Last week, both Uma Thurman and Ashley Judd, in publicity for their upcoming films, revealed that they have suffered from depression. Though Thurman did not mention treatment, Judd said that she underwent a 47-day treatment program at a Texas facility to treat not only her depression, but also a cleaning compulsion.
Why do we feel relief as well as empathy when a celebrity reveals his or
her depression? Well, it's always a relief to find out that a famous person is not perfect. Not because we revel in tearing them down, but because it's a little easier for us to measure up. Somewhat like seeing an actress without her makeup and realizing that she really does need the makeup artist and hair stylist to look as good as she did on the cover of a magazine.
As the title of the issue of Glamour that carried Judd's interview trumpeted, "Her perfect life was a lie: 'I needed help'." So we know it's likely that depression wreaked havoc in her life. Okay, so we don't feel like total losers if our lives are falling apart because of depression.
We also feel relieved each time another celebrity comes out with a depression confession because we hope that people who look up to the celeb, for whatever reason, will think twice next time they call someone with depression "crazy." After all, does that jibe with their image of this person they have such an interest in? Hopefully, each disclosure will help erase a little bit more of the stigma.
Of course, if the celebrity is obviously ashamed while making the disclosure, then it's not, in general, a step forward in battling the stigma. But both Thurman and Judd seemed to be fairly matter-of-fact in admitting that they had suffered from depression, and not embarrassed.
Judd, in addition, was very positive about the impact of her treatment on her life and her relationship with her husband. "Now, even when I'm having a rough day, it's better than my best day before treatment" she told Glamour magazine. Maybe hearing this positive will be just the extra push someone needs to give treatment a chance.
I hope that at some point a celebrity will allow his/herself to be the "face" of depression the way Halle Berry is for diabetes. While many celebs have discussed their depression, none has elected to do public service announcements, that I know of. Since it obviously doesn't destroy acting careers the way it would have decades ago, let's hope someone with a lot of star power will step forward.