August 12, 2014 7:11 pm
Updated: August 12, 2014 9:36 pm

Local celebrities open up about mental illness


Michael Landsberg was diagnosed with severe depression in 2008. Since then, he has been open and candid about the illness.

“There’s a huge challenge being in the public eye and going through depression because you have to wear the mask,” Landsberg says.

The host of TSN’s Off the Record says there is still stigma around the disease. He talks about it because he wants people to be aware that depression is a sickness, not a weakness.

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“I think that all we want is for mental illness to be seen as every type of illness and to do that we will have to drop the term ‘mental illness’.”

Authorities confirmed Tuesday afternoon that actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide. It’s a dark place Andrew Lawton knows well. In the winter of 2010 he tried to take his own life. He called it a “near successful suicide”. The local London radio host told his story to the public seven months later.

“Suicide does not discriminate. So the reason I went public was to show the broad spectrum of the types of people that are affected by it and impacted by it,” Lawton told Global News.

The host of an afternoon program on AM980 devoted almost an entire show Tuesday to Williams’ death and his own personal struggles.

“I wanted to be one of the only voices in media that’s approaching it not only from an observational perspective with what we’re seeing in the media, but also from a personal perspective and really try to put those two viewpoints together,” Lawton says.

Lawton admitted we should be talking about it more.

“I think there are a lot of people in the world who devote a great deal of reverence to addressing when a suicide of a celebrity or overdose of a celebrity happens. But not addressing things like depression, and not addressing things like addiction and suicide on a day to day context which is when it’s far more prevalent,” he says.

Many celebrities have brought their own stories of personal struggles and mental illnesses to the public.

Rick Campanelli has talked to many of those celebrities, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Owen Wilson and Demi Lovato. He says the public only sees that one side of the celebrity. The side that has to be “on” all the time.

“When the camera goes off, some are introverts, some are so quiet. But their money maker is to perform,” Campanelli says. “That’s why we expect them to be that way every minute of every day and that’s just not the way these people live.”

The discussion around mental health continues with the death of Williams. Landsberg said that is a positive thing because it educates and raises awareness.

“Now we’re talking about it. We’re talking about the stigma. We’re talking about this hidden secret people have. The question is two days from now, will we still be talking about it?”

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