To the average punter, the life of a showbiz celebrity seems like a fantasy. It can be hard to understand how people receiving tear-jerking sums of money to do a job that looks like one big party sink low and become dejected, but as BETTY MUINDI writes, recent tales of depression by people in showbiz that in some cases have led to suicide, should make us reconsider these stereotypes
Judging from the flashy lifestyle celebrities display, it is easy to assume they have it all. But, behind closed doors, behind the stylish and classy outfits, lavish mansions and flashy cars, it turns out that some famous people hide ongoing battles with depression. Recent suicide cases in the global entertainment scene tell it all.
Even being stars in their various fields does not shield them from getting stressed out to the point of depression and worse, ending their lives.
The most recent and shocking case was that of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who was found dead after committing suicide three weeks ago in his hotel room. His last days revealed the TV personality carried a lifetime of demons with him. A few months to his death, in press interviews, Bourdain hinted at the depths of his depression.
The news hit hard, and many other prominent figures felt moved to open up about their own battles with depression. His death came just three days after the suicide of another much-loved star, 55-year-old fashion designer Kate Spade.
Her husband, Andy Space, confirmed that Kate suffered from depression and anxiety before taking her life. She was even seeking medical help for her mental illness.
In April, yet another popular producer, 28-year-old EDM DJ Tim Bergling, popularly known as Avicii, left many fans forlorn after news was broke that he had taken his own life by cutting himself with a broken wine bottle.
A statement by his family read, “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress.”
The Swedish DJ and music producer had just stopped touring and wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and do what he loved most, music. Eventually, he committed suicide in his attempt to find new meaning to his life.
Chester Bennington, Linkin Park’s lead singer appeared happy in his last days, but was privately battling severe blues. The star of the decorated band hanged himself at his home in Los Angeles in July last year, as had his close friend Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell two months prior, and actor-comedian Robin Williams three years ago. All of them had struggled with depression for years.
Whether you identify celebrities by their adorable voices, TV anchors by their eloquence and good looks, actresses by their wit in movies or commercials, you name it, one thing you probably do not identify them by, is a struggle with hopelessness.
On the local scene, it is a similar narrative. In a span of just three months, more than five people in showbiz have come out publicly declaring their strife with depression.
Popular YouTuber Elodie Zone, radio presenter Nick Odhiambo, singer Jimmy Gait, DJ Hypnotiq and award-winning photographer Jeri Muchura are just a few examples of how neither fame nor fortune immunises celebrities against ravages of the mental condition.
Gospel singer Jimmy Gait has in recent years faced ridicule especially on social media for some of the songs he has released. “I became a victim of cyber bullying after I did a cover of the song Hello by Adele.
The amount of social media trolling that followed after that and many weeks later caused me a lot of pain. I felt people were unfair to me and did not appreciate the work that I had done over the years, and I slowly slid into depression,” he says.
The Yesu Ndio Sponsor hitmaker says like any other person, celebrities are human, and are subject to feeling hurt. “I was greatly affected by people’s mean comments online. All I had was overwhelming feelings of anger, frustration and hopelessness.
I stayed indoors for weeks, lost my appetite and even lost my business, including cancellation of performances and endorsements, which made the situation worse. It was a hard time for me,” reveals Jimmy Gait.
He attributes his healing process to his family and pastor, who stood by him the entire period and encouraged him to wear a positive attitude. The singer says effects of depression can be engulfing.
“You can easily turn to harmful habits when you are depressed, trying to numb the feeling, such as sex, alcohol, bullying, among others. I thank God I had supportive people around me,” he adds.
Jimmy Gait’s experience led to the birth of Hisiah Campaign, an initiative that brings together different stakeholders to build up on ongoing conversations on cyber bullying, and accelerate action on the same.
A year ago, popular YouTuber Elodie Zone revealed in a video titled My name is Elodie, and I’m depressed, that she had been insecure with her body and would often try to compensate for her imperfections.
She even got a belly ring because she thought her ex-lover Sean Andrew, former president Kibaki’s grandson, was into another girl who had the same piercing.
In the emotional clip that has attracted over 70,000 views, she said she had been body shamed in the past, and would often fell stressed over her small bosom, and that she would constantly struggle to keep herself afloat. Elodie broke down revealing how at one time she nearly took her life.
“My biggest physical insecurity was my small breasts, and greatest emotional one was that I was dumb, because I never got the best grades in school. You see, as much as my differences stood out, so did my strengths. All I had to do was think about my strengths as much as I used to think about my weaknesses.
I got a belly ring two years ago because I thought that the guy I liked preferred,” she also wrote on her Instagram page. In the video, Elodie revealed she was under a lot of pressure to please her family, friends and the world, to a point she lost her sense of direction. She further urged viewers to seek help, as she did, and not turn to self harm or worse, suicide.
The condition does not discriminate when it comes to age. From 28-year-old Avicii to 55-year-old Kate Spade. Elodie, in her 20s, said she experienced these low moments as a teenager. DJ Hypnotiq, in his 30s, also disclosed his struggle with depression to his Instagram followers earlier this month.
“Depression is real guys, I have been through it and I am still working on getting past it. When someone tries to talk to you and open up to you, give them an ear, you never know what they are going through.
Dealing with stuff alone can be hard,” he wrote. When contacted on phone, the Kiss TV decksman admitted to going through depression, but he could not bring himself to talk about it. “This is not something you just wake up and speak about,” the father of one declined to speak further.
Mid this month, radio presenter and voice-over artiste Nick Odhiambo opened up about his long tussle with depression. In a long post on his Facebook page, Nick narrated how he had to seek psychiatric help. He describes depression as a feeling that is really not easy to explain.
“It’s like Monday blues, combined with the loss experienced after the death a loved one, coupled with heartbreak, all rolled into one unending psychological torture. This description still doesn’t capture how you feel inside by the way. Just trying to get you to imagine,” he wrote.
The former Classic 105 presenter explained how he had to look for ways to find solace, such as drinking alcohol, but the feeling just came back.
“You try to find solace in multiple sexual encounters but the feeling never goes. You toy with drugs and the likes, after that euphoria you shop, travel etc, but the feeling comes back bigger,” he continued.
Nick added that a hospital admission over depression was inevitable. He stayed in hospital for more than two weeks, asked to be discharged at some point, got back to his radio job and reality struck. “Believe it or not, the people I spend my whole day with, workmates, didn’t even notice I was away from work, and in hospital. Not a single text, missed call or contact. Can you imagine the feeling? Sadness, hopelessness and emptiness on a whole new level,” he narrated, further explaining that depression can escalate to a point where you start hearing voices; they become your companion, trying to help you deal with your life. “You talk to the voices, argue, laugh and even take their word. After all, they live in your mind. These voices misinterpret what’s going on around you and you listen. For example, when a bunch of people are near you laughing and you notice, for instance, the voices tell you they are laughing at your hopelessness,” the presenter explained. He went on to say that they even give instructions such as ‘see that big tree, the strong one, just take a rope and put it around your neck… then let it end!’ “And you agree with the voice, that for once, you are on the same page; ‘the world will be better without me’. Truth is, beneath that smile, most people have lots of demons that you can’t explain. So, next time somebody takes their life, believe me, it wasn’t a choice they had control over. It’s the voices that take over. Help before it’s too late,” he concluded.