When Stars Get Depressed

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Justin Bieber depression

Young people are stressed out, anxious and often depressed. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, some 70% of teens surveyed reported that anxiety and depression are the biggest issues that they see among their peers. Another study published in February in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that about one in seven children suffer with some kind of mental health condition.

Now, some young people might think that fame and success would be a balm for issues like these. I mean, how could someone like, say, Justin Bieber be depressed? He’s got it all, right?

Well, it turns out that Justin Bieber is, apparently, wrestling pretty deeply with depression himself. About a month ago, People reported that Bieber is seeking treatment (counseling, the article says) for depression. And on Instagram earlier this week, Bieber wrote:

Just wanted to keep you guys updated a little bit hopefully what I’m going through will resonate with you guys. Been struggling a lot. Just feeling super disconnected and weird.. I always bounce back so I’m not worried just wanted to reach out and ask for your guys to pray for me. God is faithful and ur prayers really work thanks .. the most human season I’ve ever been in facing my stuff head on.

Mental illness has historically come freighted with stigma and shame. “People are afraid of mental illness,” Jennifer Havens, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, told The Atlantic. “Adolescents commonly have symptoms for like five to seven years before they get treatment for depression.”

Which brings me back to Justin’s story.

We often talk here at Plugged In about the influence that celebrities potentially have on their fans. Oftentimes, we’ll couch that impact in cautionary terms if a young star says or does something particularly reckless or problematic.

In this case, though, Justin Bieber is using his popularity and his immense social media platform to communicate some important messages to his myriad fans: He’s human. He’s hurting. He needs help. The result? Bieber’s transparency potentially encourages teens facing the same issues to reach out and get help, as well. 

As someone who’s grappled with both depression and anxiety myself, I know firsthand how hard it can be to be honest about mental illness. The stigma is real. And admitting that we need others’ help—whether that’s in the form of prayerful support from friends and family, professional counseling, or seeing a doctor about our mental issues—can seem like an intimidating step to take.

Because of that, I’m grateful when stars like Justin Bieber are honest about their own challenges in these areas. That honesty might be just what an anxious, depressed young fan needs to see. (For more resources on the issue of teen depression, be sure to check out Focus on the Family’s series of articles on Your Teen’s Mental Health.)

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Rocketshipper 6 months ago
Maybe I'm not totally up to date on the science, if anyone here knows more please speak up, but I had read some old studies showing that rates of depression are higher in "first world" countries compared to other countries, suggesting the possibility that depression is correlated with relative wealth and cultural factors surrounding it.   If the science is sound, perhaps that actually suggests that depression is also cultural, besides/in addition to being biological. 
Anonymous 6 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Praying for Justin. Hope he feels God's love.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Interesting artical. I would definately say mental health is an issue. Depression is an Issue. But to quote Dwight from The Office, "Isn't depression another way of saying your feeling 'bummed out?'" Sometimes I wonder if we only feel depressed when things don't go our way. Lol I don't know where I'm going with this. Not saying depression isn't real, just trying to think through what it really is...

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 6 months ago
I would recommend looking into Jonathan Haidt's work on depression and social media, especially among teens. It's quite fascinating.
-David the Clown 
Anonymous 6 months ago
Yeah. I can see the reasons teens get depressed, but I guess I have hope in Christ where most of them don't. I know no matter how bad this life gets, I have a friend in Christ, and I have a feeling most teens don't know that.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 6 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

All the more reason to spread God’s Word! By telling others of God’s gift, they can accept God Into their lives and not have to be as depressed anymore!
Anonymous 6 months ago
@First Comment Guy
My Thoughts exactly!!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
charitysplace 6 months ago
Depression isn't always "not having things go your way." It's an actual problem with serotonin levels in your brain.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I'm sure you mean well, but 'feeling depressed when things don't go our way' is not the same as having clinical depression, which is an actual mental illness that requires treatment (which can vary). Someone might have an objectively good life, with nothing 'going wrong', and still suffer deeply from depression. Even on The Office, even as a joke, Dwight is portrayed as wrong when he says what you quoted. Also to the commenter who said "they can accept God Into their lives and not have to be as depressed anymore!" - this is an incredibly dangerous attitude! Being a Christian will not cure of you depression, which again, is a serious medical condition that must be addressed by a qualified professional. Obviously it can be very helpful and comforting to know God, but that will not make a mental illness, which can affect you by changing the actual chemical levels in your brain, go away, or even improve. There are Christians with clinical depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc, and these do not vanish because of one's religious belief, just as something like cancer would not vanish. Sure, the knowledge of God *should* make you 'feel happier', but depression does not follow such logic. 
- Anon914
Anonymous 6 months ago
Very well said.

-- The Kenosha Kid
Anonymous 6 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I wasn’t saying that depression would go away right after a person accepts Christ. I was just saying that it can help alleviate some of the depression through prayer and meditation with God. Of course more action should be taken by someone to help them combat their depression, but submitting your life to God can certainly help.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I never said Depression would go away after you became a christian. But you should have hope in Christ rather than the things of this world whether or not things "are going your way." Not dissing depression. Just saying I feel like it relates to how well life is going. Those who don't have the hope of Christ do not understand our hope we have when things go our way. I don't really know much of clinical depression so I'm just assuming it's a worse type of depression, but how would you even treat depression?

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 6 months ago
First comment! Yay!
-Anon-O-Miss
Anonymous 6 months ago
Congrats!
-David the Clown