Modern Family star Sarah Hyland appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, where she opened up about reaching a low point in her mental health earlier in her career. Hyland, who lives with kidney dysplasia, recalled “always being sick and being in chronic pain every single day.” In her darkest moments, she even experienced suicidal thoughts. “I was very, very, very close,” she told DeGeneres. “I would write letters in my head to loved ones — of why I did it, my reasoning behind it, how it’s nobody’s fault. And I didn’t want to write it down on paper because I didn’t want anyone to find it… I didn’t want anyone to know I was that close because if I knew, they would try to persuade me [not to].”
Hyland isn’t the only one who has hidden her symptoms of mental illness from her loved ones. When people with depression hide their true mental state, experts call it “smiling depression,” a term used to describe someone living with depression while appearing perfectly happy on the outside. While Hyland kept her battle to herself, her willingness to open up now is a testament to the fact that if you’re struggling inside, whether with depression or other mental health struggles, there’s no shame in seeking help — and if you feel lonely, it’s vital to remember that you’re not actually alone.
Here are other stars who once masked their mental health challenges, and have used their voices to prove that it’s never too late to speak up.
Hailey Baldwin made an important statement on social media this week, showing that despite the beautiful life pictured in her feed, her reality, and her struggle with anxiety and mental health, often looks much different. She opened up about her anxiety on Instagram, writing, “The truth is no matter how amazing things may look from the outside, I struggle.” The 22-year-old model recently got married to singer Justin Bieber, and although her feed is filled with smiling selfies and polished model shots, Baldwin revealed that on the inside, she struggles with feeling less than on a regular basis. “I’m insecure, I’m fragile, I’m hurting, I have fears, I have doubts, I have anxiety… Every single day is a confidence battle for me,” she wrote. “There are days that I’m simply broken because of it.” But Baldwin also delivered a message of hope to her followers, reminding herself, and all of us, that it’s okay to struggle, and it’s important to remind yourself that you are enough. “I am enough, and I’m loved,” she wrote. “And you are enough and you’re loved.”
“I’m over staying silent about depression,” Kristen Bell told TIME in 2016. “[Depression] gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness… I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer… Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong.” Bell, who began struggling with depression in college, has used her voice to move the conversation forward and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. After spending so much time smiling on the outside, she wants everyone to know that their voices matter, no matter what: “It’s important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer. We all do.”
Demi Lovato is typically very candid about her mental health struggles, but she has also spoken about choosing to hide them when she was younger. “It was very important for me to talk about mental illness and how you can live with it and have an incredible life,” Lovato told Arianna Huffington on the Thrive Global Podcast. “When I was in treatment, going through rehab when I was 18, my manager came to me and said, ‘We can either talk about the reasons why you’re in here and hopefully help somebody, or not talk about them at all. It’s totally up to you.’” Lovato made the choice to stop hiding and pretending that everything was fine, and to open up.
Lady Gaga first made a name for herself in Hollywood for her buzzy pop singles and imaginative fashion statements, but in more recent years, the singer has become an advocate for mental health awareness and is unapologetically open about her own struggles. She has spoken about living with PTSD, and continues to share about challenging moments when she needed guidance but held her feelings inside. “I needed help earlier,” Gaga said in a powerful speech at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s third annual Patron of the Artists Awards in November. “I needed someone to see not through me or see the star that I had become, but rather see the darkness inside that I was struggling with.”
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