What do Elsa’s sister, the most successful Olympian, and a Dawson’s Creek actor have in common? They all grew up with a mental illness or learning disorder. Now, those stars—Kristen Bell, Michael Phelps, and James Van Der Beek—are sharing their stories with the world.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Child Mind Institute has teamed up with actors, athletes, social influencers, and businesspeople in a new campaign called #MyYoungerSelf. The organization hopes to end the stigma that’s often associated with mental health disorders and learning disabilities to let people know they’re not struggling alone and that it’s OK to ask for help.
Kristen Bell, actress and mom of two, has suffered from anxiety and depression since she was 18 years old. “Don’t be fooled by this game of perfection that humans play,” she says in her video that’s featured on the Child Mind Institute site and social channels. “Instagram and magazines and TV shows strive for a certain aesthetic and everyone looks so beautiful and people seem like they don’t have any problems. But everyone’s human. Everyone has problems. Everyone feels yucky on the inside sometimes.”
Bell goes on to say that everyone has the obligation to feel beautiful even if they’re not wearing makeup or didn’t shower that day. “Never feel embarrassed or ashamed about who you are… about the uniqueness that is you. There are people out there to help and we are all just human...” Word.
The Child Mind Institute is a national nonprofit that helps children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders by providing caregivers with useful resources, advancing science by conducting research, and working with professionals and policymakers to instill positive change.
Michael Phelps, 23-time Olympic gold medalist and dad of two, has ADHD. A teacher once told him he would never amount to anything. (Do we need to bring up that Olympic champion thing again?!) “Believe what’s in your heart, and never give up,” he says. “I’m thankful that I am how I am. I look at myself every day and I’m so proud and so happy of who I am and who I’ve been able to become.”
The organization also offers articles and tips on their website to help parents navigate questions about their child’s mental health. Real kids even open up in their own videos about their struggles and how they manage to work with them.
In another video, James Van Der Beek, Dawson’s Creek actor and dad of almost five, shares that he’s dyslexic. But he encourages others with the disorder to use it to their advantage. “You know you're not stupid. So, don't ever believe for a second that you are,” he says. “All of that work you’ll have to do—the mental gymnastics—to make the connections that other people seem to make effortlessly will wake up other parts of your brain.”
You can join the movement too by uploading a video with your message and using #MyYoungerSelf. One day—hopefully someday soon—we will be able to talk openly about mental health, learning disorders, and treatment options. No more whispers. No more secret Facebook groups. No more side-eyes when a friend says she has anxiety or doubtful questions when another friend shares he struggles with depression. One day we won’t even need a social media movement urging us to open up. But until then, this is one step closer to getting us there and making change happen.