Celebrities – Making Mental Illness ‘Fashionable’?

In a recent article published in The Telegraph, former BBC presenter Bill Oddie, said that people (more specifically celebrities)  are ‘making careers’ out of their mental health conditions.  In the article published on 10th November, Oddie stated that:

“I have stepped back from my charity work for bipolar. Despite having had my own experience with the condition, I fear that it has become something of a ‘fashionable’ condition to have in this day and age”. He goes on to say: “It is a serious condition, but, suddenly, people are making careers out of it. Stephen Fry brought a lot of attention to it, and Ruby Wax, but I don’t think that the life of a celebrity can be compared to, or relatable to, a normal, everyday life, so I don’t know how good it really does.

Whilst I have a certain amount of sympathy with Oddie’s argument, I think that celebrities can, and do, bring much needed attention to mental health issues, helping to dispelling stigma and facilitating informed debate among the wider population.  On balance I would contend that Stephen Fry in particular has done much to ‘normalize’ mental illness. That said, there are others who have made less helpful contributions of questionable educational value and fueling erroneous perceptions that perpetuate stigma rather than dispelling it.

Celebrities, like everyone else, can make very valuable contributions by utilizing their ‘expert through lived experience’ status to help others; we should embrace what is good and helpful from whichever quarter it comes from.

You can read The Telegraph article here:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10438044/Bill-Oddie-Celebrities-are-making-mental-illness-fashionable.html

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