As celebrity trends go, talking about mental health issues is a little more interesting than wide-legged jeans or whatever was going on last week at the Met Gala. It does seem to be a trend, too: in the past few weeks, Kristen Bell, Chris Evans and Colton Haynes all decided to get serious with media outlets about their issues with anxiety.
In the video above, Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell sits down at Off Camera with Sam Jones to talk about how her bubbly personality is in some ways the result of the hard work she’s put in to deal with her anxiety and depression, something she’s been able to do more easily because her mother helped her understand her family history of mental illness from a very young age. She explains that her mother told her, “If you start to feel like you are twisting things around you, and you start to feel like there is no sunlight around you, and you are paralyzed with fear, this is what it is and here’s how you can help yourself,” which helped her get treatment when she needed it without shame.
Chris Evans, Captain America himself, spoke with Rolling Stone about his anxiety as part of his promotional work for Captain America: Civil War. For him, it’s not acting that’s the problem–it’s everything that goes along with it.
“A red carpet lasts, what, 30 minutes tops? But that to me is like 30 minutes of walking on hot coals,” Evans says, sitting at home in jeans, a Toronto Maple Leafs hat and a chambray shirt with a rip in one arm. “It’s not like a junket – junkets you sit in a room and they bring ’em in. I can do that all day and not have a meltdown. But the premiere – that’s overwhelming. It’s the volume of it: You’re in the center of this thing. You can fight a whole army if they line up one at a time. But if they surround you, you’re f**ked.”
His other problem, Evans says, is that he suffers from what he calls “a noisy brain.” It makes him second-guess everything, turns casual conversations into whirl-pools of self-doubt. “It’s a real nice spiral,” he says, grimacing. He’s tried calming his mind through meditation and Buddhism – he once spent three weeks studying with a guru in Rishikesh, India, and he says reading Siddhartha changed his life – and by reading the works of Oprah-approved spiritualist Eckhart Tolle. “I’ve gotten better,” Evans says. But he still struggles sometimes with overanalyzing things, with letting his self-consciousness take over, with not just being present in the moment.
He also talks about how he turned down the role of Captain America repeatedly–he only agreed to take on the role when his contract was limited to six movies instead of nine. That’s something you don’t often hear about when celebrities talk about their mental health issues: the compromises they’ve made to keep themselves healthy. The aspirational message we’re usually given is that it’s possible to overcome your issues to become a sensation. It’s rare that we hear that we can work within our own limitations and still be a success.
Arrow’s Colton Haynes played the titular character’s sidekick Arsenal until last year, when he left the show without much explanation. Last week, he opened up to EW to talk about how lifelong anxiety led him to give up the role.
“I asked to step away because I cared more about my mental and physical health than my career at the time,” the actor tells EW, opening up about his personal and professional life for the first time in quite some time. “I’ve had terminal anxiety my entire life. Physically ill, fainting. I’m 27 years old, and I have an ulcer. I had to step back.” Clinical anxiety and public pressure are a potent mix, but their effects may be worse for someone like Haynes – a gentle spirit in a threatening (or so he’s been told by many a casting director) build, someone who lost control of his own personal narrative somewhere along the way between Kansas and California.
Haynes took a much-needed break to deal with his anxiety, which has worked out well for him. “It took me so long to get to this point, but I’m doing so good,” he told EW. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and healthier than I’ve ever been, and that’s what I care about.”