It’s not a party lifestyle that drives stars to self-medication, it’s the pressure to carry on regardless

The media has reported that Ant McPartlin is undergoing treatment for depression and addiction issues. He’s certainly not the first celebrity to have fallen foul of self-medication. But why do stars head down this path, when surely they have access to the best doctors and treatment programmes in existence?

Think about it this way. You’ve bought a ticket to see, let’s say, Madonna (disclaimer – the next three paragraphs are entirely fictional – as far as I know). You’ve spent about £60 on the ticket, £150 on transport and £100 on accommodation. The venue holds around 50,000. It’s a sell out. On tickets alone you’re looking at costs of £3m. But then Madonna gets food poisoning. She can’t perform. Luckily, she has an understudy who is just as successful, let’s say, Kylie Minogue. So the show can go on.

Wrong. That might happen in my day job. The bosses might bring in a temp or a freelancer or share the workload out. But when you’re a celebrity, it’s you, specifically, that the people want. It’s you, or nothing. You paid for Into the Groove not I Should Be So Lucky (showing my age here I know).

So Madonna might be puking her guts up but she’s feeling the pressure to perform. Nobody can step in for her. She’s necking Imodium, anti-nausea pills and paracetamol like there’s no tomorrow. She simply must perform. But if she keeps this up, her body won’t function especially well without those pills, and this is where the problems start.

Now I don’t know the full ins and outs of Ant McPartlin’s illness. Only what’s reported in the media. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressure to keep going for the sake of his employers, his fans, his partner, his family, his reputation, even, didn’t play some kind of role in his troubles.

Yes, it’s an assumption. And no, I’m not suggesting that his employer, partner, family, fans put the pressure on. But if you know people are depending on you, applying that pressure yourself really isn’t terribly far-fetched.

PillsDepression can be a chronic illness that takes time to recover from, but often stars do not have that luxury. I’ve had five weeks off work for anxiety, I’ve known people forced to take six months off for depression or stress. But can celebrities do the same? Or do they have to hit rock bottom before they feel justified to do so? My guess is it’s more often than not the latter. So if you’re depressed and anxious and you feel you need to get through just one more show, what would you do? Take a valium perhaps? I know somebody very well who saw a doctor through an employer (in entertainment) due to depression and anxiety. The doctor they saw (not in the UK) was literally throwing pills at them left right and centre. It got them on the stage, it got them through their struggles in the short-term, but it created a longer term problem.

So when we look at stars and their ‘wild’ or ‘intoxicated’ behaviour, can we always assume it’s a reckless act? That’s it’s somebody living a celebrity lifestyle, having access to whatever they want, whenever they want? Or should we consider that sometimes, this kind of recklessness is born of hard graft and the pressure to keep going at all costs? Luckily, the media and public response to Ant McPartlin appears to have been wholly supportive. And that is absolutely the right response to have. But Ant and Dec had already established themselves as a wholesome, family act. What about people like Amy Winehouse, who tackled the demons of mental illness from a young age? Who exploded onto our radar as a bit of a ‘wild child’.

I watched the documentary, Amy. Friends talked of her being bundled into a taxi unconscious through intoxication and flown to another country to perform on stage. Maybe if she felt she could have stopped just for long enough to recover, she’d have stood a better chance?

The problems are very similar. It’s just that we, the public, didn’t know Amy for long before her downfall and, tragically, her death. We had much longer to get to know that Ant McPartlin is a good guy and we therefore see his illness as precisely that, an illness.

The response is good. We all wish him well. But in future, let’s remember this empathy we hold for Ant McPartlin and extend it to others in need of support too.

Follow me on Twitter @lucy_nichol78

Stop using mental health as bait

We all love to boo a pantomime baddie, but that’s usually because they’re stealing a magic lamp or weaving destructive magic spells. We know it’s all made up and we know they’ll get their comeuppance. But yet again, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are enjoying the boos and hisses by taking their pantomime into real life. They’re baiting us with mental health stigma. Sadly, that’s not fictional.

MegaphoneBBC Question Time was a prime hook for the recent onslaught of mental health provocation with Katie Hopkins, rather predictably, tweeting:

‘Breaking news: it is possible to pay for mental health counselling privately if you save hard enough’.

Of course the mentally ill are fair game aren’t they. They’re bound to get upset and have a tantrum. That’ll get the Twitter engagement figures flying. That’ll land more controversial headlines.

It was much the same with Piers Morgan’s recent attacks on Will Young:

‘Will Young does not have PTSD. He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome.’

Mental health campaigner Denise Welch rightly called him out which resulted in more mud-slinging from the lovely Piers who called Denise a ‘publicity-starved bore’. Nice.

So why am I falling into the trap and talking about them some more? Because they already have the platform and the airtime. They already have the ears and eyes of millions of people. And they already have the power to influence. Sadly.

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Pipe down Piers

There’s a charter for those who work in PR, marketing, accountancy and HR. It’s to promote responsibility. Yet celebrities – who have a much greater influence than I have, for example, in my PR role – don’t have to sign up to anything.

So it’s kind of about trust and good will. What would you do if you had such a powerful platform? If one tweet could reach millions? If you could completely change somebody’s day? Would you try to do something to help? Or would you ridicule those who do?

It’s ironic, really, that Piers Morgan accused Denise Welch of using mental health to raise her profile. He uses his nasty pantomime act to gain attention a la Katie Hopkins. I watched Good Morning Britain one morning on the TV in the gym. It was the interview with Nicola Thorp who was sacked for refusing to wear high heels.  It was deliberately provocative, of course. Does he really believe women should wear high heels or face losing their job? Whether he does or not it’s shocking. Shocking that he believes in something so blatantly sexist or, on the other hand, shocking that he is willing to peddle such shite to draw in the ratings in a cheap and nasty Jerry Springer show kind of way.

It’s Good Morning Britain. It’s mainstream telly. I’ve never watched it since leaving the gym that day.

But I couldn’t get off Twitter last night.

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But Barbie can’t stand up!

dreamstime_xs_38797783Lady Gaga recently proved that, shock horror, she doesn’t have the body shape of Barbie.

Arrrggghhhh somebody fetch me a whiskey. She’s no pop star! How dare she flaunt her bigger-than-Barbie figure on a stage. In front of thousands of impressionable fans.

I can prove that Lady Gaga doesn’t have a Barbie doll body. I know this because there is video evidence of her performing a high energy show at the Superbowl. Meanwhile, the real Barbie Doll can’t even stand up.

She’s no Barbie, that Lady Gaga.

It was once reported that if Barbie was indeed alive and well, well, she wouldn’t be. Well that is. She’d be on all fours for starters. And she’d be lolling that ridiculously oversized head of hers in front of her as she crawled. I’ve no idea how she would have gone horse riding or dated Ken (unless he was some misogynistic pig who liked the idea of ‘keeping’ a woman on all fours).

Barbie, as I remember her, was a ridiculous shape. Nonetheless, the shape that many little girls grew up coveting. My mum hated Barbie. She let me have a Sindy – I think she thought Sindy was a bit more ‘girl next door’. Still, not sure either of them could stand up if they were real flesh and blood.

So we grew up with mixed messages didn’t we? As young girls we wanted to be like Barbie. And then as adolescence hit, we were told that we could go roller skating and swimming – even when we had our periods. But we never put two and two together – Barbie can’t actually do either.

So we bought the Tampax (or the Lillets if we needed to go to the loo without anyone seeing a huge applicator tampon sticking out of our raised hand – who can forget those magazine ads in Just 17?). We bought them because we wanted to do all those things. And yet, something reminded us that unless we had the figure of Barbie, we shouldn’t even consider wearing a swimsuit in the first place.

But Barbie can’t stand up!

So this just proves it doesn’t it. We wanted the impossible. Society wants the impossible.

Back to Lady Gaga and her pot belly. Yes, her pot belly. Did you not see it? Look more closely. She has a pot belly. Twitter declared it to be true.

Mind you, this all happened in 2017. The same year that Trump became president. So perhaps we are not seeing straight at the moment. Perhaps, when some people looked at Lady Gaga they saw Jabba the Hutt. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was the same people who looked at that furious wotsit (I can’t take credit for that one but I love it!) and saw the making of a president.

In today’s incredibly weird world, I myself am imperfect. Trump would view me as someone needing to check out. I am OLD according to the leader of the USA and of no use to anyone.

I think we have all lost touch with reality. Perhaps we are letting Trump’s misogynistic ways seep into our blood. Let’s stop with that immediately. Let’s rewind…

Oh my God! Did you see the photos of Lady Gaga at the superbowl?

Wow, she’s well fit.

 

An open letter to Brad and Ange

(A comment on celebrity culture, mental health and social media….appeared as a featured blog post on Huffington Post Ents. Available here)

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Dear Brad and Ange,

I write to you in response to the distress you have caused me today. As professionals, you are no doubt aware that your role as a celebrity brings with it certain responsibilities. I therefore feel that your actions are tantamount to gross misconduct, and, with that in mind, I urge you to respectfully resign from your posts as professional celebrities.

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