By Cheryl Steinberg
Here’s a macabre statistic: almost 15 million Americans suffer from some form of major depressive disorder annually. People find mental illnesses like depression difficult to talk about and the negative stigma associated with it doesn’t make things any easier. Mental illness is just as legitimate as physical disease or injury but, because it goes unseen, it’s difficult to grasp. If you have major depression, you’re in good company with these 8 celebrities who have major depressive disorder (you might be surprised)…
#1. Ellen DeGeneres
Beloved talk show host and avid fan of dancing, Ellen DeGeneres was not always so wildly successful. Back in 1997, she decided to take the brave step of coming out on her semi-biographical sitcom, Ellen, and although the episode in which she made her big reveal was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show, Ellen’s ratings fell drastically the following season and it was soon cancelled.
During this time, DeGeneres faced a dark period in both her career and personal life. With a failed attempt at another show, The Ellen Show, (it was quickly cancelled); offers drying up; her personal relationships falling apart, it’s no wonder that DeGeneres’ mental health took a major blow.
Nowadays, though, it seems the actress-turned-talk show-host has won the battle with depression and Ellen has since become one of the most bankable television names in the world.
#2. Jon Hamm
Mad Men star Jon Hamm faced major depression early on, in his adolescence: his father died when the actor was 20 years old, leading to a deep depression. His struggle with depression lasted for years but he was always proactive with seeking help; Hamm says that both therapy and antidepressants helped treat his depression. About acting, Hamm has said: “The theater department seems to be the way station for the orphans and all the people who don’t fit in anywhere else” and it seems that he has put his early experiences with depression to good use while crafting his art. With a hugely successful acting career at his feet, it seems Hamm has finally arrived as a force in Hollywood. Recently, the actor completed a 30-day rehab program for alcohol addiction.
#3. JK Rowling
J.K. Rowling rose to fame with her whimsical and inspiring Harry Potter book series. Before long the books were a worldwide phenomenon and Rowling was the richest female author on the planet. But, before all of that, Rowling struggled with serious depression. The author would later admit that things got so bad for and that she even contemplated suicide.
Before she found her voice with writing, Rowling was a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She would scribble bits and pieces of what would become the Harry Potter epic on crumpled napkins in between jobs. She persevered and now the world has some amazingly touching and uplifting literature to show for it! It is said that Rowling, like Hamm, used her depression as inspiration – at least in part – while writing; a famous example of this is her concept of Dementors, which are “soul-sucking fiends” that act as guards in the magic world’s infamous Azkaban prison. The Dementors “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them” by performing the Dementor’s kiss, which works by sucking the happiness and soul from its victim.
#4. Brad Pitt
Another one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors to do battle with major depression is the ever-popular Brad Pitt. With credits like 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Moneyball, Inglourious Basterds, and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise to only name a few – or six – things weren’t always so great for the star.
Pitt revealed in the past that he fought depression back in the ’90s, telling the press that he felt like he was “wasting away” and that he turned into a “stoner” without any direction or ambition. Pitt says he was disgusted with his reliance on marijuana and that he sank into depression and self-loathing. Also around this time, Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston was on shaky ground and has said that that was another contributing factor when it came to his mental state. He has said that neither he nor Aniston really had what it took to be in a relationship together and that they “faked it” for a long time.
Pitt has reportedly said that his marriage with Angelina Jolie restored him so much that it completely changed his life around. Pitt has told reporters that Jolie “lives life” in a way that few others do and credits Jolie in getting him re-focused on his artwork and living a fulfilled life.
#5. Russell Brand
Russell Brand is no stranger to strife. The actor-and-comedian-turned-activist has battled addictions in the past, from drugs to sex – and celebrates more than a decade of continuous sobriety. But, also in the past, Brand struggled with both depression and bulimia, both of which he sought treatment for multiple times.
Brand draws on his own emotional turmoil for laughs and Brand is in good company (as far as this author is concerned) with the likes of Mitch Hedberg (RIP), Louis C.K., and Joan Rivers (RIP) – to name only a few. Nowadays, Brand channels his energies into positive, proactive endeavors by speaking out about addiction, recovery, and the need for support among fellow recovering addicts after they leave rehab.
#6. Winona Ryder
The 80s It-Girl went from being in the spotlight to the fringes of Hollywood in a New York minute. Her credits list Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Dracula, and Girl, Interrupted (with Jolie) but a very public break-up with superstar Johnny Depp led to severe anxiety with depression. As a result, Ryder sought therapy and was even institutionalized for a brief stint due to her mental illness. And then there was the oh-so-public shoplifting incident, which must have dealt her a heavy blow.
It seems, though, that Ryder has made a bit of a comeback with her roles in Black Swan and the show Homefront. However, Ryder’s depression seems to be a pervasive force in her life as she refuses to take lead roles in film work due to the emotional stress that it puts on her.
#7. Pete Wentz
Fall Out Boy bassist and songwriter Pete Wentz routinely struggled with mental issues stemming back to his teens; he is diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and has taken medication for it since the age of eighteen. In 2005, while supposedly at the top of his game, the famous musician and a friend got loaded on alcohol and other drugs and ended up playing a grim game of Russian roulette. At one point, his depression got so bad that he tried to overdose on Ativan. Wentz detailed the story of his suicide attempt in an interview with Playboy:
“I was isolating myself further and further, and the more I isolated myself, the more isolated I’d feel. I wasn’t sleeping. I just wanted my head to shut off, like, I just wanted to completely stop thinking about anything at all.”
Wentz now has two children and a supportive girlfriend and credits a good support system of great friends with helping him keep his depression at bay.
#8. Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones has been waging a war with her own mental health for a while now and has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder type II – the depressive subtype of the disorder. The star of such films as Chicago and Oceans 12 experienced a serious bout of depression while her husband of 15 years, major Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, fought throat cancer. Douglas has said of his wife’s condition that he had no idea the extent of her suffering.
In April 2011, Zeta-Jones sought treatment for bipolar II disorder and checked herself into the high-end Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut. The actress again sought help in treating her bipolar disorder by checking into a health care facility again in April 2013.
Zeta-Jones treats her major depression with therapy and medication.
Please don’t suffer in silence. There continues to be a negative stigma attached to depression and other psychological disorders however the tides have begun to change. Mental illnesses are just as real and just as painful – if not more so – as physical illnesses. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to talk to someone today – or tonight. We’re here 27/7 to take your call.
By now, you should be familiar with Russell Brand, if not for his celebrity status – appearing in such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek – then by his status as a recovering addict and advocate for changing the addiction stigma.
The British actor and comedian is known for his activism; someone who never shrinks from discussions regarding revolution and social inequality. And it was business as usual when he appeared on the independent global news program Democracy Now! to discuss, among other things, a subject with which he has personal experience. That of drug addiction.
The 39-year-old actor is now 12 years clean and sober.
Brand took the opportunity to criticize the war on drug during his segment on the popular program. When host Amy Goodman mentioned the recent high-profile, tragic overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the shocking suicide of Robin Williams – whose death did not involve drugs – Brand had this to say:
“I suppose those high-profile and sad deaths provide an opportunity to highlight how many lives are affected by addiction and the need to address it by different means,” he told Goodman. “I think criminalizing and penalizing people that are ill like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams is sort of pointless. It doesn’t work…I think the only way for drug addiction to be correctly addressed is for it to be regulated properly, not left in the hands of criminals.”
Brand is an outspoken critic of Britain’s drug laws, specifically, and the larger drug war. He told the BBC, “I was part of a social and economic class that is under-served by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates.”
As an activist, Brand puts his money where his mouth is. He has testified before British Parliament – back in 2012 – calling for a pragmatic, compassionate approach to dealing with drug addiction and actively contributes to compassionate substance abuse treatment.
Last year, he launched the Give It Up Fund in the United Kingdom, which established “recovery communities” that help people reenter society after leaving rehab by providing local services such as housing, healthcare, career guidance, and fellowship.
While appearing on Democracy Now!, Brand also had this to say:
“The reason people are addicted to drugs is because there is sort of a deficit of happiness, a deficit of community, a deficit of connection,” he told Goodman. “I think a lot of us feel a little adrift, like we don’t know how we’re supposed to live, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. And in the end, some kind of anesthetic becomes attractive. Certainly, that’s my personal experience.”
Brand added, “I recognize now that the thing that I was chasing after in my years of addiction was probably some sort of sense of communal connection or connection to a higher thing.”
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol or you suspect someone you love is struggling, help is available. All it takes is one phone call – a toll-free call – to 1-800-951-6135 and you will be directly connected to someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate about the disease of drug addiction. We can answer your questions and help you decide what’s next. Recovery is possible.
“The priority of any addict is to anesthetize the pain of living to ease the passage of day with some purchased relief. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple; it actually is simple bit it isn’t easy; it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably.”
Here are some really cool quotes from celebrities who choose not to drink. Some, but not all of them are recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. What they do have in common is their sobriety and success. Here are some thoughts on sobriety from celebs who don’t drink.
#1. Simon Pegg
“I find it easier to keep fit if I don’t drink. I have given up for two years and I don’t miss it in the slightest.”
Actor and comedian Simon Pegg has revealed in the past that stopped drinking alcohol and has been feeling healthier ever since. “I was starting to do Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, which required more of a physical contribution and [alcohol has] so many empty calories,” he says. “I find it easier to keep fit if I don’t drink. I have given up for two years and I don’t miss it in the slightest.”
Besides health reasons, Pegg said he also gave up drinking alcohol in order to be a better parent. “I also want to be able to wake up fresh in the morning and play with my kid,” he says. “You can’t be a present parent and drink, unless you take it in turns to lie in until 11 every morning.”
#2. Chris Hardwick
” Ultimately, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. There’s an economy of energy that you have in your life. You just have to devote it to the things that are good for you. For the most part, that’s more constructive than drinking, and one of them doesn’t end in uncontrollable vomiting and crying…The first thing I noticed about sobriety? I lost about 20 pounds within a couple of months. I started getting compliments, this was highly motivating. Years later, and through much therapy, I would come to discover all of the really bad things (as opposed to weight gain) alcoholism caused, like anxiety, paranoia, and perpetual emotional infancy.”
The self -proclaimed “Nerdist” comedian has had some major changes in the past decade. His career includes a featured role on MTV, including Singled Out and several other popular projects, all while battling his issues with weight and alcoholism. Currently, his career has blossomed even more with roles in Grown Ups 2 and hosting the AMC recap series Talking Dead where he speaks with stars from popular series The Walking Dead. He currently hosts the hilarious @midnight, a comedic panel show in which 3 different comedians and celebs take on pop culture with their wit.
#3. Gerard Butler
“I don’t miss it. Now it’s as if I never had a drink in my life. At one point, I could never have conceived going out and not drinking but, as time goes on, you lose the urge and the insecurity that often makes people drink in the first place.”
Butler quit drinking over 15 years ago but did another stint in rehab a couple of years back for prescription painkiller abuse. The actor had been prescribed the pills after sustaining an injury while shooting the movie Shattered in 2007. “I started taking more. And I started taking them very quickly.” He says he sought treatment before it got too out of hand. Butler has been clean and sober ever since.
#4. Joe Manganiello
“You get to a place where you’re afraid you’re going to do irreversible harm to yourself or to someone else. That fear grows so great that you wake up one day and you don’t know where you’re headed, and you don’t know what to do, but you just know you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing. I’m a better man for having gone through it. When I was at the point where I had completely failed at life, I swore that if success ever happened, if I ever had another opportunity, I’d never take it for granted. I would spend every waking moment making sure I did the best I could.”
His break out role is a werewolf on the popular, recently-ended show “True Blood,” but Joe Manganiello has also written a book called Evolution: The Cutting Edge Guide to Breaking Down Mental Walls and Building the Body You’ve Always Wanted in which he revealed his past struggles with an alcohol problem when he was in his 20s.
“I needed to clear the road in order for these things to happen, so it really is an inside job. I had to clean up my act and figure that whole situation out.”
“My life was ruined,” he added of his struggle. “I was homeless, careless and broke with no career, so yes, it was worth it [to get sober].”
#5. Ewan McGregor
” I was someone who couldn’t smoke or drink in moderation, and I recognized that those things would kill me. I started visualizing the doctor telling me that I had cancer from smoking or that I was extremely ill because of how much I’d been drinking. What kind of regret would I have if I had to tell my children or my wife that I was dying because of something I could have done something about? I didn’t want to be that kind of man.”
“Originally I was a happy drunk. But later I was miserable because it’s a depressant,” the Scottish actor has said. “I was just ashamed of myself, really.”
McGregor says he stopped drinking because he was afraid he would lose everything he had worked so hard for. “I knew I was lucky, and somehow I knew that if I didn’t stop, everything would go tits up – my career, my family, my everything.”
#6. Samuel L. Jackson
“I still hang out in bars. I get something that looks like a drink so that people don’t know that I’m not drinking, because I want to be accepted. So I have a tonic with lime and it looks like a gin and tonic. People say things like, ‘If you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’ll get a haircut.’ What? Shut up. People tell you stuff like that because they think you’re going to fail or sometimes they want you to, so they can say, ‘I told you so.'”
The 66-year-old actor declared that getting sober over 20 years ago significantly enhanced his ability to act, which led him to the pinnacle performances of his career in more recent times. Jackson, who lost his father to alcoholism, says his drug use began in the late 70s.
“I liked the feeling of not being cognizant of what was going on around me. I was working the whole time. I rehearsed and performed on drugs.”
#7. Gary Oldman
“Getting sober was one of the three pivotal events in my life, along with becoming an actor and having a child. Of the three, finding my sobriety was the hardest thing.”
He’s what I consider to be one of the most brilliant actors, being able to pull off different roles and is very rarely recognizable in each. Oldman has played the title role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he’s appeared in Harry Potter, Hannibal, True Romance, among many other memorable roles.
“I drank for about 25 years getting over the loss of my father and I took the anger out on myself. I did a good job at beating myself up at sometimes. I don’t drink anymore but my alcoholic head occasionally say’s different.
“It’s been said that alcoholics are egomaniacs with low self – esteem. It’s the prefect description. Being larger than life and yet your pride is crushed with self- loathing.”
#8. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
“I moved from drinking to depression to heavier drinking to deeper depression. I recognized a pattern, but I continually sabotaged my own efforts to do anything about it. If you’re still drinking, you make some pretty dumb decisions.”
Yes the Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober since 1978. Aldrin has said that he quit drinking a couple of days before his mission to the moon only to pick right back up when returned from the moon; instant celebrity status had taken him by surprise and he immersed himself in alcohol, as he was unable to escape his depression and the disrepair of his marriage.
Aldrin sought treatment for his depression where he learned that he was an alcoholic and consequently sought treatment for that as well.
#9. Sir Anthony Hopkins
“It was like being possessed by a demon, an addiction, and I couldn’t stop. And millions of people [are] around like that. I could not stop. I just thought, ‘Well, I have a choice here: change or die, grow or go.’ So I stopped doing certain things and I stated doing certain others, and I’m glad I did. I see other people still carrying this monkey on their back, which is exactly what it is.”
Anthony Hopkins struggled with alcoholism early on in his career. He says he turned to alcohol for comfort, rather than reaching out to his many supportive friends and loved ones. Hopkins says that his drinking turned him into a loner, and led to failed relationship after failed relationship. He woke up one morning in another state wondering how he got there, which prompted him to join Alcoholics Anonymous. He attributes AA to getting his life back on track.
Sir Anthony Hopkins has been sober going on four decades. “For me, giving it up was finding the airlock, the escape hatch. It all happened one Monday morning in 1975.”
#10. Henry Rollins
“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone. Keep your blood clean, your body lean, and your mind sharp. I just get things done instead of talking about getting them done. I don’t go out and party. I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs and I’m not married, that leaves a lot of time for my work.”
Henry Rollins may be best known as a singer/songwriter, but the self-described “aging punk icon” has gone from edgy singer to Grammy-winning spoken word artist to author, publisher, actor, radio and TV host, and biting political commentator. Despite the lifestyle so often associated to musicians, Rollins has never really messed with alcohol or other drugs for that matter.
Did you know these famous people were sober? It’s eye-opening to find out that there are so many people out there affected by alcoholism and drug addiction. It can also be surprising to see so many successful recovering alcoholics and addicts. But that’s what recovery brings: freedom and the ability to live a happy, successful life. It’s not merely about not drinking or using anymore; it’s about having a quality of life you never thought you could have. Recovery is possible. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist today.
As you probably already know, Russell Brand is a recovering addict, himself, and has shared his insight on the insidious disease of addiction. He has recently been in the news for his work with Comic Relief, raising monies to donate to burgeoning recovery communities in the UK. Yesterday, Russell Brand shared his thoughts, in a piece he wrote for The Guardian, on the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and on the larger issue of addiction.
Brand writes, “Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise [sic] drug addicts.”
His overall message is this: “that [Hoffman’s death] was unnecessary and we know that something could be done. We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don’t do it.”
Brand states his case that it’s the stigma about addiction being a problem of morality and an issue of personal weakness that drives the current sociopolitical and judicial treatment of addicts and all-things-drug-related.
“If drugs are illegal [then] people who use drugs are criminals. We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us with no solutions and greatly increases the problem.”
On prohibition, which is the current way most societies deal with “the drug problem,” Brand writes:
“This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition…where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.”
There are other places – countries such as Portugal and Switzerland – that are doing things differently by trying out progressive and tolerant drug laws. And these countries have seen a significant decrease in crime and drug-related deaths. So, if a different was is possible then, why haven’t we changed?
It’s obvious that the current system isn’t working and that places that are introducing alternative ways of doing things are yielding desired results.
To this, Brand asks, “why are we not acting? Tradition? Prejudice? Extreme stupidity? The answer is all three. Change is hard, apathy is easy, tradition is the narcotic of our rulers. The people who are most severely affected by drug prohibition are dispensable, politically irrelevant people. Poor people. Addiction affects all of us but the poorest pay the biggest price.”
And although this is more often the case, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder that addiction doesn’t discriminate – it affects people equally across the board, regardless of fame, money, gender, ethnicity, religion.
What’s clear is this: “we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma? If we weren’t invited to believe that people who suffer from addiction deserve to suffer? Would he have OD’d if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered?”
Brand offers a change in perspective saying, “Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Russell Brand has announced a fund to develop recovery communities for people leaving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. As for his own recovery, Brand has been clean ten years and says, “My life has immeasurably improved. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.”
The Give It Up Fund and Comic Relief
The Give it Up Fund, which will be managed by Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK whose mission is to drive positive change through the power of entertainment, aims to provide financial aid to help people remain free from substances by setting up support groups in three pilot areas of the country. The funds will be used to provide a practical alternative for people completing drug treatment programs and who need more than the typical next step: sober living. With initial donations of £500,000, the fund is already off to a good start.
Gilly Green, who is Head of UK Grants at Comic Relief said: “Comic Relief has supported those facing addiction for many years. We’re looking forward to finding out more about the potential of recovery communities through these pilots and hearing more inspiring stories about how they can help people to recover from addiction.”
The purpose of recovery communities is to provide someone who is recovering from this devastating disease with all the local services they need to sustain their sobriety and continue their abstinence from mood and mind-altering substances, including alcohol. Recovery communities support people in recovery by providing assistance with housing, career support, peer support and health support. All of this, so that recovering addicts and alcoholics can continue to make lasting changes to be successful at sobriety and improve their overall quality of life.
Of the project, Brand said, “It’s integral that people entering a life of abstinence after the chaos of addiction have stability, support and a role to play in the wider community.”
Russell Brand: Advocate for Addicts
Brand, who is in recovery for alcohol and heroin, has become a veritable spokesperson and advocate for people in recovery and has spoken openly on the topic. “For me it’s not about the drug laws, it’s about treating people with addiction issues in a compassionate and empathetic way.”
Back in June of last year, he said, “I don’t think drug laws are working because people take drugs all the time. People will take drugs because of social, psychological and emotional reasons.”
On the nature of addiction, Brand said, “As a recovering drug addict myself, when I was using drugs I didn’t care if drugs were illegal. If I need drugs because I’m in pain inside, I’m taking drugs and I know this to be true of drug addicts all over our country.”
He went on to say that criminalizing and marginalizing drug addicts “make[s] it difficult and shaming for them to get treatment. That is the wrong way to handle the situation.”
Brand spoke at The Recovery Group UK (RGUK) and Give it Up’s conference ‘Creating Recovery,’ for health commissioners, those working in the drug and alcohol treatment system and police and crime commissioners that was held at the London Film Museum last week.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.