Getting to Happy: Celebrities Who Have Battled Depression in the Public Eye

May 29, 2012  |  
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Depression is still very much a taboo in this society where the open discussion of the mental illness is met with silence or people are told to “go to church” as opposed to seeking help from medical professionals.  There is such a stigma still attached to the disease that cause many to choose to suffer all alone. This scenario is especially true in the African-American community.

For celebrities who are image conscious, there’s even more of a burden to maintain the status quo of assumed perfection. However, these seven courageous stars have pulled the veil down on the disease. They’ve shared their stories and inspired others to come out and seek help in the process.


Janet Jackson

Janet has always been open about the lows which have offset the highs in her incredible career. Her struggles with food, her weight, career ups and downs, self esteem and relationship troubles have contributed to her depression. Prior to the release of her album, The Velvet Rope and after the death of her brother, Jackson battled with depression. So many believe that life of a star is one of power, prestige and privilege, but Janet has never sugar-coated the underbelly of what so much success means. Despite her heavy heart at times, she still manages a smile that inspires: “I tend to, I have this thing where I tend to smile when things get a little…painful, that is just my, a protective shield I guess.”


Mariah Carey

Through the years, Mimi has shared some of the sadness that has been beneath her boisterous personality. The diva suffered a publicized breakdown in 2001 after years of working and the lingering effects of her failed marriage. She also discussed the bout of depression which befell her after having a miscarriage. Through it all, Mariah said that the pain she suffered from losing her child and the depression that followed fortified not only her but her marriage to Nick Cannon. “It definitely brought us together, it strengthened our relationship” Carey said to ABC News.

Serena Williams

The tennis champ has been awarded many accolades during the course of her career, but her toughest opponent may have been depression. She had to undergo two surgeries on her foot after cutting it on glass. She also nearly died after a blood clot was found in her lung. She told USA Today, “I definitely have not been happy,” she said. “Especially when I had that second surgery (on my foot), I was definitely depressed. I cried all the time. I was miserable to be around.” After going through rehabilitation, Williams slowly but surely started her dominance on the court again, and got back to happy.

Halle Berry

Halle’s looks are envied by many women, and men would love to claim her but the ageless beauty has gone on the record about not always feeling her best on the inside. Her physical attributes didn’t stop her heart from being broken after two marriages ended in divorce. She also suffered from post-partum depression and famously attempted suicide after her marital woes with David Justice.

Halle explained her thought process to Parade magazine about one of the weakest moments in her life: “I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming when I had an image of my mother finding me. She sacrificed so much for her children, and to end my life would be an incredibly selfish thing to do. My sense of worth was so low. I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me. Because someone didn’t love me didn’t mean I was unlovable. I promised myself I would never be a coward again.”

Kim Fields

The television veteran who starred in “The Facts of Life” and “Living Single” spoke out about her battle with depression. As a child star, she lived her life under the glare of the limelight and had to grow up with the press critiquing her every pound gained. She detailed her pain in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer: “That was a difficult and painful thing to go through when you are 16 or 17,” said Fields. “No one who hasn’t been through this knows how much it hurts. I just felt so depressed and so out of control.”


Oprah Winfrey will go down in the history books many times over but even the mogul’s inspiring life hasn’t been perfect. She has always been perceived as having the Midas Touch but her failures have always been highlighted. The Own Network has faced many challenges and she took the 1998 flop of her film, Beloved, very hard. She told Piers Morgan that it was the only time she ever felt depressed and that it sent her into a “macaroni-and-cheese-eating tailspin.”

Mark Curry

Life after “Hanging with Mr. Cooper” wasn’t too kind to the talented comedian. A freak accident in his home left him with third-degree burns over 18 percent of his body. He was even in a coma for four days and depression crippled his spirit. However, the help of his industry friends such as Sinbad and Bill Cosby helped him through. He told People magazine, “Now I go onstage and talk about being in a coma and about suicide: Is there any more rich a subject for comedy than suicide? I haven’t gone to see a therapist. I just need to be funny onstage. That’s my therapy.”

Follow Stephanie Guerilus @qsteph.

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  • Elizabeth

    I had really hoped this would be about clinical depression, the true illness, not situational depression, which happens to everyone. BIG difference.

  • not a fan

    i think African-American’s fear of the seeking medical assistance stems from our history of being victims of unethical medical practices. We also are a people that have endured so much that sum little thing like depression should roll right off our shoulders (sarcasm). I suffered from depression and so did my little brother and mom but we were told that we were weak and to “get over it.” It wasn’t until college that I sought therapy and my family roasted me for it till this day. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help. I’m glad these ppl are better now. one day at a time.

    • Nestafan2

      I’m glad you sought therapy and I hope you’re feeling better.  Depression is like diabetes; it doesn’t just spring from one particular thing, and it has to be maintained for the rest of your life.  Experiencing sadness due to one or two failures does not qualify as depression in my opinion.

      • Theo

        I second Nestafan2.  I wouldn’t tell someone to their face their bad test score or low selling album did not constitute depression.  But for someone who has lived with it, it is more serious.  What’s hard is as an African American, you can see your life as a struggle in a different sense than say, Brittany Spears.  To think you will never succeed, or that you aren’t good enough, or smart enough, is real considering discrimination still exists in America.  

        For me I’ll be in treatment for my life, it is like diabetes.  To have a mental disease bites cuz you don’t know where your motivation comes from, or rather, where it went.  

  • You forgot Phyllis Hyman Madame Noire!  Her bout was legendary.  And don’t forget Britney Spears.

  • Mssroney

    Black ppl are so scared of the dr, u need help get it, just jesus aint gonna fix everything, get out of the dark ages and stop waiting for the church to fix u, u need to fix u, talk to a professional, being moody is not normal

  • Mariah? Mi mi?  Dang…

  • I think sadness is being confused with depression with some of these. Depression is clinical and should not be confused with being “a little sad, down” etc. In any event, I’m glad these ladies have been able to work  through it.

  • IllyPhilly

    “Go to church.” YES, I would hear that all the time when I came home from Iraq. Unless the pastor was a soldier over there (which he wasn’t) he wouldn’t and didn’t understand. 

    • Jimmy Swaggerd

      Thank you for your service.

  • L-Boogie

    I am glad that they have gotten better.