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Zachary Levi Wants to Discuss Mental Health Now — Not When the Next Celebrity Dies by Suicide

With the hype surrounding the second Shazam! movie coming out later this year, Zachary Levi is back in the news again. But his upcoming superhero flick isn’t the only thing that has people talking.

Levi has been very candid with his fans about his mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. Whether during Q&As at Comic Con, various interviews, or within his book “Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others,” he has been outspoken about his own battles with mental illness. Levi even credits the death of fellow actor and comedian Robin Williams by suicide as one of the catalysts that pushed him to take his own mental health seriously.

In that way, Levi is a lot like the rest of us. Oftentimes, we don’t stop to consider our own mental health until someone larger than life, some celebrity, has catapulted the issue back into the spotlight. As big a star as Zachary Levi is, his inspiration was Robin Williams because Robin Williams was iconic, larger than life, an entire cosmos in his own right among an endless universe of stars.

I understand all too well why Robin Williams’ suicide resonated so deeply with Zachary Levi, because his death hit me immensely hard as well. Williams’ movies were a cornerstone of my childhood and my children’s childhoods. I loved watching interviews with him and hearing others telling anecdotal tales of encounters. By all accounts, he was not only a talented actor, but also an incredible man. Though I never personally knew him, he had a beloved place in my heart.

A lot of people have a specific celebrity whose mental health struggles or suicide have hit them hard. For me, it was the loss of Robin Williams. For my husband, it was Chester Bennington.

Whenever my husband could not find his own words, he would turn to music to express his feelings. Linkin Park had so many songs that resonated with him, so many lyrics that spoke his truth. Listening to their music, it was like Chester knew, understood, completely what he was going through. Though Linkin Park’s songs were brutally honest and raw, the fact that Chester kept going, kept performing, gave hope that you could ultimately survive this battle, and perhaps even thrive. Though my husband never personally knew Chester Bennington, he felt they were connected by a mutual understanding and pain. When Chester died, it felt unbelievable, impossible, unimaginable, like he had lost someone he shared a kinship with.

Why is it, though, that our mental health seems to matter more only when we are faced with the struggles of those we see larger than ourselves? As much as we put celebrities up on pedestals, in the end they are just people, too. People like you and me. And all of us matter.

We need to stop waiting for the next celebrity news story to hit before we take our own mental health seriously. We need to listen to people like Zachary Levi, not because he’s a famous actor, but because he’s a fellow human being with experience fighting his own battles with mental illness. He told his fans at Los Angeles Comic Con:

“You are not alone. Talk about it. Destigmatize mental health. Mental health is like dental health, guys. It starts like a little cavity, then it becomes a root canal. So let’s catch them while they’re cavities.”

He’s absolutely right. We need to destigmatize mental health. We need to talk about it more. We need to make seeking treatment for mental health as commonplace as physical health. Not just when a celebrity makes the news, but always. We need to talk so much about treating mental illness that we can eventually shift our focus towards mental wellness.

As Zachary Levi told People, “If I do nothing else in this world, I want people to understand that they are loved, that they are worthy of love and that they are worthy of investing in themselves.”

Me, too Zachary Levi. Me, too.

The loss of Robin Williams left a big hole in my heart, but it is people like Zachary Levi that give me hope — not because he is some big celebrity who plays a beloved superhero on the big screen, but because, much like Robin Williams, he has a big heart and cares enough to want to make a difference in this world.

We all need to follow Zachary Levi’s example. We need to talk more, care more. We need all the voices we can get if we want to be heard.

Lead image via SHAZAM 2 Trailer

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