Real Life

Six Women We Admire On Battling Anxiety And Depression

One in four of us will suffer a mental health problem every year in the UK and anxiety and depression is on the rise, affecting 615 million people globally.

Progress is being made to open conversation around the battles many of us face, but it's slow-moving.

A recent survey found only 5% of us suffering from stress in the workplace would tell our employers the true reason for taking time off. The rest, fearing the stigma of mental health problems, would make up a physical ailment

It's high time we blitzed the taboo of issues that directly affect so many of us and our loved ones. And thankfully, people in the public eye are starting to do just that.

Here, we round up just a few of the women we admire talking about the battles they face with anxiety and depression. In creating an open dialogue and sharing their experiences, these ladies encourage others to do the same.

Above all, they show us that mental health is a great leveller: no matter if you're an A-List actress or a shop assistant, these issues can strike at any time and impact us all. Each person's battle is unique but none of us are alone in the struggles we face...

1. Selena Gomez: "Seeking treatment was one of the hardest and best things I've done"

Selena Gomez has been candid about her struggle with panic attacks, anxiety and depression. The singer, 24, took time out for treatment in the middle of her Revival tour last year, saying: "I know I am not alone by sharing this. I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues."

"My self-esteem was shot," she says, recalling that period in a recent interview with Vogue. "I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t capable... What I wanted to say is that life is so stressful, and I get the desire to just escape it."

She says she started to feel better because of group therapy at a facility in Tennessee.

"You have no idea how incredible it felt to just be with six girls, real people who couldn’t give two s—s about who I was, who were fighting for their lives," she says. "It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was the best thing I’ve done."

2. Lady Gaga: "You have to find that one little light that's left"

The Grammy Award-winning artist has always been open about both her battle with depression, and the fact that she takes medication for it.

"I take medication ever day for mental illness and depression and don't feel bad about it," she told thousands of fans during a 2014 gig at London's 02 arena.

Gaga, who is also a sexual assault survivor, previously told Harper's Bazaar that she hit a rough patch and became very depressed in 2013.

"I was angry, cynical, and had this deep sadness like an anchor dragging everywhere I go," she said. "I just didn't feel like fighting anymore... I really felt like I was dying - my light completely out."

She said she forced herself to focus on the positives.

"Depression doesn't take away your talents - it just makes them harder to find," she said. "But I always find it. I learned that my sadness never destroyed what was great about me. You just have to go back to that greatness, find that one little light that's left. I'm lucky I found one little glimmer stored away."

3. Halle Berry: "I just wanted to end the pain - but time really does heal wounds"

Oscar-winner Halle Berry said she became so depressed after the breakdown of her marriage to then husband David Justice in the 1990s, she considered suicide.

“I took my dogs, and I went in the garage and sat in the car," she said. "For two or three hours, I just cried and I cried. I thought ‘I can’t face it.’ I think that’s the weakest I have ever been in my life. That’s what the breakup of my marriage did to me.

"It took away my self-esteem. It beat me down to the lowest of lows — the gum on the bottom of David’s shoe, that’s what I felt like. Somewhere in my heart, I think I knew I didn’t really want to end my life. I just wanted to end the pain."

Halle credits therapy with helping her to rebuild her strength, but says there's work to be done in combating the stigma associated with counselling:

“People still associate therapy with being crazy. But I think you’re crazy if you won’t consider going to get help for yourself — to learn the tools to deal with the problems in your life. Once people see what it is and what it’s not, they race to go back. They get the benefit. But it’s hard to get people to the first session because of fear.

"I know it sounds cliche but you have to find a way to hold on because time really does heal all wounds."

4. Cara Delevingne: "The cracks within us are the beautiful parts"

Cara Delevingne may have a glittering model career but she's also open about her fight with depression, describing it as "a void that I constantly need to fill".

"In our culture we are told that if we are beautiful, if we are skinny, if we are successful, famous, if we fit in, if everyone loves us, that we'll be happy," she told a 2015 Women In The World summit. "But that's not entirely true."

Cara says her depression began aged 16, having grown up with the pressure of her beloved mum being addicted to heroin. "I'm very good at repressing emotion and seeming fine," she told Esquire. "As a kid I felt like I had to be good and I had to be strong because my mum wasn't. So, when it got to being a teenager and all the hormones and the pressure and wanting to do well at school — for my parents, not for me — I had a mental breakdown."

She went on medication for a while and still suffers from periodic lows.

"In a sense, I always feel like when I get depressed, it's very narcissistic, right? Because you can't stop thinking about your own problems," she says. "But at the same time it's not. Because you hate yourself. So it's a very weird thing to feel."

"Mental illness and depression are not something to be ashamed of," Cara says. "Flaws are the things that make us special, the cracks within us are the beautiful parts - they need to have light shed on them."

5. Lena Dunham: "Most women on meds have been brave enough to help themselves"

Just like her Girls alter ego, Lena Dunham suffers from anxiety and OCD - issues that surfaced as she was growing up.

Doctors responded by prescribing her a number of different drugs, which she said "just broke me". She and her parents came up with an alternative treatment plan with less medication and more talking therapy.

Lena says her experience working for Girls also helped her anxiety enormously.

"One place that I feel really happy and safe is on the set," she says. "I love the business, I love the distraction, I love the camaraderie."

"There’s still a lot happening in my brain all day that people around me don’t need to know about," she adds.

The award-winning writer and actress also hit out at the "out of control" image of women who take medication for mental health in popular culture.

"Most women on meds are women who have been brave enough to help themselves," she says.

"When you have anxiety and then you have shame about your anxiety, you’re punishing yourself twice."

6. Ellie Goulding: "I’m not immune from anxiety because I’ve got a good career or a nice house"

Singer Ellie Goulding has undergone cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help combat the anxiety and panic attacks she suffered early on in her career.

"I was skeptical at first because I’d never had therapy, but not being able to leave the house was so debilitating," she told Flare magazine.

"And this was when my career was really taking off. My surroundings would trigger a panic attack, so I couldn’t go to the studio unless I was lying down in the car with a pillow over my face. I used to beat myself up about it"

"There were a couple of times after I released Delirium [her latest album] when I was doing promo and thought, Oh god, it’s coming back, it’s coming back, but it didn’t. I think my body has become quite good at controlling anxiety."

In a separate interview, she added, "Too many people are quiet about mental health. When you feel anxiety, it’s a very lonely feeling. It makes you think you’re the only person in the world feeling that way. I want people to know they’re not alone.

"I’m such a strong person in so many ways and that’s how I’ve ended up doing what I do because I’ve just been f*ing strong and not let anybody get me down. But in a way, all of us have a very young person inside of us who just wants to be looked after.

"I’m not immune from anxiety because I’ve got a good career or a nice house. That’s not how it works. You could be at any point in your life, any stage of your journey and get anxiety. It’s just part of being human."

If you're suffering from anxiety or depression, find confidential and free support with the NHS or Mind.

READ MORE: Could Anxiety Be Your Secret Weapon?

READ MORE: Study Finds Women Are Twice As Likely As Men To Suffer From Depression

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