This is not a post that I necessarily feel great about writing, but it’s not always about feeling great, right? I have been a clinical psychologist for over 3 decades and during that time I have been painfully aware of the suffering and mental anguish experienced by celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Look, I’ve been around for a while and I’ve seen a lot. Now I would like to talk about things candidly.
It is my personal and professional opinion that celebrities are at risk to get lower quality mental health treatment than non-celebrities. I can almost hear your collective gasp and feel your collective doubt. Nonetheless, I stand behind my thoughts here and I will tell you why in a moment. First, let me acknowledge that, yes, celebrities have the financial resources to go to the most fabulous facilities when they are in need of substance abuse treatment, are struggling with eating disorders or even are depressed and depleted from what are clearly exhausting and demanding schedules.They can finance the most beautiful facilities. Nonetheless, access to facilities that are more spa-like than hospital-like is not necessarily a ticket to successful treatment.
In no particular order, here are the 5 main reasons why I believe that celebrities may actually be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting excellent care. Bear with me.
1. Many mental health professionals are intimidated by celebrity status and hold back on giving authentic, honest feedback that might not be well-received but might actually be accurate and helpful. Look, in our culture, celebrities – not mental health professionals – are experienced as larger than life.
2. Celebrities often have an entitled mentality and can and will end treatment prematurely. Non-celebrities can also terminate treatment prematurely, but are more likely to experience push back from their treatment teams. I know. I’ve seen this repeatedly.
3. Most of us do not have public relations teams around us who are managing our reputations. Celebrities do. And, it might be in the interest of the PR team to deny that the said celebrity is having a problem. We know what this might lead to: either no treatment or abbreviated treatment.
4. How can a celebrity possibly expect to attend group treatment, be honest and not expect his/her issues to become public? That would be unrealistic. Hence, there is a natural and protective tendency to hold back, keep quiet and suffer silently. This is a true shame.
5. Finally, it is very hard for celebrities to go under the radar, be missing in action and quietly get mental health assistance for an extended period of time without public questioning about their whereabouts.
I am sad about this difficultly, particularly in light of the unique host of stressors that those in the public eye face. I am not sure what the answers are, but the discussion needs to be started. Your thoughts?