Yesterday’s media headlines brought another poignant reminder that mental illness can afflict even the biggest names, with pop star Ariana Grande opening up about her struggle with PTSD and anxiety in the aftermath of the Manchester terror attack that killed 22 people at her concert last year. Grande revealed to British Vogue that she has always struggled with anxiety, but that, unsurprisingly, the traumatic event triggered distress than she had not experienced before and symptoms with which she is still coping.
In her Vogue interview, Grande stated, “I feel like I shouldn’t even be talking about my own experience – like I shouldn’t even say anything” because of the extent of the trauma and suffering caused by the attack to so many others. Like others who have witnessed traumatic events at which others lost their lives, survivors often feel they don’t have the right to speak about their own suffering. Yet the admission to a lifelong struggle with mental illness, especially one coming from a celebrity with such a large and young fan base, might serve as the reminder many need that they are not alone in suffering from anxiety or other mental illnesses. The openness of today’s generation of young celebrities, from Selena Gomez opening up about her anxiety and depression, to Demi Lovato sharing her diagnosis as bipolar, marks a step in the direction toward ushering in a future in which mental illness can finally be destigmatized and truly understood. Only by shaping a truthful and frank narrative of mental illness can we hope to make it easier for individuals to openly seek help before the symptoms rob them and their loved ones of their well-being or even of their lives, as the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, also yesterday, tragically shows. An accepting and unprejudiced environment will allow early identification and treatment.