Monday, August 2

Selena Gomez Launches Mental Health Initiative to 'Empower' Her Community


Starting a dialogue. Selena Gomez has spoken candidly about her struggles with mental health over the years.

The singer first sought treatment in 2014 after she was diagnosed with lupus. She has since attended various voluntary programs to manage anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Nine months after she completed treatment in January 2018, Us Weekly confirmed she was seeking “opened-ended” mental health treatment.

In April 2020, the Getaway star revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “It doesn’t scare me once I know it,” she told Miley Cyrus in an episode of the latter’s “Bright Minded” Instagram series. “I think people get scared of that, right?”

The Rare Beauty founder has also used her platform to raise awareness about mental health, both by hosting conversations with experts and shedding light on various issues through her projects.

From 2017 to 2020, she served as an executive producer on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which sparked many discussions about the struggles contemporary teens and young adults face.

“This is happening every day,” Gomez said during an Elvis Duran and the Morning Show interview in 2017, referring to the show’s serious themes. “Whether or not you wanted to see it, that’s what’s happening. The content is complicated. It’s dark and it has moments that are honestly very hard to swallow, and I understood that we were doing something that is difficult.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, which brought mental health to the forefront for people all over the world, the “Bad Liar” songstress continued to speak out about the importance of checking in with your emotions. In October 2020, she hosted an Instagram Live with Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Joe Biden’s surgeon general, to discuss the feelings of loneliness she was experiencing while in lockdown.

“In the beginning I couldn’t deal with it that well,” she said, discussing the early months of quarantine. “But then I started going into a place where I as writing and being active; it forced me to have that time. I’ve been able to spend time with those quality people a lot more than I ever have, and I’m spending a lot more time with my family.”

Murthy explained that Gomez’s story was a great example of why it’s important to share how you’re feeling. “If you recognize that [almost everyone is struggling in some way], you’ll recognize that there’s many ways to reach out,” he said. “When we serve other people, we shift the focus from ourselves to them in the context of a positive interaction … and we reaffirm to ourselves that we have value to bring to the world.”

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Trying Her Best 

A rep for Gomez confirmed she sought treatment in February 2014. Shortly after, she thanked fans for their support on Instagram: “I’ve done everything I could to the best of my ability. Thank you for the unconditional love and cyber hugs. You inspire me.”

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Giving Into Pressure

The Disney alum gave an inspiring speech at the We Day conference in March 2014. “I’m surrounded by people who are supposed to guide me, and some of them have, and others haven’t. They pressure me. There’s so much pressure. You gotta be sexy, you gotta be cute, you gotta be nice. You gotta be all these things,” she told the crowd. “They tell me what to wear, how to look, what I should say, how I should be. Until recently, I had given into that pressure. I lost sight of who I was. I listened to opinions of people, and I tried to change who I am because I thought that others would accept me for it.”

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Being a Light

After Gomez sent a struggling fan words of encouragement on Instagram, she screenshotted her message and shared it with her millions of followers. “By me following you is not me saying it’s ok to think these thoughts. It’s not me saying ‘hey you said sad things, so I’m going to follow you to make you feel better’. God puts us in situations that are so unexplainably difficult for a reason. There is someone in the world feeling so much, just like you,” she wrote in February 2015. “People everyday feel so many emotions they wish they could turn it off. But that’s not why we are here. We are here for relationships, for people just like us who feel worthless. Your purpose is to share, help, encourage. Remember that. Please. Before you think of taking your life, think of all the [lives] you could save. I love you. More importantly there is a God that will love more than I ever could.”

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Taking Time

In April 2016, the “Same Old Love” songstress explained her decision to go to rehab years earlier. “I got diagnosed with lupus. My mom had a very public miscarriage. So I had to cancel my tour. I needed time to just be OK,” she told GQ. ”It’s really frustrating, because I am 100 percent allowed to have that, but I think people just want to have some sort of — I understand what you’re asking. But I’m just saying, I don’t think it really matters. My past seems to be way more fascinating for people than my future, which bums me out … Why do you care?”

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Feeling the Side Effects 

Gomez revealed she was taking a step back from the public eye in August 2016 to cope with the side effects from Lupus. “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have Lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways. I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of Lupus, which can present their own challenges,” she said in a statement to Us Weekly. “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support. You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone and by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”

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Returning to the Stage 

The “Hands to Myself” crooner made her first post-rehab appearance at the American Music Awards in November 2016. “In 2014 this stage was actually the first time I was authentically 100 percent honest with all of you,” a teary Gomez told the audience. “I think it’s safe to say most of you know a lot of my life whether I liked it or not. I had to stop because I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside and I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down, but I kept it too much together to where I let myself down.”

“I don’t want to see your bodies on Instagram. I want to see what’s in here,” Gomez continued while pointing to her heart. “I’m so grateful to be able to share what I love with people that I love. You guys are so damn loyal but if you are broken you do not have to stay broken.” 

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Staying Thankful 

Gomez shared an emotional message with fans on Thanksgiving Day in 2016, admitting it was her “hardest” but “most rewarding” year yet. “I’ve finally fought the fight of not ‘being enough.’ I have only wanted to reflect the love you guys have given me for years and show how important it is to take care of YOU,” she wrote. “By grace through faith. Kindness always wins. I love you guys. God bless.” 

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Still Relatable 

While promoting season 1 of 13 Reasons Why, Gomez, who served as an executive producer on the series, revealed she related to the story. “I went away for 90 days and I actually met tons of kids in this place [and] we are talking about a lot of the issues that these characters are experiencing, [so] I would say yes,” Gomez said during a panel in February 2017. “I had to deal with it on a different scale. Whether it was kids or just growing up in the biggest high school in the world which was the Disney Channel, it was also adults that had the audacity to kind of tell me how I should live my life. It was very confusing for me. … I had no idea who I was gonna be, what I’m still going to become. It definitely hit home.”

She added: “I think this is what they need to see. We are not gonna post things, like, ‘Hey be empowered,’ because that’s not what they wanna see. Kids don’t care. They have to see something that’s gonna shake something. I want them to understand it. I would do anything to have a good influence on this generation. It’s hard, but I definitely relate to everything going on.”

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Life on the Road

Gomez admitted to Vogue in March 2017 that she feels “really lonely” on tour. “My self-esteem was shot. I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting on stage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t capable,” she revealed. “I felt I wasn’t giving my fans anything, and they could see it—which, I think, was a complete distortion. I was so used to performing for kids.” 

“At concerts I used to make the entire crowd raise up their pinkies and make a pinky promise never to allow anybody to make them feel that they weren’t good enough. Suddenly I have kids smoking and drinking at my shows, people in their 20s, 30s, and I’m looking into their eyes, and I don’t know what to say. I couldn’t say, ‘Everybody, let’s pinky-promise that you’re beautiful!’” Gomez continued. “It doesn’t work that way, and I know it because I’m dealing with the same shit they’re dealing with. What I wanted to say is that life is so stressful, and I get the desire to just escape it. But I wasn’t figuring my own stuff out, so I felt I had no wisdom to share. And so maybe I thought everybody out there was thinking, This is a waste of time.”

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Mental Health Exercises 

When Gomez moderated a movie screening for Heaven Knows What in August 2017, she revealed she “really like the mental aspect” of the film. “The beginning of the movie struck with me… that’s not really a secret, but, I for sure have talked about that and have done a lot of those exercises.” 

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Taking Care of Herself 

“The beauty myth- an obsession with physical perfection that traps modern woman in an endless cycle of hopelessness, self consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of flawless beauty,” Gomez wrote on Instagram in March 2018. “I chose to take care of myself because I want to, not to prove anything to anyone. Wind in her sails.”

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Proud of Her Progress

After Gomez completed another stint in treatment in December 2018, she broke her silence via Instagram the following January. “It’s been awhile since you have heard from me, but I wanted to wish everyone a happy new year and to thank you for your love and support,” she wrote. “Last year was definitely a year of self-reflection, challenges and growth. It’s always those challenges which show you who you are and what you are capable of overcoming. Trust me, it’s not easy, but I am proud of the person I am becoming and look forward to the year ahead. Love you all.”

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Singing Through It

Gomez sang about her mental health battle in a song with Julia Michaels titled “Anxiety,” released in January 2019. “But all my friends they don’t know, what it’s like, what it’s like / They don’t understand why, I can’t sleep through the night,” she sings. “And I thought that I could take something to fix it / Damn I wish it, I wish it was that simple, ah, ah.”

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Coping With Anxiety Attacks

“I feel great, yeah,” she told NPR in January 2020. “I’m on the proper medication that I need to be on, even as far as my mental health. I fully believe in just making sure you check in with your doctors or therapist. [Taking care of mental health — ] that’s forever. That’s something I will have to continue to work on. Yes, I don’t think I just magically feel better. I have days where it is hard for me to get out of bed, or I have major anxiety attacks. All of that still happens.”

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The Right Medication

The “Lose You to Love Me” singer opened up about seeking professional help and treatment during an interview with WSJ. Magazine in January 2020. “I found out I do suffer from mental health issues. And, honestly, that was such a relief,” she said. “I realized that there was a way to get help and to find people that you trust. I got on the right medication, and my life has been completely changed.”

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Coming to Terms

In April 2020, Gomez revealed she was bipolar during an appearance on Miley Cyrus’ Instagram Live series, Bright Minded: Live With Miley. “Recently I went to one of the best mental hospitals in the world … And I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things I realized that I was bipolar,” she explained. 

“When I have more information, it actually helps me, it doesn’t scare me once I know it,” the former child actress continued. “When I finally said what I was going to say, I wanted to know everything about it and it took the fear away.”

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Living With Bipolar Disorder During Lockdown

During a virtual WarnerMedia Television Critics Association press tour in August 2020, Gomez spoke about her diagnosis and coping amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s not easy for anyone to be walking through what we’re walking through. It’s not normal, and it’s affecting people, specifically with mental health, and people who could have never thought about things they’re thinking about now. And it’s really confusing.”

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Finding The Right Help

In March 2021, the 13 Reasons Why producer spoke about when she knew she needed help. “I knew I couldn’t go on unless I learned to listen to my body and mind when I really needed help,” she told Vogue. “And then I start thinking about my personal life, and I’m like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ and it becomes this spiral.”

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Encouraging Others

In April 2021, the “Lose You to Love Me” songstress announced a new campaign with her Rare Beauty brand “to help support mental health education, empower our community and encourage financial support for more mental health services in educational settings.” In an Instagram post about the new initiative, called Mental Health 101, Gomez opened up about her own past struggles with depression, explaining that she wants her experience to remind others coping with mental health issues that they are not alone.

“I know firsthand how scary and lonely it can feel to face anxiety and depression by yourself at a young age,” she wrote. “If I had learned about my mental health earlier on — been taught about my condition in school that way I was taught about other subjects — my journey could have looked very different. The world needs to know that mental health matters. It’s just as important as your physical health, and I wish we could all acknowledge that, not just in words but through our actions.”

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She’s Studied DBT

Gomez candidly spoke about her treatment via a Vogue Australia interview in June 2021. “I’ve studied DBT, which is Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I’ve been to four treatment centers,” she explained. “I think in mental health, I never understood the stigma until I went to my first treatment center because that was years ago. But then there was a photograph that got out, and it’s wild to see how mean they were. It was like: ‘She’s the next this person, she’s the childhood star,’ whatever. And: ‘She’s doing drugs.’ They’re saying all this stuff about me. I’m watching all of that change, slowly but surely, because now, if any media outlet made fun of me, they’re the ones that look like the asshole because we don’t tolerate that anymore. It’s actually crazy that I’m watching it happen, even though I know we have so much more to do. And I have goals. I want to put this as a curriculum into schools. I feel like I practice [DBT] every day … And then I also love being in the studio. Because the first hour I’m in a studio, I just talk. It’s like therapy. You just go in and you share your heart.”

Chelsea Lauren/Shutterstock

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Beauty Standards Took a Toll on Her Wellbeing

In June 2021, the beauty founder spoke with Stellar magazine about how “impossible beauty standards” took a toll on her mental health, which inspired her to launch her own makeup brand. “Society constantly tells us that we’re not enough, so I wanted to start a brand to challenge and eliminate that pressure – to change the conversation,” she said. “My goal with Rare Beauty is to break down these unrealistic standards of beauty. I saw from personal experience how these impossible beauty standards were having such an effect on my mental health and I know a lot of people who felt the same way.”

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