5 Famous People With Mental Illnesses Who Inspire Me


When in mental illness recovery, we thrive and grow from people’s stories of perseverance and ability to stay stable through times of adversity. We learn new ways to manage episodes we live with daily. When we can also hear stories from people who live in the spotlight, in one way or another, through all of the stress, criticism, adversity, and more, we can take much strength from that. I admire people who live in the spotlight and can still manage their mental illness diagnosis.

Although the vast majority of us lead lives no where close to how a celebrity does, we can learn from their public, if also unintentional, struggles. The good and bad. We can find some relation in them. Because at the end of the day, we are all human, and not one of us is immune to mental illness. The one big difference is these people have the potential to use their platform to spread awareness and break stigma.

The inspiration and admiration I have for the list of people I have put together is great. Although some of these people may have had moments of question and controversy in their life, whether brought on by mental illness or other influences, they still lived a difficult life in unusual circumstances. I don’t support or condone all the actions any of the following people may have done in their life, but the strength these people had while living in the spotlight is undeniable.

This list is of people who have publicly disclosed their mental illness diagnoses, not people who are suspected of having some form of mental illness.

John Nash (1928-2015), Schizophrenia

John Nash was a Nobel-prize winning world-renowned mathematician. Nash also experienced a rapid decline in mental health and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his later years. He was in and out of mental hospitals during this time. The inspiration I draw from him is that when he was diagnosed, he sought the help he needed. After he was brought to a place in his life where he could manage his mental illness, he resumed his passions and work, proving people with mental illness can attain a normal working lifestyle when appropriate care is given.

Brooke Shields (1965-), Postpartum Depression

Brooke Shields has led a public battle with postpartum depression after the birth of her child. Throughout her life she has lived in the public eye, from childhood stardom in commercials, to modeling, to acting. Living under that spotlight can be torturous for the strongest of minds. During the darkest moments of her struggle she mentioned how she didn’t want to live anymore. She pushed through and chronicled her journey. She stood up and became an advocate for change and to break the stigma associated with mental illness.

Demi Lovato (1992-), Bipolar Disorder

Being in the spotlight since early childhood was how Demi Lovato made a name for herself. Throughout her life in Hollywood she has struggled with mental illness, bipolar disorder to be exact. She struggled with bouts of manic/depressive episodes that she says debilitated her for days on end and stopped her from being able to create music like she wanted to. Instead of allowing it to overtake her entire life, she got diagnosed and sought medical help. Since then she has been a vocal advocate for mental health awareness and to also break stigma. She has been a force in the mental health area who can touch the hearts and minds of a younger generation.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016), Bipolar Disorder

As a Hollywood icon, Carrie Fisher has been in nearly every facet of our lives in one way or another through movies, stage, and pop culture. Born from Hollywood royalty, she was destined for success. But also for hardship living in such a public way. Back when it was more difficult to diagnose, bipolar disorder had consumed Fisher’s life. It was attributed to a drug- and alcohol-fueled life in Hollywood instead of what it really was. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began treatment. Since her diagnosis she did the taboo: she talked about her diagnosis and became one of the most well known celebrity mental health advocates. Throughout her life she was a champion for change and also for breaking stigma.

catherine zeta jones
Photo by John Harrison

Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969-), Bipolar Disorder

Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has been no stranger to controversy in the public arena throughout her acting career. But one thing stands out more than anything to me: her public struggle with bipolar disorder. In 2011 she first sought treatment for bipolar disorder, the mental illness that also caused her to lose out in jobs and also put tremendous strain in her relationship with Michael Douglas. During her treatment and the stress ensued, her and Douglas separated and planned divorce. But through her treatment she was able to find balance and appropriate help and was able to reconcile with Douglas and now they are reported to be happier than ever.

These are but a few. There are countless others in the public spotlight who live day to day with mental illness, diagnosed or not. As you can see, these people worked through adversity in an unforgiving atmosphere. They powered through, sought the help they needed for their illness, and were able to overcome some great hurdles. Seeking help is in and of itself a great feat to do in public so others can see it helps and that it is not a bad thing. Also speaking up about their illnesses has helped break stigma and goes a long way towards providing help for those who would otherwise not seek it.

I hope you have found inspiration in these people like I have.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Photo by John Harrison



5 Famous People With Mental Illnesses Who Inspire Me

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