Zayn Malik Helps Break Down A Persistent Stigma

Although the stigma about mental health issues persists, it is slowly being broken down thanks to more and more people opening up about their own struggles. There's often a misconception that we can tell that someone has a mental illness just by looking at them, and that these people are not productive members of society. That's why it's so important that Zayn Malik is open about his anxiety — because it can't be easy to share something so personal with the world. On Sept. 6, Malik cancelled his upcoming Dubai performance, as reported by E! Malik issued the following statement to his fans:

I have been working over the last three months to overcome my extreme anxiety around major live solo performances I feel I am making progress but I have today acknowledged that I do not feel sufficiently confident to move forward with the planned show in Dubai in October. I am assured that all tickets will be refunded. I am truly sorry to disappoint you. I hope to see you all soon. Thank you to all my fans who support me globally.With love and respect always,Zayn

The former One Direction member sends an important message — canceling a concert due to a mental health issue is no different than bowing out of an appearance because of a physical illness. As he notes in his statement, Malik is engaged in the hard work of treating his anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen overnight and the process can be long and painful. Although I certainly understand the disappointment of fans who were eager to see Malik perform in Dubai, he's human like everyone else and needs to put his physical and mental health first.

Furthermore, the stigma surrounding mental health often prevents people from seeking the help they need. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18 percent of Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in any given year — but only 36.9 percent of those individuals are receiving treatment. Malik sends the important message that people with anxiety deserve to honor their emotions and seek the help they need without feeling ashamed. I hope that Malik's openness about his anxiety and the fact that he's seeking treatment will encourage others with anxiety (or any other mental illness) to recognize that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that getting professional help could be an important and necessary step.