By Mike McMahan, LPC
Kudos to Frozen and Veronica Mars actress Kristen Bell for speaking out about the seeking treatment for depression and anxiety It’s not easy for non-Hollywood types to address these issues with family and friends. It’s even braver to open up to the entire country when you know your story will be splashed all over social media and entertainment news sites.
Unlike many people who acknowledge that they struggle with the challenges of mental illness, Kristen has clearly sought treatment and educated herself, two key pieces in living a mentally healthy life. She notes in the interview that the women in her family have struggled with these issues for years, endorsing the widely acknowledged belief that there is a genetic predisposition to these disorders.
She also manages to acknowledge that a stigma that still exists regarding mental health services, asking quite logically, “If you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that, but in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin. But for some reason, when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately crazy or something.”
For those who enjoy looking a little deeper into a person’s art when they make a personal disclosure, consider the character of Elsa in Frozen, and the ice powers she hides for years by wearing gloves. And the fact that she barricades herself in an ice castle when those powers are revealed at Elsa's coronation. Considering the cold feelings of isolation that depression can invoke, an ice castle is not a bad metaphor. Now, given that Kristen was not a screenwriter on Frozen, it’s hard to imagine this was the goal of the movie. However, given that actors pull from personal experience to lend gravity to a performance, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that she may have pulled from personal experience.
To continue in this vein, as a strength-based practitioner, I encourage people to take a different perspective on mental health struggles. Great art is often produced by those with mental health struggles; perhaps it gives them insight into others pain, or perhaps it gives them the drive to complete artistic pursuits. After all, ask any musician/writer/artist and they will confirm the old adage that it’s “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Art may provide an outlet for the dark feelings associated with depression.
Here are the clinical criteria for depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If you feel you meet these criteria or are struggling with any of the symptoms, please speak to a doctor or therapist.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly identified Elsa's coronation as "Anna's wedding."
Mike McMahan, LPC is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture