Amber Heard and Britney Spears highlight the stigma of mental illness in women

The mental health of notable women in particular has faced backbiting and egregious public scrutiny. This spring, millions of online viewers tuned in to a multi-week defamation trial between Amber Heard and her ex-husband Johnny Depp. The trial was used as fodder in social media posts that sought to portray Heard as “unstable,” and included direct speculation about her mental health by a forensic psychiatrist advocated by Depp’s team. The outcome of the case did not matter. When it comes to stigma and career, the costs and harms to a woman if she has a mental illness cannot be undone.

Women experience widespread prejudice, discrimination, and unrealistic expectations, even with regard to their emotional well-being. They should be seen as holding everything together. They need to succeed in their careers, maintain attractiveness, work as passionate mothers, etc. – all while doing their jobs more efficiently. And the Modesty than their male counterparts. Actresses, singers and other celebrities bear the added burden of societal prescriptions to be sexy at the same time And the innocent. It is impossible to negotiate this association, and there are significant mental health costs to doing so.

Society can easily exploit the mental well-being of outstanding women, as Heard’s case shows. In other cases, this scrutiny has cost some women their basic independence. Take, for example, the famous pop star Britney Spears. Spears’ “crazy” photos first surfaced over 15 years ago, when she grabbed a pair of scissors at a beauty salon and shaved her head in front of the paparazzi. An impressive critique followed: Can she no longer do her job, be a parent to her children, or manage her finances? Has she completely lost her mental capacity? The commissioner of the court quickly placed her in the custody of her father, James Spears, and only in late 2021 did a judge release her from this custody. The idea that a 40-year-old professional billionaire can’t manage her personal affairs (including her own) reproduction rights) seems completely misleading.

Other celebrities have faced criticism about their mental health issues. After pop star Selena Gomez shared her experiences with depression and panic attacks, members of the media make fun of her He commented on the cruelty she faced. singer and actress Lady Gaga champions mental health rights By sharing her struggles with PTSD, noting that revealing her mental health issues was a controversial experience that exposed her to the public eye. Mental health diagnoses remain heavily laden with entrenched stigma, although severe clinical disorders are common and many people Restore or manage them successfully.

Coverage of women’s mental health is in stark contrast to the way famous men are portrayed in the media. Kanye West suffers from bipolar disorder, Jim Carrey suffers from depression, and no judge has placed them in guardianship. At times, these men received praise for how their mental illness made them stand out from other artists. Pop culture has sometimes romanticized the mental illnesses of male painters, novelists, and composers, from Ernest Hemingway to David Foster Wallace, as essential to their genius. Female celebrities face a different reality: they must fulfill impossible expectations with the need to be compassionate and competitive while projecting a seamlessly sexualized figure. The resulting internalization and feelings of helplessness can only harm mental health. One of us (Hinshaw) made this case very clear triple bond.

Raising mental health difficulties in a high-ranking woman perpetuates the view that she is inadequate and incompetent, and that these deficiencies affect their careers. It fundamentally devalues ​​and stigmatizes them. More importantly, society and the courts still perceive Women as unreliable reportersToo dramatic, less efficient, and less “logical” than men. Using mental health as a weapon gives people with power a way to say, “She’s lying.”

Although public awareness of mental illness has increased, the stigma remains strong, especially for women. As Hinshaw has argued in mark of shame And the Another kind of madnessMany people distort behaviors that are perceived as irrational – and this is especially true of women. After all, if unpopular or “deviant” behaviors are the product of mental illness, then any social or political value they hold must, by definition, be irrational and discountable.

Women with mental disorders are more likely than men to display ‘stigma’Internalization of the idea that they are flawed and do not deserve evidence-based treatment. These prejudices start early. Teenage girls are subject to a series of simultaneous and often conflicting stressors – and it’s true unreasonable connection High expectations.

So is it any wonder that rates of binge eating, depression, anxiety, attempted suicide, and non-suicidal self-harm–cutting–continue to rise, particularly among girls and teenage women? Discussions about Mental health stigma It has increased over the past few years, and one of us (Gruber) has started a free online course called # tale to combat it. But not enough attention has been paid to how this stigma interacts with sex. Are girls and women paying a higher price, missing out on more opportunities and even freedoms in their professional and personal lives? Too often, such issues are dismissed as a personal weakness or female “attention seeking” rather than a subject of clinical and general health concern.

Society’s obsession with women’s mental health challenges – and the appalling loss of personal and professional liberties and reputational damage to which some women have been subjected as a result – should open our eyes to the continuing stigma and weight of mental illness for girls and women. It’s time for discussions about mental health stigma to acknowledge and address these double standards so that women and girls can get the support and treatment they need without the looming fear of ruining their lives if they do.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the opinions expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily opinions Scientific American.