Here are 10 queer stars who have been inspirational in their willingness to be open about their personal lives.
1. Lady Gaga
During a visit with homeless LGBTQ teens at the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, New York, the bisexual pop-star revealed she has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“These children are not just homeless or in need. Many of them are trauma survivors. They’ve been rejected in some type of way,” Gaga said. “My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.”
During her visit, she led the young people in a short group meditation, adding that she uses a mantra every day to help her cope with her own struggles.
2. Demi Lovato
In 2010 the sexually fluid singer dropped out of her tour with the Jonas Brothers to check herself into rehab. While there, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief,” Lovato says. “It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”
One of the younger celebrities with mental illness on our list, Lovato adds, “Living well with bipolar disorder is possible, but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process.” She has since become a spokesperson for the Be Vocal campaign to raise mental health awareness.
3. Elton John
This music legend sought treatment for bulimia and cocaine addiction in 1990. He said he was in denial about his mental health issues for over 16 years, thinking he could fix them on his own.
In a 2002 interview with Larry King, John said, “It was the best thing I ever did. But, you know, those three words — I need help. If only I’d said them earlier.”
4. Rosie O’Donnell
In 2007, the lesbian comedian and actor opened up about her lifelong battles with depression and seasonal affective disorder. She says she first began taking medication in 1999 after she found herself in a deep depression triggered by the Columbine school shooting and says that depression runs in her family.
In addition to medication, O’Donnell also practices yoga and “inversion therapy” in which she hangs upside-down from a swing for 15 to 30 minutes a day.
5. Wentworth Miller
In 2010, after appearing in the primetime TV drama Prison Break, the openly gay actor fell into a depression and gained weight. When a viral meme mocking his weight gain went viral in 2016, he publicly revealed that he has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and turned to food for comfort (though he says he just as easily could have turned to sex or drugs).
He says, “The extent of my struggle was known to very, very few. Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction. … I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships and a thousand sleepless nights.”
Miller adds, “If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Reach out. Text. Send an email. Pick up the phone. Someone cares. They’re waiting to hear from you. Much love.”
6. Miley Cyrus
In a 2014 interview with Elle, the bisexual performer said she has dealt with depression.
During the interview, she says, “I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. … I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed.”
Cyrus adds, “People don’t know how to talk about being depressed — that it’s totally OK to feel sad. … And every person can benefit from talking to somebody. I’m the most anti-medication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. … There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.”
7. Colton Haynes
In November 2014 the gay actor revealed his history of addiction and anxiety. He’d drink wine and take stimulants and eventually experienced poor circulation and numbness in his hands and feet as a result. In his own words, he started to feel like a vampire and a shell wishing for his old self.
Recounting his thoughts during his addiction phase, Haynes said, “Now I’m so closed off to the world that I can’t even get up enough courage to go in public. I’m afraid of people and have become agoraphobic.”
The star eventually sought help and now says, “I’m finally realizing that I can’t and wouldn’t want to go back to that headspace ever again. So clouded and unsure about myself, my life, my privacy, my mental health. I’m finally in a position where I can say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
8. Ellen DeGeneres
In a revealing 2017 interview with Good Housekeeping, the celebrated comedian and lesbian daytime TV host revealed that the bullying she endured in Hollywood after coming out in 1997 drove her into a severe depression. Her sitcom was canceled, she moved out of Los Angeles, started seeing a therapist and began taking anti-depressants for the first time in her life.
“It was scary and lonely,” DeGeneres says. “All I’d known for 30 years was work and all of a sudden I had nothing. Plus, I was mad. It didn’t feel fair — I was the same person everyone had always known.”
She adds, “Eventually I started meditating, working out and writing again, and I slowly started to climb out of it.” She also mentions that her motto is, “I do my best. You can be with me or not.”
9. Ruby Rose
In 2013 this genderfluid, lesbian actress sought rehabilitation for bipolar disorder and clinical depression, canceling a string of performances and professional commitments before abruptly leaving Australia.
“I had hit rock bottom,” Rose says. “I couldn’t find happiness anywhere except my dog’s face, and even that wasn’t enough.”
Although she eventually began to successfully manage her mental health, she admits that at the time, “I didn’t think it meant I’d be able to live my dream. I didn’t think it would result in this extraordinary life I get to be a part of now. It just makes me wonder how many others are days, hours, seconds away from realizing their worth, their potential. And once the dark cloud is lifted will be truly happy and free.”
In January 2014, the bisexual singer revealed that she had entered a rehab program to deal with an eating disorder.
“I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I’ve found it hard to practice,” she said. “I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder … to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”
What do you think about the openness of these celebrities with mental illness? Sound off in the comments.
This story was originally published on May 18, 2018.