Women’s History Month: Advocates for Mental Health

This year during Women’s History Month, we want to highlight public figures advocating for mental health. In the past, there has been a stigma around mental health, which has caused many people to stay silent about their personal struggles.

However, in recent years, many public figures have come forward and talked about their personal struggles with mental health and how they are advocating for women through their various platforms.

Simone Biles

Simone Biles is an Olympic gymnastics powerhouse for the United States, and she has a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is also tied as the most decorated American gymnast of all time. Biles and former teammate Gabby Douglas are the only American female gymnasts to win both the individual all-around gold and team gold at the same Olympiad. During the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Biles withdrew from four out of five team final team events. Initially, Biles withdrew because she was experiencing “the twisties,” a psychological phenomenon that causes gymnasts to lose air awareness while performing twisting elements during their routines. Over concern for her safety, she withdrew. Biles’ decision to prioritize her mental health was generally widely praised and credited with starting a wider conversation about the role of mental health in sports. Alongside Biles, other Olympians in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics showed a greater willingness to discuss and publicly acknowledge mental health challenges. She brought awareness to a stigma that many athletes face, so now they can begin to prioritize their health over performance. While Biles received criticism for withdrawing, she unknowingly showed the world that athletes are humans too with mental health struggles. Simone Biles is not only an exceptional role model for gymnasts and all athletes around the world, but she is making ground for athletes everywhere to know that your mental health is as important as your physical health for performing.

Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell is an American actress. After moving to New York at 18 to begin her acting career, she was surrounded by a dark cloud and was unsure of what to do. She reached out to her mom, a registered nurse, and she suggested to Kristen to go to a doctor and be subscribed to an SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). During that same period of time, Kristen also learned from her mom that there was a family history of anxiety and depression. Kristen soon found that the combination of taking medication and working out helped combat her symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are times when Kristen still has periods when she isn’t in the best headspace, especially during the initial lockdown of the COVID 19 pandemic. Luckily she has a great support system with her husband, fellow actor Dax Shepard who isn’t afraid to ask her if being sad and not doing anything to help get out of her funk will change how she feels tomorrow. Kristen said that at first, it made her mad for him to “call her out,” but that was the kick in the butt she needed to get back into a better headspace, so she can be the mother, wife, and friend that she wants to be. She has been vocal about her battle with anxiety and depression, and she wants all of her fans to know that it’s okay to not be okay. And while she still has moments where she wants to present pure perfection to the world, she realizes that isn’t her reality and would rather be transparent so that people everywhere can understand that everyone and anyone can struggle from day to day. Everyone will have a different way of handling it, and as long as you’re feeling better, then that’s all that matters.

Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho is a Korean-American comedian, actress, and author. She is best known for her stand-up comedy routines talking about social and political problems, especially regarding race and sexuality. Margaret Cho has been a voice for people who may not have one, such as individuals struggling with their own sexuality, sexual abuse, eating disorders, addictions, depression, and suicide. While starting her career, Margaret found herself addicted to diet pills to lose weight to keep an image that producers wanted her to fit while being the lead in the show ‘All American Girl.’ After being hospitalized for a diet pill overdose that caused her to lose thirty pounds in two weeks and go into kidney failure.

Once released from the hospital, she constantly pushed her body with diet pills and working out. During filming for the show, she did not have time to work out, so she relied heavily on the diet pills to keep her thin and fit the image that the producers wanted her to portray. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after six months, which sent Margaret into a downward spiral. She became addicted to any drug that she could obtain and would drink until she couldn’t remember because once her show was canceled, Margaret felt as if she had lost her identity. Margaret was using both drugs and alcohol to help numb the pain she was experiencing, from losing her show to the trauma she went through as a child. Margaret decided to get help when she realized that she had hit rock bottom. She went to rehab for both drugs and alcohol addiction. She also started a campaign for survivors of sexual violence. Being able to talk about her personal experiences with sexual assault, Margaret began to heal. Margaret Cho has made it her life’s mission to bring humor to people worldwide, all the while bringing awareness to some tough subjects that fans may be going through. Margaret is an example that while moving on is a constant battle every day, you’re able to live your life as a truth rather than lying to the people around you, but more importantly, you’re not lying to yourself.

Glennon Doyle

Glennon Doyle is an American author, activist, and non-profit executive. She has written multiple books that vary from self-help to a memoir about her life thus far. Glennon has been open about the fact that since she was 8, she has struggled with bulimia and, at 13, had her first drink. In eighth grade, her parents found out about her eating disorder and took her to therapy, but therapy back then was different. Glennon was more or less on her own, so she acted like she was fine to her family and therapist but continued to battle her eating disorder. Glennon said that while the stigma around eating disorders is that you aren’t high functioning, she was a part of student government and sports and received good grades during school. She was doing everything that most people expect kids to do during school, “that’s even more disconcerting to people because they want to believe that if their kids, or whoever, seem okay, then they are okay. I’m proof that you can seem okay and not be.” It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she decided that she needed help because otherwise, she thought she was going to die. Glennon told the school counselor what was going on and refused to leave until they took her to a hospital, which ended up being a mental health hospital, which Glennon said she loved and was exactly what she needed. Glennon said that every day until she was 26 and became sober, she always had a drink. She managed during high school, but once she went to college, she was a full-blown alcoholic. Glennon went on to graduate and became a teacher. But it wasn’t until she became pregnant for the second time in a few months was unable to get another abortion that she realized that she needed to make some significant life changes. Since that day, she has been sober from alcohol and drugs. Glennon has become a voice to so many people in the world when it comes to battling their own silent demons, and she shows that you can recover, but every day is a battle and a choice to continue to fight. In addition to her multiple successful books, TED Talks, she is now a podcast host. She and her sister Amanda co-host ‘We Can Do Hard Things,’ where they discuss topics regarding all things mental health. Glennon Doyle is a great resource and example that while you may be struggling now, things can get better, but you have to fight for yourself to want to get better.


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