Cara Delevingne made the news last week for talking about her depression. It’s not the first time the actress and model has opened up about her mental health struggles, but this time, she left no questions unanswered. She has depression.
I suffer from depression and was a model during a particularly rough patch of self hatred— Cara Delevingne (@Caradelevingne) April 1, 2016
The purpose of Delevingne’s tweets was to correct misleading press reports that she had quit modeling. Delevingne revealed that she simply took a break from the industry after suffering a "rough patch of self-hatred."
Personally, I’m not bothered if Delevingne has quit modeling or not. What made me take notice of this was the fact that she was so up-front about the reason behind her self-imposed modeling hiatus. She didn't say she was "exhausted." She didn't say she was "busy pursuing other opportunities." She made it perfectly clear: She has depression.
As someone who has lived with this same illness for more than 20 years, I know that nothing any celebrity says or does will make it easier for me to get out of bed in the morning when I’m experiencing a crushing low. (Because nothing anybody says or does will make that overwhelming task easier, and that's simply the nature of the beast.)
But when I'm well, the honesty of Delevingne (or Demi Lovato, or Carrie Fisher, or Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Ashley Judd, or Brooke Shields, or Sheryl Crow or any of the growing number of celebrities who have spoken openly about their own experiences of mental illness) has a huge impact on me.
As a freelance writer, I never really have any idea how many people will read my words. When it comes to addressing my mental health, it doesn’t matter. It’s equally nerve-wracking whether it’s three people or 3,000.
Which is why Stephen Fry is my own personal mental health stigma-fighting celebrity hero. After his recent, superb BBC documentary The Not-So-Secret Life of the Manic Depressive was aired, The Telegraph called Fry "the brave face of suicidal depression."
This is a man who has survived suicide twice — once in 1995 and again in 2012 — and continues to try to work out how to live his life in a way that allows him to be happy and secure in co-existence with a cruel, unpredictable illness. In the public eye.
I spoke to a friend of mine, a man who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his 50s, about Fry's documentary. When I asked him if he had watched it, he told me he loved it. He revealed a lot more, but the light that came on in his eyes said everything that needed to be said.
I am not bipolar, but I can completely relate to that feeling of someone else gets it. Someone else has been going through what I’ve gone through. Someone else understands that this is important enough to talk about on mainstream TV, with millions of people watching who may very well not understand at all how important it is but will hopefully change their minds during the course of the program.
Not many stars bare their souls the way Fry does, and in such a selfless way, to bring some relief to the millions of people across the world who battle with mental illness day after day. That doesn’t mean Delevingne’s four little words on Twitter — "I suffer from depression" — are any less important. She has more than 5 million people hanging on her every tweet, for starters. Spreading awareness, whether that's by telling your family or tweeting your global fan base, is the absolute key to breaking down the stigma around mental illness that still prevails.
Cara, I really don’t care whether you have quit modeling or not. But I thank you for speaking so honestly about your depression. It makes it just that little bit easier for the rest of us to do the same. And anything that makes living with mental illness easier, no matter how small, is worth celebrating.
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