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Kristen Bell Wants To End The Stigma Around Mental Health

The actress wrote an essay about her experiences with depression

There have been great strides forward in recent years with public figures speaking out about topics once considered taboo. Women in Hollywood have become increasingly more vocal about gender-based wage disparity at the same time people of color and members of the LGBTQ community are talking about their experiences of being marginalized in the industry. Celebrities are standing up to fight against body shaming and bullying and gun violence, but there are still battles being kept behind closed doors, and one of those battles is the stigma surrounding mental health.

Pop star Demi Lovato has spoken publicly for years now about her experiences with self-harm and living with bi-polar disorder. She’s even advocated for greater mental health awareness on Capitol Hill. The volume of Lovato’s support, however, is distinct in part because she so far one of very few people willing to be open about her story. But in recent months, the actress Kristen Bell has joined the pop star in advocating for greater support and acceptance of those confronting mental health challenges.

Bell first disclosed her history of confronting mental health issues in an April interview with Sam Jones for Off Camera. She discussed how depression runs in her family, the support her mother has provided throughout her life and how she reconciles her outwardly gregarious public image with what she must do in her private life to maintain healthy balance.

“I present that very cheery bubbly person, but I also do a lot of work, I do a lot of introspective work and I check in with myself when I need to exercise and I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression and I still take it today. And I have no shame in that, because my mom had said if you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist and see how you want to help yourself.”

Today, Bell has gone from speaking strictly about herself to speaking as a member of a large community that often feels they must privately confront questions about mental health and wellness, lest they be judged as broken or deficient in some way. In an essay for Time magazine’s Motto blog called “I’m Over Staying Silent About Depression,” Bell says that she’s being open now to encourage others to do the same.

“When you try to keep things hidden, they fester and ultimately end up revealing themselves in a far more destructive way than if you approach them with honesty. I didn’t speak publicly about my struggles with mental health for the first 15 years of my career. But now I’m at a point where I don’t believe anything should be taboo. So here I am, talking to you about what I’ve experienced.”

Bell, whose husband Dax Shephard also recently disclosed that he experienced sexual abuse as a child, goes on to say that checking in with your mental health should be an act as routine as seeing a doctor or a dentist, which makes pretty much perfect sense when it comes down to the question of keeping our bodies—and minds—fit and healthy for what we hope is a long haul in life. She also emphasizes that since we are all members of “team human,” we need to be better at thoughtfully encouraging people to seek out care options if they need treatment for something that isn’t so obvious as a cut or a bruise.

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction to judge people when they’re vulnerable,” writes Bell. “But there’s nothing weak about struggling with mental illness. You’re just having a harder time living in your brain than other people. And I don’t want you to feel alone. You know what happens when I visit my doctor regarding my mental health? He listens. He doesn’t downplay my feelings or immediately hand me a pill or tell me what to do. He talks to me about my options. Because when it comes to your brain, there are a lot of different ways to help yourself.”

If Team Human ever organizes a pickup softball game, we’re volunteering to play for Kristen’s side.

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