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Celebrities open up about mental health struggles hoping to help others

Chicago Tribune - 4/26/2017

April 26--Many find it difficult to speak out about mental illness. Some worry what others will think of them. Some are concerned it will negatively affect their career. Some fear the information would be a burden on family and friends.

Former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw had these same fears before talking publicly about her depression and bipolar disorder.

"I was really worried," she said. "I was like, 'Oh my God, now I'm going to be judged. The coaches are going to treat me different.'"

She worried, she recalled, people would think, "She's not mentally tough. She's soft."

But Holdsclaw, who was recently in Chicago to talk about ending stigmas surrounding mental health issues, found transparency provided relief. Her story was translated into the documentary "Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw," which tracked her athletic career and mental health struggles.

In 2013, she pleaded guilty to assault and possession of a firearm after reportedly smashing the windows of her ex-girlfriend's car. Realizing she needed help, she found that telling others what she was going through took away feelings of hiding and shame.

She said she is encouraged that other boldface names are opening up.

Last week, Prince Harry detailed the grief and rage he suffered after losing his mother, Princess Diana, when he was 12 years old. He and his brother, Prince William, are involved with charity work that aims to take away the stigma of mental illness.

Prince William also released a video this month with Lady Gaga -- who has detailed her post-traumatic stress disorder -- in which they discussed the importance of letting people know they will not be judged.

"I should be so happy," the singer said in the video. "But you can't help it if in the morning you wake up, you are so tired, you are so sad, you are so full of anxiety."

Celebrities speaking frankly about depression or anxiety, Holdsclaw said, might help others feel comfortable doing the same.

"Young people coming up, we have to change things by letting them know that it's OK to talk about their feelings and their emotions," she said. "Those thoughts and emotions fester."

Model Chrissy Teigen wrote in Glamour in March about her postpartum depression. She too hesitated because of what people would think of her or how they might criticize her. But she said talking openly felt necessary.

"I'm speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody, and I don't want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone," she wrote.

For Holdsclaw, opening up freed her in a way she hadn't felt before.

"We have to use our voices and use our platform to encourage," she said.

abowen@chicagotribune.com

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(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune

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