4 Actresses on Their Mental Health Habits and the “Pressure to Be Fine"
The tragic passings of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have served as a stark reminder of the importance of checking in on friends and family—and looking after our own mental health.
The CDC recently reported a 25 percent increase in suicides in the U.S. over the past two decades, with the most dramatic spike in major depression observed among young people (aged 12-20), especially young women.
It’s clear that no one—regardless of wealth, success, or fame—is immune to the toll of mental illness. “I feel like any industry that you're in, there's a pressure to just be ‘fine’ all the time,” actress Yara Shahidi, 18, told InStyle at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Saturday, when we asked stars on the red carpet how they prioritize mental well-being in the ultra-scrutinizing entertainment world.
"It's a dangerous space to be made to feel as though you have to be happy all of the time, because rather than trying to pursue happiness, it often ends up with a neglect of any other emotion that you've ever felt,” the Grown-ish actress continued. “I feel like it's something that everyone goes through.”
Here, four young women in Hollywood—Katherine Langford, Madelaine Petsch, Tessa Thompton, and Shahidi—get candid about their mental health practices.
Yara Shahidi on the Pressure to Be “Fine” All the Time
“There's a lot of extreme pressure, and it's not particular to entertainment,” Shahidi, who stars in Grown-ish as a college freshman (Zoey) dealing with the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, said. “There's a pressure to just process, no matter what's happening around you. For so many people, that's what it's about—if you're working, there's always a certain sense of image that you have to maintain.”
The actress relates to the fear that admitting you’re not OK could be viewed as weakness—though she knows it isn’t. But she’s learned to recognize her own needs. “A lot of it's just been about respecting where I am at that moment,” she said. “There's a sense of well-being that you have to maintain in order for the world around you to operate. I think that's something anyone can relate to no matter your socioeconomic standing, no matter what kind of job you have.”
For Shahidi, knowing whom she can lean on is key. “It's been important for me to have a support network of people to turn to when I'm not doing so good, or when I'm tired, or whatever it may be, because it allows you a moment of privacy to be however you're going to be,” she said.
Katherine Langford on FaceTime Therapy
Katherine Langford’s life changed with her breakout role as a high-school student who takes her own life in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. The show sparked a national conversation about suicide and depression, and the 22-year-old actress’s suddenly packed career taught her the importance of self-care. “I think everyone has their own personal thing to help them feel taken care of, and I think that varies from person to person,” she said.
Langford, for one, realized how helpful she finds it to simply pick up the phone and call or FaceTime the people closest to her. “I’ve learned recently, having been acting and been moving around all over the place, I have been traveling for two years straight. So one thing I find that is really helpful that I maybe didn’t do so much before is FaceTiming my friends, and just have snippets of time where you’re talking to people that remind you of home and who you are.”
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Madelaine Petsch on Telling People You Appreciate Them
Riverdale star Madelaine Petsch, whose breakout character Cheryl Blossom struggles with depression and suicidal tendencies, was deeply affected by the recent losses of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. But, in a sense, they also moved her to take action. “Us losing them in the world, we really want to start appreciating every single moment,” the 23-year-old said of herself and boyfriend Travis Mills. “We need to start taking our lives a little bit more one second at a time, appreciating and savoring all of those moments.”
“It’s something I’m personally working on,” she continued, “not letting the little things get to me and trying to overall just be appreciative of what I’ve got.”
Also of huge importance, she says, is to “check in with my friends a lot. And even if they seem like they’re okay, just taking a moment to pull somebody aside and making sure that they know that they’re loved and they’re appreciated.”
Tessa Thompson on Getting Called Out on Her Unhappiness
It can be so easy to reach for your phone and scroll through Instagram first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but what if you unplugged instead? Tessa Thompson, 34, who brought Marvel’s first queer character to life in Thor: Ragnarok, told us that stepping away from social media now and again to connect with family and friends in a more personal way has been helpful to her.
“It’s interesting—I think with the passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, you see all these people posting quotes and photographs, and we get to really share collectively as a community what they meant to us. And also to really solidify this idea that actually there’s no correlation between success or wealth and happiness,” she said, praising the power of the Internet to bring us together. “It alerts us all to be really careful about our own self-care.”
But there needs to be an in-real-life component too, Thompson added. “I think a part of it is unplugging. It’s really useful, I think, to mourn as a community online, and I think it’s also really useful to unplug and make sure that you’re checking in with people physically, in your space.”
Online communities only go so far, Thompson said, because you need to be able to pick up on your loved ones’ subtler tells, and they need to be able to spot yours. “So for me, when I’m not working, I really try to hang out with the people that ground me, and that keep me honest, and keep me happy, and can tell when I’m not, and call me out on it. So, I would just say, stay connected.”