“We Have The Right To Fall”: Famous Black Women Open Up About Their Struggles With Mental Health

October 6, 2017  |  
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There are so many events and holidays these days that many of us probably don’t keep up with the ones that are truly important. That includes Mental Illness Awareness Week, which takes place the first week of October. While many of us go through our struggles with mental health privately, quite a few famous women of color have opened up about about their battles over the years in an effort to let others know they are not alone. In observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week, we wanted to revisit those stories in the hopes that they can help others.

celebrity mental illness

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Lisa Nicole Carson

The Ally McBeal star revealed in 2015 that she has bipolar disorder and her battles with it halted her career for some time. She realized the extent of things after having a fit in her hotel that included “yelling, throwing things, crying and raising enough hell that the staff called an ambulance.” She was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After being in denial about it, Carson worked to get to a place of contentment.

“I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength,” she shared with ESSENCE. “We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh– together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical.”

celebrity mental illness

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Oprah Winfrey

The star revealed in in 2016 that she actually battles anxiety disorder.

“We, as a culture, have not fully acknowledged how much help is needed,” she said. “The only real shame is on us for not being willing to speak openly. We need to start talking, and we need to start now.”

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Depression is something I have recognized since I was a child,” the author said to Olisa in 2015. “It is something I have accepted. It is something I will have to find ways to manage for the rest of my life. Many creative people have depression. I wonder if I would be so drawn to storytelling if I were not also a person who suffers from depression.”

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Whoopi Goldberg

The actress and funny lady witnessed a mid-air plane crash in 1978, and her struggle with PTSD from it kept her from stepping on a plane for many years, instead, opting for a bus — even for cross-country trips. She felt horrible thinking about the fact that “the people on the plane were aware that they were in some danger,” she said.

“And so I — I just — I — that’s what stayed in my mind,” Goldberg said. “Because I’m a visualist. So if I see it, it lives in my brain. So I always see it.”

Thankfully, Goldberg conquered her fear of flying with the help of Thought Field Therapy.

Simone Biles

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Simone Biles

When a hacking situation leaked the medical records and information of Simone Biles, she decided to open up about dealing with ADHD, which explained the use of certain medication in her records.

As she would go on to say on Twitter, “Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”

the tale of four

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Gabourey Sidibe

The Oscar nominee and author opened up in her book, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare that among other things (including depression and bulimia), she’s struggled with anxiety disorder since she was a kid.

“I just thought I was being sensitive because that’s what people told me,” she said. “‘You’re just a baby. You’re being too sensitive. You’re taking things to heart too much.’ I thought that that’s what it was. Nobody noticed that I was actually having a medical condition, that I was dealing with a mental disorder. I was dealing with depression and anxiety and nobody noticed.”

celebrity mental illness

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Audra McDonald

The star of stage and film revealed that when she was in college at Julliard, she was so overwhelmed and unhappy with things she tried to take her own life.

“I slit my wrists one night,” she said. “I slit my wrists and then realized what I had done and called the student affairs director who I had become close with and said, ‘Help me.’”

“They helped me and took me to a mental hospital,” she continued. “It’s interesting, this mental hospital – still there – Gracie Square Hospital. It’s next door to my OBGYN who delivered my sixth-month-old. I had to pass it every week to go to my OBGYN appointment, I had to pass Gracie Square Hospital. And every time I passed it there was a part of me, just waddling down the street as pregnant as can be, some 29 years later, I felt such relief and joy. And a sense of yes, I get the big picture now.”

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Jenifer Lewis

The singer and actress shared with Oprah back in 2007 that she has bipolar disorder after being diagnosed in 1990. She even wrote a show about it called Bipolar, Bath and Beyond.

After years of therapy and after years of medication, I feel experienced enough now to come out and say bipolar disorder is treatable and you can get help and you don’t have to live such a tortured existence.”

Halle Berry diet

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Halle Berry

The Oscar winner admitted that after her first marriage to baseball player David Justice ended, she became depressed and questioned her self-worth to the point that she tried to take 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 told Parade. “She sacrificed so much for her children, and to end my life would be an incredibly selfish thing to do. It was all about a relationship. My sense of worth was so low. I promised myself I would never be a coward again.”

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Kalenna Harper

The former Diddy Dirty Money singer went through postpartum depression while on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta in 2015. Her experience was one she tried to seek help for on the show.

“I’m a very strong, prideful person, and I’m asking God to help me with that, and I don’t like telling people what I’m going through,” she told WetPaint. “It was a very big step for me and my husband to tell them that [he thinks] this is something that I’m going through and I really love him for taking a moment to say, ‘Hold on, this is not my wife … because she’s never been like this before.’ I’m very good now and making steps forward.”

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