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.)