In an April 2023 interview with People magazine, filmmaker and actor Kevin Smith said that in early 2022, he “awoke in terror, convinced he was losing his mind.” He then checked into a treatment center for 30 days, going through intense therapy to process various childhood traumas. Smith isn’t the only celebrity to bravely open up about the impact of trauma in their lives—for example, in 2022, we spoke with musician Amy Speace about her experiences—but every time someone shines a spotlight on these issues, we all benefit.
How Public Faces of Trauma Reduce the Stigma
Many of us struggle with devastating adverse childhood experiences, complicated grief, PTSD, and other forms of trauma. These issues are often at the core of behavioral and mood disorders and substance abuse. Numerous celebrities have come forward to not only talk about healing from trauma but also encourage people to seek out resources that can help. Here are just a few.
Actor and singer Levi entered an inpatient behavioral health center after a complete mental breakdown compounded by suicidal thoughts. He told the Hollywood Reporter in 2022 that during immersive therapy, he realized that his maladaptive behavior stemmed from past traumas, including being bullied repeatedly in school and dealing with the mercurial moods of his mother, who had untreated borderline personality disorder. Levi is an ambassador for Active Minds, a student-focused mental health organization.
In her book with Bruce D. Perry, What Happened to You: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, media mogul Winfrey discussed the brutal beatings she received as a child, repeated sexual abuse, and growing up with extreme domestic violence and poverty. She’s since used her many broadcasts and online platforms to place particular focus on mental and emotional health.
Actor McDermott’s mother was in a series of violent relationships, and he was only 5 years old when he witnessed her brutal murder by her gangster boyfriend. As a child, he worked in his father’s bar, which later led to alcohol addiction. Today, he’s been sober more than 35 years, which he posted is his “greatest accomplishment” and credits the 12-Steps and his sponsor. He told People magazine that he stays focused on “mind, body, and spirit. Health is so important, to take care of yourself, to eat right and think good thoughts.”
Singing sensation Grande experienced terrorism trauma in 2017 after a bombing of her concert in Manchester, England, killed 23 people and wounded more than 800. She’s talked about how she still struggles with anxiety and PTSD as a result. Grande has partnered with BetterHelp for multiple years, donating close to $5 million to the therapy site to provide initial counseling access to people who can’t afford it.
Writer, director, and actor Tyler Perry was only a child when he first thought suicide would be the only way to escape a childhood darkened by sexual molestation and abuse, as well as severe physical abuse from his father. Writing was one form of therapy he used to process all that happened to him, including the play I Know I’ve Been Changed. In an interview for Guideposts, Perry talked about vital therapy but also noted that “it’s been that faith in God, that belief in Christ that has helped me through the toughest times in my life.”
In his People interview, Smith said, “In the beginning, it was tough to share when somebody’s talking about watching their friend get killed and I’m like, ‘Well, my fourth-grade teacher told me I was fat.’ But I learned that there’s no differentiation [between levels of trauma] to the human nervous system. Internally, trauma is trauma.”
So in addition to sharing his story, Smith released “Trauma is Trauma: A Mental Health Talk With Kevin Smith”. In it, he stresses the importance of not comparing one type of trauma to another, describes more of his mental health journey, and provides various coping mechanisms he’s learned that can help.
Celebrities don’t have the final word on how to get mental and emotional care for the trauma you’ve faced—they simply demonstrate that anyone, at any time, can be affected, and require the same whole-person care as the rest of us.
Understanding If You Have Trauma
Trauma occurs when a one-time event, multiple events, or long-lasting repetitive events, threaten or cause great physical or emotional harm, overwhelms the brain’s inbuilt chemical and physiological defenses to stress.
But how do you know if you’re traumatized? This is a challenge. The National Library of Medicine notes that “traumatic stress reactions are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.” Symptoms and behaviors vary considerably based on the individual.
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies indicates that most people respond to trauma with:
- Resistance: when “some people never experience any major problems.”
- Natural recovery/resilience: when individuals “have symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the weeks after a trauma. For most of those people, those symptoms will then go away on their own.”
- Maladaptive coping behavior and PTSD: “Other people experience problems that do not go away on their own” and may demonstrate trauma avoidance and other negative symptoms.
After a more tangible immediate trauma, such as Grande’s concert bombing, if symptoms don’t dissipate within a few weeks after the event, it’s time to seek professional care. But if you’re just now coming to the realization based on key symptoms or behaviors that past experiences contribute greatly to your lack of health now, you might need more comprehensive treatment.
Find Compassionate, Effective Care at Cottonwood Tucson
Trauma-informed care is highly individualized. As such, not every alternative holistic option—such as EMDR, music therapy, brainspotting, and others—will help, but many can, including cognitive-behavioral therapy. The board-certified medical team at Cottonwood is ready to help you find peace and joy in life again. Consult a member of our admissions team today.
If you need immediate emergency assistance, please call 911. Here are some additional helplines:
- Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988
- Lifeline Crisis Chat (Online live messaging)
- Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” TO 741-741
- Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988, then press 1
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
- National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-442-HOPE (4673)
- National U.S. Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453
- Self-Harm Hotline: 800-DONT CUT (800-366-8288)
- Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline: 800-729-6686
- National Crisis Line—Anorexia and Bulimia: 800-233-4357
- LGBT Hotline: 888-843-4564
- TREVOR Crisis Hotline: 866-488-7386
- AIDS Crisis Line: 800-221-7044
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- Planned Parenthood Hotline: 800-230-PLAN (7526)
- American Association of Poison Control Centers: 800-222-1222
- Essential local and community services: call 211