8 People Who Showed Mental Health Isn't A Taboo Subject & Made The World A Little More Open-Minded

The death of neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks has brought with it a celebration of the man of many talents. Sacks, 82, died of cancer, but his work and constant wonder of the human brain will undoubtedly be the legacy that follows him. His 1973 book Awakenings examined the lives of people suffering from encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, and was later adapted into a film featuring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. In May 2007, Sacks spoke in a Fresh Air interview about the relationship between the body and the mind — with a mission to bring awareness to a variety of mental health disorders. But Sacks wasn't the only one speaking on the behalf of mental health upkeep. Many people helped the world learn more about mental health.

Although some on this list have chosen to talk about their mental health through essays and interviews, others have left behind legacies that speak louder than their actions or words. In an April piece published by The New York Review of Books, Sacks spoke directly about the need for constant care of the internal self, opening with the below quote.

Nothing is more crucial to the survival and independence of organisms — be they elephants or protozoa — than the maintenance of a constant internal environment.

Here is a handful of other mental health advocates, like Sacks, who remind us of the necessity of mental healthcare. Self care is real, guys. And though that seems to be a modern phrase thrown around these days, this group of people, both living and deceased, would most likely endorse it.

Lena Dunham

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The Girls creator has made a name for herself in the entertainment world, but the outspoken writer has also become an advocate for mental health awareness. She has written both in her book, Not That Kind of Girl, and in her everyday social media interactions about the stigma of depression. Earlier this year, Dunham sent out a post-workout Instagram photo with the below caption. Thanks of the reminder, Lena. We'll all benefit from this attitude.

Promised myself I would not let exercise be the first thing to go by the wayside when I got busy with Girls Season 5 and here is why: it has helped with my anxiety in ways I never dreamed possible. To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it's mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I'm glad I did. It ain't about the ass, it's about the brain.

Virginia Woolf

The famed English writer wrote openly about her own depression, referring to her struggles in her in her essays and novels. She explored these topics often, notably in the novel Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925. Woolf lived with bipolar disorder, and though she ultimately committed suicide, she left her readers with encouraging words of solace, such as, "You cannot find peace by avoiding life."

Robin Williams


After his death in 2014, Williams left a legacy that has helped stamp out the stigma of mental illness. When family members revealed the comedian struggled with depression in his own life, fans and followers alike tuned in to the real-life statistics surrounding mental health in this country.

Demi Lovato

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The actress and pop singer has had a noticeable influence on mental healthcare. After checking herself into rehab and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Lovato started Be Vocal: Stand Up for Mental Health, a joint campaign with five mental health organizations.

Lionel Aldridge

The storied football star, who retired from the NFL after 11 seasons, also openly suffered from several bouts of depression, reported The New York Times upon Aldridge's death in 1998. Before his death, Aldridge spoke at a symposium in Huntington, New York, about the stigma of mental health, reported the newspaper.

I like myself. I don't have bad days. I deny there is such a thing as paranoia.

John Nash

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Nash, on whom the film A Beautiful Mind is based, was schizophrenic and began hearing voices in 1964. Nash and his wife died in a car accident earlier this year but left behind him the message that those who deal with mental illness should not be judged — but rather appreciated — for the ways their minds work.

I thought of the voices as ... something a little different from aliens. I thought of them more like angels ... It's really my subconscious talking, it was really that ... I know that now.

J.K. Rowling

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The woman whose mind created the magical wizarding world of Hogwarts has also spoken out about her struggles with depression and contemplation of suicide. Rowling said thoughts of her young daughter persuaded her to get the help she needed, and she has spoken out about her own struggles to be sure others get the help they need, too.

Jared Padalecki

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In an interview with Variety this year, Gilmore guy and Supernatural star Jared Padalecki revealed that he has struggled with depression. Padalecki launched a T-shirt campaign through Represent.com with the message "Always Keep Fighting." His message is one to which he can personally relate and is his motivation for supporting mental health organizations such as "To Write Love on Her Arms."

With Sacks' death comes the reminder that while there is still work to do, mental health advocacy has become the mission of actors, writers, scientists alike. Keep speaking up and living out your truths; the world will be better for it.