“Baby I’ve been down, but never this down/
I’ve been lost, but never this lost…
This is my confession, I need your heart/
in this depression, I need your heart.”
–from “This Depression”, a song from Bruce Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball
In an article from a July 2012 issue of New Yorker, Bruce Springsteen openly discussed his lengthy history with depression and the ways it negatively affected him and invited and encouraged positive strength and change. Though his difficult relationship with his abusive father was never hidden, Springsteen had never openly discussed the extent to which he was affected by his childhood, including a lifelong battle with depression, 30+ years of psychotherapy, and even suicidal thoughts at one point.
So why is this important? Because depression, and other mental health diagnoses, are still woefully misunderstood, unidentified, and untreated in our society. Despite amazing advances in diagnosis and treatment of things like depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and other mental health difficulties, a stigma continues to hold fast, telling us that this isn’t something to be discussed out loud. That it is a weakness, a character flaw, a sign that we aren’t able to manage things well enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. (based on 2010 statistics). That ranking jumps to the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year olds. Depression affects upward of 10% of our population. And that’s just depression. There is an estimated lifetime prevalence rate of 15% for anxiety disorders. Another 10% or so are diagnosed with ADHD, a diagnosis that can sometimes cause depression and anxiety in individuals who struggle with it. We, as a nation, are struggling with mental health diagnoses, but we are too often not getting help.
So where does Bruce Springsteen come into this? He’s a famous, down-to-earth, “working man’s” kinda guy—who is openly talking about things about which we often don’t openly talk. He has been engaged in therapy since the early 1980s, and in the article, he discusses how his struggles with mental health have affected his relationships with others and his career, in both positive and negative ways. He talks about mental health in a way that few people do and does it in a way that allows his fans to “see” it in a real way. He’s not the first, or the only, celebrity to openly discuss their struggle with mental health. But he appeals to an audience that might see him as a little more like them, rather than as a celebrity far-removed from a “normal” life.