In the past year, Selena Gomez and Kanye West have received tweets from me. So has Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.

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As a person without many celebrity friends and as a person fairly out of touch with a lot of pop culture (I’d be hard pressed to name a Kanye West song and a few months ago, I wasn’t even sure who he was married to but I knew it was someone famous), this outpouring of support for such celebs has surprised many – including my team here at GrokNation.

I may not know everything about these celebrities – in fact, I may know very little about them!  – but I want to show support for a few reasons.

  1. Working toward being stigma-free around mental health issues. When public people publicly struggle with issues which are known to be mental health issues, that public struggle knocks the stigma factor down a few notches, making it feel safer – hopefully – for more people to not hide their mental illness or mental health challenges. Whether it is speaking out about medications that help them manage their struggles, expressing a desire to be “stigma-free” (a phrase I’ve learned from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness), or experiencing what the press often calls a “breakdown“ – an episode requiring rest and hospitalization – as a public person who has struggled with mental health issues myself, it strikes a chord within me. The more we talk about mental health, the better our chances are of helping others who struggle, especially those who may feel unsupported or stigmatized. We – and celebrities who have been public about their own struggles – can help them understand that they’re not alone and that support is available for them.
  2. It creates human unity. I choose to reach out to such celebrities because we all share something. No, not as celebrities, but as people – all people share something. We are all human and we share the human experience. And no matter who is hurting – whether I like their music or their politics or not – battling mental illness or being hospitalized for exhaustion is something that we need each other’s support for. Acknowledging that publicly sends a message that we can be united around mental health and being supportive is a good thing to be.
  3. It provides an alternative to gossip. I don’t know much about Selena Gomez’s life and struggles. I don’t need to know; it’s her business. Just because she is a celebrity, it doesn’t mean we get to know everything about her. What she chooses to share can empower people and help others who struggle, but it’s her choice to share that or not. I have read headlines about Kanye West’s problems, but it’s really none of our business what he’s going through or how. That’s for him and his doctors and family to figure out. And it makes me really sad to hear gossip about people we don’t know; I wonder how that might feel for him or for his family; reading or hearing theories about his problems while he is in the hospital dealing with so much. So instead of ignoring it (which seems odd to me since I seem to find a way to open my mouth about just about everything else!), sending out a general statement of support makes me feel like I am combatting – even in a small way – some of that gossip and negativity that might be out there.

I know it may seem like a small gesture, or even a strange one since I don’t even know these celebrities, but if I ever needed a mental health break, I would hope someone would reach out and send love and support not only for me, but to show other people that there is a strength in virtual support, especially when someone is experiencing mental health challenges. In this way, the notion of removing stigma can become a reality and all of us who struggle can seek support, get help, and not be demonized or teased for what we are going through. It’s my sincere hope that one day we can all be stigma-free.

(For more information about mental health awareness and living with mental health issues, visit NAMI.)