According to the charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem each year. Although commonplace, mental illnesses like eating disorders, depression and anxiety still have a lot of uninformed associations. Indeed, a shocking 90% of people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination had a negative impact on their lives.
In a bid to help reduce the stigma against mental illness, we’ve compiled a list of popstars who have spoken openly about their own depression and anxiety, and how they deal with them.
(If these are issues that affect you, we’ve included links to organisations who can help at the bottom.)
Despite the fact Adele is literally the most successful recording artist in the world, the London-born singer has had a long battle with anxiety.
“I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever,” Adele told Q magazine, before explaining that she couldn’t envisage herself playing a festival or an arena show. “The thought of an audience that big frightens the life out of me. I’d hate to book a festival and have a f**king anxiety attack and then not go on stage.”
Despite this, Adele told Rolling Stone that she was inspired after meeting Beyoncé to create an alter ego to help her deal with her anxiety and “Sasha Carter” – a hybrid of Sasha Fierce, Bey’s own alter-ego, and country singer June Carter – was born.
According to the Daily Star, the singer also hired a therapist for her latest tour, which saw her play eight dates at London’s O2 and a headline slot at Glastonbury, in a bid to help her manage her panic attacks and anxiety.
2. DEMI LOVATO
Demi Lovato has been particularly candid about her battles with eating disorders, self-harm and bipolar disorder.
The 24-year-old has previously checked herself into rehab in order to work on her mental health and has lived in sober communities in a bid to tackle addiction. In 2014, she made a documentary, Demi Lovato: Stay Strong, which detailed her recovery and the lows that led her to seek treatment.
“I just think mental illness is something people need to learn more about and the stigma needs to be taken away from,” the singer told People, after launching her initiative Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health.
Demi has been particularly open about how her recovery is sometimes a “day by day… hour by hour” situation.
“This is an ongoing process and the hardest part about these diseases is that they’re things that I’m going to have to face every day for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’m going to mess up and I’m not going to be perfect, but as long as I try every day to get better and better myself, then I’m one step ahead of where I was before.”
This year, she attended the Democratic National Convention where she spoke about her experiences. “I stand here today as proof that you can live a normal and empowered life with mental illness,” she said.
3. ZAYN MALIK
Despite being in a successful and world-conquering boyband, Zayn Malik recently revealed he suffers from anxiety.
The 22-year-old opened up about how he had to pull out of performing at the Capital Summertime Ball. “Unfortunately my anxiety that has haunted me throughout the last few months around live performances has gotten the better of me,” he wrote on Instagram. “With the magnitude of the event, I have suffered the worst anxiety of my career. I cannot apologise enough, but I want to be honest with everyone.
“I know those who suffer anxiety will understand and I hope those who don’t can empathise with my situation.”
Zayn has been praised by mental health advocates for speaking out about his struggles. In the UK, men between the ages of 35 and 49 are more likely to die from suicide than any other cause.
The singer recently said that he’d been working on overcoming his anxiety. “I feel I am making progress,” he said in a statement after having to pull out of another live show this month. “But I have acknowledged that I do not feel sufficiently confident to move forward with the planned show.”
4. SELENA GOMEZ
Selena, who has previously spoken about her battle with lupus, recently decided to take an extended break out of the spotlight.
“I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks, and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges,” she said in a statement. “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support.”
Addressing her fans specifically, the singer said: “You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”
5. KANYE WEST
In 2010, Kanye West – who many would mark down as one of the most confident men in the public eye – opened up about how he once considered ending his own life.
“There were times that I contemplated suicide. I will not give up on life again,” he said. “There’s so many people that will never get the chance to have their voice heard. I do it for them.”
6. OLLY ALEXANDER
Years & Years achieved momentous success. The band have also been responsible for helping deconstruct norms surrounding gender and sexuality thanks to the honesty of frontman Olly Alexander.
Olly has also spoken about his struggle with eating disorders, bulimia, self-harm and depression, as well as his experiences with treatment.
“The likelihood is that you or someone you know closely will suffer from a mental health condition in your lifetime,” Olly said in an interview with author Owen Jones. “It’s like any other part of your body – your mental health gets sick, and it needs treatment.”
Olly has opened up about bullying and issues surrounding his sexuality, two subjects often linked to troubles with mental illness. The charity Stonewall says that one in five gay and bisexual men have suffered from moderate to severe levels of depression.
“It’s not only something that affects me but also affects my family and some of the people closest to me too, which I’m sure many people can relate to,” the singer told Dazed. “I’ve spent the last few years really working on my mental health, trying to get better support. I’ve received care from the NHS and privately, from both sectors, and I feel like I’m a bit clued up on what’s out there in terms of the services and medications available.”
Olly shared with Owen Jones how he found CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) a helpful tool for dealing with anxiety and panic disorder. He also wants to help break down the stigma attached to mental illness. “It’s part of who I am now – in a positive way,” he said. “I look at it in a positive way.”
You might look at a woman like Beyoncé and think that she’s invulnerable. But she’s just a human being.
Speaking to The Sun, the star spoke about how she had to take a year off to deal with her mental health. “It was beginning to get fuzzy – I couldn’t even tell which day or which city I was at,” she said. “My mother was very persistent and she kept saying that I had to take care of my mental health.”
The singer also opened up about what she thought women could do to take better care of themselves. “Women have to take the time to focus on our mental health – take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish,” she acknowledged, speaking to Elle. “The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself.”
8. LADY GAGA
Lady Gaga has spent the entirety of her career being open about her life experiences. It’s part of why she has a devoted and ever-growing fanbase, the little monsters.
The singer has spoken about her mental health on numerous occasions. Talking to Billboard, she said that she still has daily struggles.
“I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life,” she told the music magazine. “I just want these kids to know that that depth that they feel as human beings is normal.”
More recently, the singer explained how she’s been on medication as part of treatment. “I take medication every day for mental illness and depression and don’t feel bad about it,” she said at a concert in 2014.
“Depression doesn’t take away your talents – it just makes them harder to find. But I always find it. I learned that my sadness never destroyed what was great about me. You just have to go back to that greatness, find that one little light that’s left. I’m lucky I found one little glimmer stored away.”
Prolific songwriter and vocalist Sia has opened up about battles with drug and alcohol addiction as well as depression. Now sober, the star has spoken about how she considered suicide in 2010, but after taking part in a 12-step programme, got the help she needed.
“The last couple of years have just been, since I made the decision to just take care of my own sanity and serenity and stuff, my life has just improved so much and I’m honestly surprised that things are working out so well for me,” she told Dateline.
10. CHRISTINA AGUILERA
Christina Aguilera might have the public persona of a massive pop diva, but the star has also talked openly about her battle with depression. “It’s something that is always right below the surface,” she said during the filming of Behind the Music on VH1.
Continuing, Christina said that it was knowing that she wasn’t alone in her situation that helped her. “I’m not the only person that’s been through growing up in a place of chaos or sadness or yelling and fighting and seeing horrific things at a young age,” she said.
“I’m truly thankful for the darkest times in my life.”
11. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
Opening up for the first time about his battle with depression in his new autobiography Born to Run, singer songwriter Bruce Springsteen has said that he’d been “crushed” by depressive thoughts.
“You don’t know the illness’s parameters,” the American singer told Vanity Fair ahead of the book’s release. “One of the points I’m making in the book is that, whoever you’ve been and wherever you’ve been, it never leaves you. I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”
12. JANET JACKSON
In 1998, Janet Jackson spoke about her own battle with mental illness. “I remember, even after the ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour in 1990, when I was in my early 20s, I was really bummed out,” the singer said to The Washington Post. “Looking back on it now, it was depression.”
Jackson said that because she was uneducated when it came to mental health, she couldn’t see the signs at the time. “It hits a lot of people – and a lot of artists – and I didn’t know that. Nobody ever talked about that in my family – I still haven’t talked to anybody in my family about it.”
13. TOM FLETCHER
McFly’s Tom Fletcher has explained how he didn’t realise that he was suffering with mental illness until he started talking to other people around him.
The singer, author and YouTuber has opened up about his eating disorder, but said his diagnosis with depression came when he checked into rehab. “I’d never been the most sociable of people, but I felt more anti-social than ever. I’d lost my enthusiasm for everything,” he said about that time in his life. “You can’t remember what it’s like to be happy. The truth is, I’d have done almost anything to rid myself of the depressions.”
The singer explained how medication helped him overcome his difficulties. “It’s extremely common, anyone can be affected by it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and help is available,” he said to Metro.
Tom has since told how he came off medication following the birth of his first son, Buzz. “‘I was taking medication, but I don’t any more. Having a kid has really helped me in my life. It gives you a sense of needing to be stable,” he explained.
14. JUSTIN BIEBER
The past 12 months have seen Justin Bieber open up about a number of mental health issues.
Speaking to NME ahead of the release of his album Purpose, the former teen star said that he struggled with pressures of fame. “I just want people to know I’m human. I’m struggling just to get through the days. I think a lot of people are,” he said. “You get lonely, you know, when you’re on the road. People see the glam and the amazing stuff, but they don’t know the other side. This life can rip you apart.”
The ‘Love Yourself’ singer made the decision that he could no longer partake in fan meet-and-greets. “I’m going to be cancelling my meet and greets,” Bieber wrote on Instagram. “I enjoy meeting such incredible people but I end up feeling so drained and filled with so much of other people’s spiritual energy that I end up so drained and unhappy.”
Continuing, he said, “I want to make people smile and happy but not at my expense and I always leave feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression.
“The pressure of meeting people’s expectations of what I’m supposed to be is so much for me to handle and a lot on my shoulders. Never want to disappoint but I feel I would rather give you guys the show and my albums as promised. Can’t tell you how sorry I am, and wish it wasn’t so hard on me. And I want to stay in the healthy mindset I’m in to give you the best show you have ever seen.”
15. BRITNEY SPEARS
While not much concrete information is known about Britney Spears (and we won’t speculate here), the singer has recently opened up about her issues with anxiety and social situations.
“I moved to Los Angeles when I was very young. I was so under scrutiny,” Britney told Marie Claire UK. “If a hair was out of place, I’d be so anxious. I would get very anxious about so many things.”
Similarly, speaking to Flaunt magazine the singer said: “I get nervous in a lot of situations. Parties, clubs. When there are a lot of people around I’m a weird, anxiety-ridden person.”
Britney has put her shift in lifestyle down to helping with her anxiety. “I have kids now too, so everything is on a way lower scale. I’m actually a very boring person. I don’t go out. I don’t really do anything,” she said. “I should be Mother Mary, seriously. I think my life has done a complete 360. Things are just different now. It’s a different time. It’s a different era.”
16. KID CUDI
Kid Cudi has previously spoken about his battles with drug addiction and depression. But in a recent Facebook post, the rapper announced that he was checking himself into rehab to deal with “suicidal urges”.
“It’s been difficult for me to find the words to what I’m about to share with you because I feel ashamed,” he wrote. “Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I’ve been living a lie. It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans.”
The rapper went on to explain how anxiety and depression had taken over his life, leaving him unable to even leave the house. “I can’t make new friends because of it. I don’t trust anyone because of it and I’m tired of being held back in my life,” he continued. “I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. I’m scared, I’m sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, I’m sorry. It’s time I fix me. I’m nervous but ima get through this.”
17. JAMES ARTHUR
X Factor champion James Arthur suffered a rollercoaster of ups and downs following his time on the show, but has now opened up about his personal struggles behind the headlines.
“I feel embarrassed to say, ‘I feel like shit’ or ‘I’m stressed out’ or ‘I’m depressed’,” he told Digital Spy. “Even my own close mates will be like, ‘I wish I had all you’ve got’. But all that stuff doesn’t fulfil you. What’s fulfilling is being happy and being able to help other people. The simple things.
“There should be a lot more education around it. Someone like Zayn who’s this massive megastar, the statement is ‘Zayn pulls show because of anxiety’. The average Joe might be like, ‘Oh so he’s a bit stressed out and he’s pulling a show,’ but anxiety can be so crippling.
“It can make you feel like you can’t take another step, or fall over, or you might die. It’s so taboo and the average person, they don’t really know anything about it because we’re not taught it at school. Education around mental health is still in its infancy.”
James signed up to be an ambassador for mental health charity SANE to help encourage people suffering in silence to seek help and speak up about their experiences.