Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Mental Health

Stars In The Shadows: Celebrities Who Used Depression To Fuel Their Artistic Abilities

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

It’s very easy to forget that in a world that is dazzled with the glitz and glamour of fame, there are real-life, human stories behind all the smiles and shining successes. Those stories of strength and courage have also been challenged and influenced by depression. The month of October, fittingly known as Depression Awareness Month, serves as a painful reminder that this silent battle knows no borders, affecting lives in all corners of society. Famous celebrities, who we often admire, have been touched by the shadows of these mental demons. 

As college students, we’re faced with many decisions that societal pressure seems to add deadlines to in order to be accepted. We have to decide where we want to go to college and if we want to stay there, what we want to do after graduation, we face academic pressures, expectations from society, and not to mention, our personal aspirations. We’re at the age where we call ourselves adults, with the daily pressures of needing to know how to be one while freshly leaving our childhood behind. 

Many people listen to music as a way of shutting down for a little while. Maybe you have that comfort show or movie that distracts you from all the noise of this world. Luckily, in this chaotic world, we are not alone. That artist you like or that actress you see in your favorite show, have probably faced these demons themselves. Their unique and motivating stories will prove that while they have faced their own depths of despair, that they have also emerged as beacons of inspiration. They remind us that, in our own journeys, we too can turn adversity into artistry and become stronger, more empathetic, and better equipped to navigate the challenges of this world. 

Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” experienced one of his first bouts of depression in college. His dream of playing professional football came to an end when he was sidelined due to a shoulder injury. “[I] didn’t want to go to school, I was ready to leave, I left school, I didn’t take any midterms,” Johnson stated in “The Pivot Podcast.” With his dream coming to an end, his mental health started to suffer. Johnson suffered at least two other bouts of depression that he recalled in an hour-long interview with former NFL players Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder. When he was fifteen, he saved his mother from a suicide attempt and in 2008, went through a divorce with his first wife. Johnson, known for his strong physique, told Men’s Health in an interview that the gym became his “best friend” and, although it doesn’t solve the problems, it has helped him. His ultimate driving force that has gotten him to where he is, is his daughters. He finished the interview with, “That’s been the saving grace because you look at them and you realize … this is what it’s all about.”

Another famous artist, Selena Gomez, has opened up about her mental health struggles in the past, including depression. Gomez uses her fame to shed light on the sensitive and very crucial topic. She tells Good Morning America that she has struggled with mental illness for years and hopes that other people don’t have to go through it as well. “I really, really want people to be understood and seen and heard — it’s okay to not be okay,” Gomez said during the GMA interview. Selena has taken steps to create “Wondermind,” which is a free multimedia platform for individuals to feel understood and heard with resources to help them get there for free of charge. Gomez, with one of the highest followings on Instagram, says, “if I’m known for anything, I hope it’s simply just for the way I care about people.” Gomez opened up about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to millions of people and she uses her struggles to help other people so that they may not have to go through the same thing.

“Harry Potter” is a very popular fantasy series written by British author J.K. Rowling who also suffered from depression. At one point in her life, she was poor and unemployed. She spoke of these struggles during a Harvard University commencement speech. “I was the biggest failure I knew and as poor as one can be in England without having to be homeless.” The story of how her popular series came to be is a short yet inspiring one. On a delayed train in London, the narrative came to her but she didn’t have a pen with her. She spent hours putting the story together and it became a way to distract her from her hardships. Although her story is brief, she used writing as an escape from her struggles and it made her very successful. 450 million copies were sold in 78 languages and during the many years of determination and patience, her dull and struggling life transitioned to a successful and brighter one.

Johnson, Gomez, and Rowling, along with several other influential artists we deeply admire, have shared their personal stories that hit close to home, reminding us that we’re all in this journey together. These narratives serve as a powerful reality check, demonstrating that even when you’re in the public eye, you’re not invulnerable to the internal struggles we all face. What’s truly remarkable is that these celebrities aren’t just weathering their storms; they’re bravely opening up about them, setting a compelling example for us all. It’s a call to action for us to create a more compassionate world where discussing mental health isn’t stigmatized but celebrated as a sign of strength.

I remember the words of Jelly Roll, a rising artist, with a remarkable story, who left a lasting impression at a concert back in August of this year when he said, “the windshield is larger than the rearview mirror for a reason.” As we navigate the challenges of college life, especially with all the demands and changes it brings, it’s crucial to recognize that you’re not alone on this rollercoaster journey.

Hailey is a second-year student at UMass Boston currently studying English. She is a new editor of Her Campus, eager to apply her skills and expand her writing techniques. Outside of the classroom, Hailey is an avid reader and an aspiring writer. She also loves to go to the gym, listen to music and podcasts, and spending time with her family. She just recently moved to the Boston area and is excited for the many opportunities that the city has to offer!