In an hour long podcast with the popular American psychologist and TV personality, Dr Phil, Sophie Turner opens up about her experience with depression, learning to love herself, and the impact critical social media posts had on her wellbeing
It’s become less taboo to talk openly about struggles with our mental health, thanks in part to celebrities and public figures opening up about their own experiences with ill mental health. Actress Sophie Turner, best known for her roles as Sansa Stark in international hit Game of Thrones and Jean Grey in numerous X-Men films, has been praised for opening up candidly about her experiences with depression and ongoing journey speaking with a therapist.
In the latest episode of the podcast Phil in the Blanks, Turner opened up to TV psychologist Dr Phil about the role social media criticism over her appearance and performance in Game of Thrones acted as a catalyst for depression.
Four years after the show began filming, at age 17, Turner began struggling with her mental health. “It only started to kind of go downhill I think when I started to hit puberty, really puberty though at like 17, and my metabolism was slowing down massively, and I was gaining weight, and there was social media scrutiny and everything – and that’s when it kind of hit me.
“The biggest challenge is just for me getting out of bed and getting out of the house, and learning to love yourself I think is the biggest challenge.”
Turner shared her thoughts on social media acting as a ‘catalyst’ for depression. Already feeling alone after her friends and brothers moved away for college whilst the actress was working on the hit TV series, Turner felt she became more sensitive to what people were saying about her on social media. The actress began taking comments about her weight, skin, and acting personally.
Now, thanks to seeking therapy and support from her fiance, Joe Jonas, Turner has begun improving her self-esteem.
“I love myself now, or more than I used to, I think. I don't think I love myself at all, but I'm now with someone that makes me realise, you know, that I do have some redeeming qualities I suppose.
"When someone tells you they love you every day, it makes you really think about why that is, and I think it makes you love yourself a little bit more, so, yeah, I love myself."
During the course of the hour long podcast, Turner also shares her experiences being in front of the camera at a young age, as well as how she has had to overcome body image issues. Speaking candidly about her experience with depression and how it impacted her motivation, Turner emphasised that she felt social media was a contributing factor to her depression, not the sole cause.
“I think it contributed. I wouldn’t say that was the main reason. I think it was some sot of chemical imbalance. I think it definitely was a bit of a catalyst.
“People used to say, ‘Damn, Sansa gained 10 lbs’ or ‘Sansa needs to lose 10 lbs or ‘Sansa got fat. It was just a lot of weight comments, or I would have spotty skin, because I was a teenager, and that’s normal, and I used to get a lot of comments about my skin and my weight and how I wasn’t a good actress and things like that.
“I would just believe it, I would just say, ‘Yeah, I am spotty. I am fat. I am a bad actress.’ I just believed it.”
Turner went on to speak further about mental health, encouraging more people to speak up, speak out, and find the help that they need.
“People shouldn’t be ashamed of it. So many people are kind of plagued with depression or anxiety or body issues. More people than people realise. If people just opened up to their friends and family, it would be OK. All you have to do is to speak to someone, and you can get the help that you need."
Turner admitted thinking at length about the concept of suicide when younger, before depression took hold.
In an earlier interview with Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year, the actress briefly opened up about her experiences with mental health.
“[I experience] depression for sure, anxiety, all of those things. I still experience it, but I had therapy, I’m on medication, and I feel so much better. The fact that I spoke to someone changed my life.”
Turner spoke of what she called a generational issue when it comes to our newfound openness about mental health, revealing her mother still asks her “Why do you need a therapist?”
Turner’s on-point rebuttal to morning talkshow host Piers Morgan also caused a stir earlier this year, as she challenged his view that “celebs are trying to make mental health problems ‘fashionable’”.
She has also spoken out against those who look to take mental illness lightly through jokes.
“People who think it’s okay to make jokes about mental illness, I feel you must be lucky, because surely you don’t understand or can’t comprehend what it is like to have or know someone with an illness like this. Depression is the second biggest killer in affluent Europe and America. One of the greatest reasons being, I believe, is because mental illness has so much stigma surrounding it.
“If we can just all speak out about our experiences or our loved ones experiences we can help other people who suffer with mental illness not feel so alone. Let’s keep this dialogue going. You are not alone, you can manage your illness, and people who make fun of it are the minority...not you. You are loved and supported.”
Turner went on to explain that she means those who discredit mental illness or joke about them (rather than those who joke as a coping mechanism).
While each of our experiences with depression, anxiety and mental health are unique and different, perhaps it’s long past due time that we really consider what we are posting, sharing and saying about others – celebrities or not. Our words can have a greater impact than we may first realise.
If you need support, you can find local counselling through Counselling Directory. Use the search bar below to find a therapist near you.