Kristen Bell hasn’t always been an open book about her mental health journey. “I suffered from what everyone seems to suffer from, especially here in America, which is: Don’t talk about it, it might pass,” Bell told POPSUGAR in an EXCLUSIVE interview.
In fact thanks to her husband, Dax Shepard, the mental health advocate she is now. “At one point, my husband challenged me to participate [my experience] With more openness and honesty because we kind of try to live by the tenants [Alcoholics Anonymous] It’s where we acknowledge our failures and share our vulnerabilities,” she says. That’s when she began speaking publicly about suffering from anxiety and depression and how “I’m not always this blunt person you might see.” ”
After she started talking more openly about her depression and anxiety, she said it immediately felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “I felt more credible,” she says. “I felt more responsible.” “I know young girls are looking at me, and I felt like, ‘Why don’t I continue to be a part of this conversation?'”
“For some reason, we as a society are only comfortable talking about all the other tools, like: go for a walk, exercise more, eat better. And I just want to punch a big hole in that stigma.”
Besides her husband, Bell says her mom has always cultivated a safe place to talk about mental health. “My mom is a nurse, and as I got older, she was very open and honest with me about taking antidepressants,” she says. “And between her and her, I could talk about it, but with friends and family and in public, I never could.” But as an adult, her mom said something that helped her shed any lingering shame. “If you feel this way,” she said, describing symptoms of anxiety and depression, “there is help available for you.” There are a lot of resources. There are a variety of technologies. And at some point, you may need medication for it. This is on the table. And if you did, don’t you dare feel shame because would you make someone with diabetes feel ashamed of taking insulin? “And that’s the right size for everything in my head.”
Now, the “The Good Place” star is partnering with telehealth platform Hers as the first mental health ambassador to break down stigmas surrounding anxiety and depression — as well as provide easier access to resources. “It’s easy to take a walk, it’s easy to eat more broccoli. It’s hard to find a doctor who talks to you about these intimate and vulnerable topics,” she says. “But with Hers, the whole point is to try to make quality anxiety and depression care available to everyone 24/7. You don’t have to feel like you’re at sea or that you’re on your own. There are all the tools around.”
With that in mind, Bell spoke with POPSUGAR about her mental health journey—from trying EMDR therapy for the first time and explaining her anxiety and depression to her children to deciding whether SSRIs (aka “mother-brain broccoli”) are right for her. .
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
POPSUGAR: Everyone’s mental health is a unique – and often special – journey. However, you made a point to share your experience with others. What motivated you to decide to show this more vulnerable side of yourself?
Kristen Bell: When I hear responses, especially from young girls, about feeling empowered to seek help—whether it’s through more exercise, eating better, spending more time in nature, talking to a therapist, or getting a prescription— It made me feel like I had a positive impact on the world. So, I want to encourage people to take control of their mental health by sharing my story. Because I’ve already had some of the most stressful months of anxiety and depression in my life, and they are miserable. I feel like I’m on pause, I’m so stagnant. Nothing tastes good, nothing looks good, I don’t want to do anything, and it just feels miserable. It really is the foundation of my life. I have to take care of my mental health if anything on earth is ever going to be fun.
POPSUGAR: How did you determine which treatments or coping mechanisms work best for you?
kilobytes: Sitting in nature is supposed to reduce your anxiety, but at some point, I felt like it wasn’t enough, and that’s when I talked to a medical professional about my options. There are many different types of therapy that have helped me, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. And I just started doing EMDR, which I’m really interested in, so we’ll see how that works out. I was prescribed medication, which I did, along with all of my other tools. But I feel that culturally, we still have a disconnect when someone takes medication for their mind. For some reason, we as a society only feel comfortable talking about all the other tools, like: go for a walk, exercise more, and eat better. And I just want to poke a giant hole in that stigma. It’s okay if, under the care of a medical professional, you try an SSRI, try any kind of medication. And only you will know your body.
PS: In your experience, why can’t mental health be treated in the same way as the common cold? Here’s some medication, some fresh air, and you’ll be good to go.
kilobytes: It’s all trial and error because everyone is different. And I don’t like it when people try to put anxiety and depression into a one-size-fits-all box. Some people will experience anxiety and depression for three months of their life and never again. Others will never experience it. Others will experience it from the first day on Earth until the day they die. Everyone should have or should know that they have a huge toolkit available to them. Humans are an abundance of variables. So with Herz, the idea is to be able to talk to one person at a time, tell them exactly where you stand. It’s not like you can just go to a website and deal with it, here’s a cure for anxiety or depression. It really has to be personalized because everyone’s experience is so different. Sometimes it’s genetics, sometimes it’s trauma you’ve experienced. It has to be individual because everyone experiences it differently.
Note: Going back to what I said in the beginning about your mom – as a parent, how do you talk to your kids about mental health? What do you hope they learn from you?
kilobytes: Entire. they know . . . Wonderful. I mean they really know everything. We are very open and honest about Dax, my husband, recovery, and about the fact that my mother suffers from anxiety and depression, which is how I feel at times, and some days it feels heavier than other days. And I have to make sure I get enough physical activity because for me this is a huge activity. And that I take my medicine at night. And basically, when they were little, I think I just called him broccoli for my brain. This is broccoli in my mind. This is what I keep my sanity with.
And since I wasn’t heavy about the way I talked to them about it, I hope it’s just like anything else. This is mom’s favorite chair. This is the mommy’s favorite TV show. This is the medicine that the mother takes for her mind. I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling like this is a topic off the table, that they have to keep it a secret.
Image source: Courtesy of Hers