As 2018 begins, mental health awareness and effective treatment for mental illnesses continue to trend in the news as a major topic of discussion. Politics, entertainment, and the medical field have all sought to shed a light on illnesses that affect so many people and, more importantly, the many treatments available today to help people heal and thrive. The Texas-based Okay to Say campaign from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute seeks to engage people all over the state to open a dialogue about mental illness and to understand that treatment is available and can put people on a path to recovery.
Since its launch in 2015, the campaign has received tremendous support from community leaders all over Texas, including Houston, Austin and Dallas mayors, and Texas-based celebrities such as Mark Cuban and Houston Astros star José Altuve. Now in its third year, Okay to Say has added more support from public figures passionate about sharing their stories and encouraging others to talk openly and get the help they need: soccer star Landon Donovan, actress Mara Wilson and singer Kirstin Maldonado.
“Today we better understand how almost everyone is touched in some way by mental illness, either personally or with someone they know,” said Dr. Andy Keller, President and CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. “With these inspirational public figures sharing their struggles and, more importantly, their triumphs, we hope others can see they’re not alone and there are paths to wellness.”
Okay to Say and its partners have seen the campaign resonate with people in every community, and for good reason – three in four Texans have a friend or family member that has experienced a mental health issue. With so many lives touched in one way or another by mental illness, Okay to Say has added these new supporters to show those struggling that there is hope and help. Okay to Say believes that by these well-known names sharing their positive experience with treatment, more people will be encouraged to speak out about their struggles, given that two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment.
Stories of Personal Recovery from Campaign’s New Celebrity Supporters
Landon Donovan is a professional soccer player who holds multiple records in Major League Soccer and for the United States National Team and is widely considered one of the greatest American soccer players of all time. In an environment that emphasizes strength above all else, Donovan found it hard to share his battle with depression, which he has had from an early age.
“We take plenty of time, care and recovery if someone tears their hamstring or ACL, or even gets a concussion,” Donovan said. “but if you walk into training and speak about struggling with depression, there’s an attitude of, ‘well, get over it, let’s go train.’ We need to make sure people understand mental illness is like a physical injury, although sometimes it’s actually harder to overcome.”
For writer and former child actress Mara Wilson, her struggles with mental illness came at an early age, a typical development for most mental illnesses, half of which occur before age 14.
“I knew that something was wrong with me and I wanted to get help, but I didn’t know where to go,” Wilson said. “I think a lot of times people don’t want to believe children can suffer from anxiety, they don’t want to believe children so young can suffer from mental illness.”
Wilson was eventually diagnosed with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder at the age of 12. She cites seeking treatment as one of the best things she has ever done, chronicling her life as a child actress and how treatment helped propel her forward in her autobiography.
Texas native Kirstin Maldonado seemingly had it all. Winning a reality music competition with her a Capella group Pentatonix, Maldonado moved to Los Angeles and became a multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning sensation. Through all that, Maldonado suffered from severe depression and anxiety. Now Maldonado wants to help her fans know that if she can make it through, they can too.
“I feel like if I share what happened to me, I could show it is so relative to everyone and their situation,” Maldonado said. “We could all share the message of ‘I understand what you’re going through, you are not alone, you have people to talk to.’”
Recognizable across the United States in their fields, these celebrities are opening up about their personal struggles with mental illness and how speaking out helped them heal in the hopes that their stories connect with people who might be facing similar challenges. Their stories will be shared on Okay to Say’s newly refreshed website and across its social channels.