From Tom Holland to Naomi Osaka, what can we learn from these five celebrities who took public steps to protect their mental health and wellbeing?
Every now and then, things get a bit too much. Whether it be overflowing anxiety, a depressive episode, burnout, and general mental and physical exhaustion, sometimes we just have to press pause for the sake of our mental health.
For the people in the public eye, musicians, actors, performers, and athletes, the pressure to keep going – despite the hits that their wellbeing may be taking – is immense. And so those who speak openly about prioritising their mental health break the mould and, in doing so, set a precedent that we all can take inspiration from.
Here, we’re highlighting five celebrities that have done just that, and considering the lessons we can take from them.
In a recent post on social media, Lewis Capaldi announced that he had made the difficult decision to take a step back, following Glastonbury Festival 2023. “I used to be able to enjoy every second of shows like this and I’d hoped 3 weeks away would sort me out. But the truth is I’m still learning to adjust to the impact of my Tourette’s,” he wrote.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Lewis has spoken out about his mental health. In the ‘all-access’ Netflix documentary Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now, he opened up about his experience with the commonly misunderstood condition Tourette’s, as well as periods of intense anxiety.
“I need to spend much more time getting my mental and physical health in order, so I can keep doing everything I love for a long time to come” Lewis continued, in a reminder to all of us to about the value to self-care and leaning on our support systems through difficult times.
Following completing a role in Apple TV+ series The Crowded Room, actor Tom Holland shared that he had made the decision to take a year-long break from acting, in order to recover after starring in the ‘psychologically dark’ project.
“There did come a time when I was sort of, ‘I need to have a break’. I disappeared. I went to Mexico for a week and had some time on a beach and lay low. And I’m now taking a year off, and that is a result of how difficult this show was,” Tom told ExtraTV.
Considering what he may do during his break, Tom said he would be spending time with his family and friends, and enjoying hobbies such as gardening. “I’ve just been trying to be a regular bloke from Kingston and just relax,” he said.
Tom’s choice is an example of stopping to recognise when challenges have gotten under our skin, and taking action to recover from them by returning to the people and environments that make us feel safe.
When the six-time Olympic medallist gymnast pulled out of the women’s all-around finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, her actions made headlines.
"After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health," read a statement from the governing body at the time. “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her wellbeing. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Later, Simone spoke of the stress of competing at the Olympics, and how difficult the decision to pull out of the competition, in order to protect her mental health, was. But, ultimately, she proved that – no matter how big the achievement – few things are worth sacrificing your wellbeing for.
"It's really important to use that support system and know they're there for you and not against you, because at the end of the day, us as humans, we hate asking for help," Simone said, in an interview with Olympics.com. "We think we can do it on our own, but sometimes we just can't. So use every outlet given to you."
“It seems completely hypocritical of me to advocate discussion on mental health and write songs about it if I don’t take the time to look after my own mental health,” Sam Fender wrote, in an Instagram post. “I’ve neglected myself for over a year now and haven’t dealt with things that have deeply affected me. It’s impossible to do this work on myself while on the road, and it’s exhausting feigning happiness and wellness for the sake of business. My friends and colleagues have been worried about me for a while and it’s not going to get better unless I take the time to do so.”
In September 2022, musician Sam Fender took the difficult decision to cancel three headline shows in the UK, as well as a performance at the Life is Beautiful Festival. Sam pointed to feeling burnt out for the reason for this action – while also highlighting how important it is to take a break when you get to this point, and how pushing through for ‘the sake of business’ is an unhealthy route to take.
In May 2021, four-time Grand Slam winning tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open due to post-match anxiety. Just 23 years old at the time, Naomi was fined $15,000 for skipping a press conference, and was also threatened with expulsion from the tournament if she continued to do so.
But she later opened up on social media about the intense anxiety that she felt around speaking to the media, at the same time as withdrawing from the competition.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she shared. “Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.
"I get really nervous and find it stressful to always engage and give you the best answers I can," the current world number two female tennis player wrote. "So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences."
Naomi’s actions are not just a reminder of the importance of stepping back when you need it, but also highlight the way that social anxiety can affect people from all kinds of walks of life, and that treating yourself with kindness and finding coping strategies that work for you is an important step in managing those feelings.