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How to tackle mental health issues when you are a celebrity

Whether you are a film star or an extremely popular content creator, being famous can impact your mental health. Here's a simple guide on how to keep calm and carry on

Being under constant media glare can drive celebrities to seek indulge in substance abuse.
Being under constant media glare can drive celebrities to seek indulge in substance abuse. (Unsplash/Clem Onojeghuo)

Have you ever had a lurking fear that everyone was looking at you? Psychologists call this the ‘spotlight effect’. It’s a psychological phenomenon that explains why people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are. Nowhere is this more prominent than in the film, and more recently, the influencer/content creator industry, where being in the limelight is a daily affair.

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 By nature, humans – whether famous or not – are prone to seeking external validation. However, this need to seek approval from someone outside of ourselves can be unpredictable, and might not be sustainable. This explains why public figures, who rule on big screens or Instagram, are naturally susceptible to mood and self-esteem challenges. Mistakes or perceived flaws can have bigger repercussions as they are always in the spotlight. This makes them susceptible to stress from factors that are beyond their control. 

For most people, irrespective of their stature, common strategies to cope with stress involve an ‘avoidant’ rather than ‘accept and process feelings’ approach. An increased sense of vulnerability, combined with the relentless glare of the limelight, can cause excessive tension and anxiety, driving individuals to seek refuge in substances such as drink or drugs as a means of escape.  Additionally, long working hours leaves them with little time for self-care and seeking therapy. When hard-pressed looking for solutions, what can public figures do to focus on their well-being? Here are some guidelines: 

  1. Be aware of genetic links: A lot of mental health issues have genetic predispositions. Understanding these genetic risk factors can enable early detection, tailored treatment programmes, and the implementation of preventative measures. This knowledge, when paired with other diagnostic tools and therapy approaches, can help prevent mental problems from becoming chronic. 
  2. Stay healthy: For people who are constantly under the glare, prioritising regular exercise, adequate sleep, and mindfulness practices lends them the strength and mental toughness required to manage stress and control overwhelming emotions or situations. 
  3. Find ways to self-validate: This can help break the habit of seeking external validation as most celebrities do. Finding a hobby, passion or cause to contribute to provides public figures with another purpose to focus their energies on, thereby taking their minds off of looking for constant approval or handling trolls.
  4. Speak up: Increasingly, celebrities and public figures have been speaking up about their mental health struggles. Sharing personal experiences can help garner support, accept the fact that humans are inherently flawed, remove the stigma attached to an issue, and overall, help promote awareness around mental health. 

Mental health challenges don’t discriminate. That being said, public figures are more susceptible due to constant attention from media and their fans. In such a scenario, practices such as setting time aside for self care, making time for other interests and speaking up about their struggle, can prove extremely useful in maintaining a balanced life. 

Aanandita Vaghani is a mental health therapist and founder of UnFix Your Feelings clinic in Mumbai. 

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