagnosed me with chronic schizophrenia, and gave me a prognosis of “grave.” That is, at best, I was expected to live in a board and care, and work at menial jobs. Fortunately, I did not actually enact that grave prognosis. Instead, I’m a chaired Professor of Law, Psychology and Psychiatry at the USC Gould School of Law, I have many close friends and I have a beloved husband, Will, who’s here with us today.”

Subsequently, Saks researches the disorder that she struggles with. In addition, she showcases not only her success and accomplishments, but also how to destigmatize mental illness. 

 

2. John Green

 

Despite his battles with OCD and Anxiety, Green is a best-selling author who uses social media as an outlet for fighting the stigma.

“In the end, I feel that romanticizing mental illness is dangerous and destructive just as stigmatizing it is. So I want to say that, yes, I am mentally ill. I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care. Thanks.”  

Furthermore, on Twitter he also destigmatizes medication:

“Like millions of others, I take medication to help treat my mental illness. Treating chronic medical conditions must not be stigmatized.” 

3. Demi Lovato

Lovato is both a wildly successful singer as well as a big mental health activist. In addition to speaking out, she also started Be Vocal, a mental health activism organization. There she shares personal stories and accomplishments regarding her bipolar disorder through that medium.
 “Living well with bipolar disorder is possible, but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process. The reality is that you’re not a car that goes into a shop and gets fixed right away. Everyone’s process and treatment plan may be different. “ 

4. Howie Mandel 

Mandel is a professional comedian and game show host who struggles with OCD and ADHD. Although he won’t shake hands with contestants and co-workers, he still manages to climb to the top of the success ladder in his field.

“After I impulsively revealed that I have OCD on a talk show, I was devastated. I often do things without thinking. That’s my ADHD talking. Out in public, after I did the show, people came to me and said, “Me, too.” They were the most comforting words I’ve ever heard. Whatever you’re dealing with in life, know that you’re not alone.”

5. Brooke Shields

Shields, an actress and model, wrote about her experiences with postpartum depression publicly. 

“I was not really aware that I had it [postpartum depression]. It was devastating to my whole family. I had gone through numerous attempts to have a baby and when I did finally have this perfect, beautiful, healthy baby and it all but destroyed me. I couldn’t hold the baby, I couldn’t do anything for the baby, I couldn’t look at the baby. Every time I got near her, even the smell of the diapers of the baby. I would… My knees would get weak. I would… I just cried all day long and I thought I’d made the worst mistake of my life.”

Later on she details how early intervention and treatment helped her and allowed her to continue her life and career successfully. 

6. Michael Phelps


Phelps, a swimmer and an Olympic Gold Medalist, battled ADHD and (later in life) substance abuse. In interviews, he spoke publicly about both. Eventually, with the help of mindfulness and medication and SWIMMING, he became one of the most successful athletes in the world. 

“Your mind is the strongest medicine you can have…You can overcome anything if you think you can and you want to.”
“Obviously there were a lot of things that I needed to fix. It’s pretty crazy how big of a change I see from not having a drink… I see a complete change in how I am day to day. Completely clear-headed. I’m actually happy every day. I’m actually able to be productive every day. I think that’s something that I am very proud of and, you know, I think when I do retire I’ll be able to look back and say that was something that really helped.”

7. Carrie Fisher

Even though Fisher passed away in the process of me writing this article, I included her. Throughout her life she served as both an accomplished actress as well as a big mental health advocate.

On numerous occasions, she spoke openly about living successfully with manic depression and bipolar disorder. “There is treatment and a variety of medications that can alleviate your symptoms if you are manic depressive or depressive. You can lead a normal life, whatever that is… have gotten to the point where I can live a normal life, where my daughter can rely on me for predictable behavior, and that’s very important to me.”

I am mentally ill [and] can say that. I am not ashamed of that… I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” 

8. Macklemore

Macklemore is a famous rapper/singer, who raps and speaks about his past problems with addiction. He started Half Of Us to bring awareness and fight the stigma.

“I wanted to get clean. I knew that my highest potential, the place that I was most spiritual, the place that I was the most rich in terms of my life, and my livelihood, and my art and my creativity, was when I was sober.”

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