Last night I retrieved an e-mail from my editor asking for an article on the ongoing fascination with celebrities and depression or other mental illnesses. I wanted to decline, yet I find the angle interesting.
Amy Winehouse, a British singer, was quoted in 2006 as saying she was clinically diagnosed with manic depression and refuses to take medication. In Judith Newman’s “non-interview” interview with Britney Spears in this month’s Allure magazine, the journalist’s friend, New York City psychotherapist Jane Greer suggested the singer has bipolar. Greer doesn’t treat Spears.
What’s at the root of the recent trend of failing young pop stars? Quite simply, too much money. Tons of available cash and willing pushers on speed dial to supply drugs is a recipe for self-destruction. Unlike a junkie on the street, they don’t have to steal to get what they need.
It’s also a reflection on the star-making machine in Hollywood that rolls out the red carpet for a woman like Lindsay Lohan. Gone are the days of Grace Kelly charm and sophistication. These young starlets are symptomatic of a greater trend in society-where rudeness rules and bad behavior is rewarded because it sells magazines and movies. In a trickle-down effect, young girls follow their lead.
Most troubling to me are Spears and Winehouse. I won’t speculate as to what went wrong with Britney, but she is no doubt deeply troubled. Watching her fall is like rubbernecking at a traffic accident, and who knows, maybe in some way it makes people feel better about their own lives. Amy Winehouse, as talented as she may be, has a drug problem that makes Ozzy Osbourne look like a saint.
What’s sad about the reality of celebrity circa 2007 is that these falling stars don’t get to be ordinary people. The camera is their mirror. They are who we want them to be. The paparazzi sell the drama. If good can come of this, it will be that undiagnosed mental illness is taken seriously as a major health problem.
Perhaps Britney craves the attention. What will happen when the lights stop flashing? Who will she be then? Will she be able to hold her own? Maybe, like one journalist suggested, the singer would benefit from moving with her two kids to the suburbs. Could she give up the fame and settle for a down-to-earth lifestyle? I don’t envy her, nor would I judge her. I hope she gets the help she needs soon.
In New York magazine a few years back, Vanessa Grigoriadis chronicled her flirtation with drugs to treat bipolar, and her ultimate refusal to take them, preferring the subtle highs that made her feel so good. Not a celebrity, she was a typical woman. Yet like the stars, she lived for the thrill. Sadly, her stance is commonplace. You don’t have to be a celebrity to flirt with danger.
Recovery is a revolutionary act when most people are anti-psychiatry and glamorize going without treatment. I urge you to seek help if something’s troubling you.
For more SharePosts on this topic, check out Britney Spears: The Ups and Downs of a Struggling Pop Star
Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.