What is the one major commonality shared between every mental illness that exists? Lack of awareness. The awareness does not have to be in regards to the symptoms, causes, or treatment, but just a general understanding of the strong negative consequences these crippling disorders have on strugglers. This lack also often leads to stigmas being created, followed, and believed by both the person suffering and the people creating these stigmas. The common question is, how do we increase awareness and eliminate stigmas?
One disorder often accompanied by a lack of awareness is addiction. Many addicts struggle to find help because they fear the judgement that results from stigma. This stigma stems from the way people talk about addiction. What many perceive as a battle of willpower and control is truly a battle between neurobiological forces. Addiction does not just stem from conscious choices made to take drugs, but results from an involuntary combination of genetics and environmental factors (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014). With this stigma supporting ambiguous and commonly confused beliefs such as this running rampant, addicts are unlikely to get the help they need and deserve to live a happy, healthy life.
The effect the media has on the public is obvious, as do celebrities and Hollywood; this leads most parents to believe that media, celebrities, and Hollywood in general fuel addiction. This is a difficult claim to refute because it is clear that celebrities have a strong impact on their fans, young and old, and are notoriously known for their addictions. For this reason, we need more celebrities and more media organizations to come forward and share stories of recovery and hope. Celebrities such as Steve Aoki, Travis Barker, Macklemore, Dan Smith, and Anthony Anderson have spoken up about how addiction has affected their life or the life of a loved one. Others like Demi Lovato, Theoren Fleury, Amber Valletta and Pete Doherty have addressed addiction publicly and directly in hopes of helping others and breaking the stigma. Media such as the show Intervention, celebrity interviews, news outlets and blogs tell stories of addiction through fiction and nonfiction, while accurately demonstrating the consequences of addiction, no stigmas included. The power that celebrities and media holds over the public is immense. There’s no doubt that addiction is a serious, triggering and touchy subject when it is openly discussed. However, celebrities and media have the power to spread awareness about addiction, inspire hope and recovery and potentially spark a “stigma revolution”.
Help and recovery may look different to everyone, and it is not my place to say what people need nor to say that celebrities speaking up will cure addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is likely to be seen in generations to come. We can only hope that increased discussion and accurate media portrayals of addiction and recovery will inspire addicts to get help and meet their full potential. Through new insights into addiction and recovery, fears of judgement are being diminished, allowing addicts to seek help without unnecessary social fears.
- A Center For Addiction Recovery (2015, December 28). “Actor Anthony Anderson Addresses Addiction Recover – Video.” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/actor-anthony-anderson-addresses-addiction-recovery-video/
- A Center For Addiction Recovery (2016, August 23). “Dan Smith: Olympic Swimmer “Comeback Fairytale.”” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/dan-smith-olympic-swimmer-comeback-fairytale/
- A Center For Addiction Recovery (2016, October 10). “Macklemore, “I’m One of Millions of Americans Who Has Struggled with Addiction and Abused Painkillers.”” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/macklemore-im-one-of-millions-of-americans-who-has-struggled-with-addiction-and-abused-painkillers/
- Baltin, S. (2017, October 9). “Steve Aoki, Travis Barker, and More Open Up on Fighting Addiction and Depression in Industry.” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2017/10/09/steve-aoki-travis-barker-and-more-open-up-on-fighting-addiction-and-mental-illness-in-industry/#1a6b0c32bbfa
- Freedom From Addiction, (n.d.). “Understanding the Link Between Celebrities and Teen Drug Use.” Retrieved from https://www.freedomfromaddiction.com/publications/how-do-celebrities-affect-teens-when-it-comes-to-drug-use-and-drinking
- Mayo Clinic Staff, (n.d.). “Drug Addiction: Causes.” Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/causes/con-20020970
- Patterson, E., (n.d.). “Famous Drug Abusers.” Retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/library/famous-drug-abusers/#stigma-breakers
- Rehab Today: Drug and Alcohol Rehab Blog, (n.d.). “How the Internet is Spreading Hope of Addiction Recovery.” Retrieved from https://rehab-international.org/blog/internet-spreading-hope-addiction-recovery