Selena Gomez has never shied away from the opportunity to tap the mic and speak up about mental health.
The 28-year-old award-winning singer and outspoken mental health advocate has spoken with distinguished individuals, such as current Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama’s surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy, about the topic and how it’s affecting young and old people alike. Gomez’s latest campaign with her beauty brand Rare Beauty, Mental Health 101, states “7 out of 10 Gen Zers were most likely to report experiencing common symptoms of depression — with pre-teens and teens having the the highest rate of suicide ideations as compared to other age groups.” Additionally, one in five adults experience some kind of mental illness each year, a number which could very well increase once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
From magazine covers to multiple groundbreaking initiatives, the “Vulnerable” singer uses every stage she can to bring awareness to mental health issues and allocate appropriate resources for different communities while opening up about the personal battles she’s faced with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Billboard has compiled 10 pivotal moments when Gomez stressed the importance of mental health awareness.
April 2021: Launch of “Mental Health 101” with Rare Beauty
Timed with 2021 Mental Health Awareness Month, Gomez launched a new Mental Health 101 educational campaign with her mission-driven makeup brand Rare Beauty. The initiative is “dedicated to supporting mental health education and encouraging financial support for more mental health services in educational services,” according to her Instagram. One post contained a set of slides that began by listing mental health as its own school subject next to math, science, history and P.E. and contained shocking statistics about mental health, a petition calling on the philanthropy community to support mental health services in schools, and a fundraiser for the Rare Impact Fund that she launched on her 28th birthday last summer (more on that later).
December 2020: Keynote Speech at 2020 Teen Vogue Summit About Vulnerability
Serving as the 2020 Teen Vogue Summit keynote speaker, Gomez spoke about the theme of her Billboard 200 No. 1 album Rare, and how it echoes throughout her beliefs in normalizing open conversations about mental health. “The whole theme of my last album was a lot of self-discovery, a lot of being OK, being alone and being vulnerable, being OK with not looking like everything else, not looking like everyone else,” Gomez told then-Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner, who serves on the Rare Beauty Mental Health Council. “My journey personally has been all about my timing; when I felt like it was working, and that’s when I suddenly became so obsessed with making sure that everybody I knew understood that sharing your emotions were great. How I’m a huge advocate for therapy. How I feel like there are support groups for everybody, and it’s OK… there’s no way that people aren’t feeling a certain way, whether they’re figuring that out on their own or not, we all need each other.”
October 2020: Instagram Live Chat with Vice President Kamala Harris About Mental Health Nationwide
The singer-actress hopped on a video call with none other than VP Kamala Harris, who was the Democratic candidate at the time, to discuss several issues plaguing the United States, including mental health. “I just read too much about how deep this country is being affected mentally. I’ve had so many dreams about creating places that people could go to. I think there’s a part of me that wishes we had some sort of place that felt like, OK, maybe you just need to get help,” Gomez explained.
October 2020: IG Live Chat With Dr. Vivek Murthy About Depression
Gomez spoke with Dr. Vivek Murthy in an Instagram Live discussion hosted by Rare Beauty’s account about how she struggled with depression at the beginning of the pandemic. “In the beginning, I couldn’t deal with it that well. I kind of went into a bit of a depression,” she told Dr. Murthy, who served as the surgeon general under former President Obama. “My job is a lot of travel, connecting with people, making people happy, and that makes me happy, so it has been a struggle.”
The Rare Beauty founder found excitement in the Rare Impact Fund and in being able to go to the studio again, which helped ground her. “I would say right now, I’m fully coming out again and I just think I had to handle it the way I needed to handle it, and got through it with the right people and doing the right things and doing the right steps to not make me go crazy.”
July 2020: Announcement of Rare Beauty’s $100 Million Rare Impact Fund for Mental Health Services
On her 28th birthday, the makeup mogul’s Rare Beauty launched the Rare Impact Fund in hopes of raising $100 million over the next 10 years to provide mental health services to underserved communities. With 1% of annual sales on Rare Beauty products in addition to money raised by partners benefiting the fund, the Rare Impact Fund will become one of the largest known funds supporting mental health from a corporate entity once it reaches its goal. Gomez founded Rare Beauty in February 2020 with the self-affirming mission that “being rare is about being comfortable with yourself.” Rare Beauty also created the Rare Beauty Mental Health Council, which brings mental health experts from universities, organizations and companies together to guide the company’s strategy.
Gomez discussed her bipolar diagnosis for the first time with fellow Disney Channel child star Miley Cyrus on the latter’s Bright Minded Instagram Live series. During their candid conversation about mental health, Gomez recalled her trip to McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital outside of Boston. “I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar,” she told Cyrus. “And so when I got to know more information, it actually helps me. It doesn’t scare me once I know it…. I just feel like when I finally said what I was going to say, I wanted to know everything about it. And it took the fear away.” Watch Miley and Selena’s chat starting at the 32:20 mark below.
September 2019: McLean Award for Mental Health Advocacy Acceptance Speech
The “Kill Em With Kindness” artist accepted the 2019 McLean Award for Mental Health Advocacy at the McLean Hospital. Upon accepting the award, she delivered a powerful speech about how her personal struggles with depression and anxiety only makes her human. “For me, it feels right to share that I have personally felt the effects of both depression and anxiety — but it isn’t easy,” Gomez said. “I have feared being misunderstood and judged. I know that I have been given experiences and people and opportunities that have made my life exceptionally beautiful and sweet, and yet I struggle with my own thoughts and feelings at times. But this doesn’t make me faulty. This does not make me weak. This does not make me less than. This makes me human. We need help, and we need each other.”
July 2019: Deletion of Instagram App From Her Phone
Gomez, who was at one point the most-followed person on Instagram with more than 150 million followers, told Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest on their show that she had deleted the app from her phone because of the way it affected her mind and body. “I think it’s just become really unhealthy for young people, including myself, to spend all of their time fixating on all of these comments and it was affecting me,” Gomez said during the interview. “It would make me depressed, it would make me feel not good about myself and look at my body differently.”
August 2017: InStyle Cover About Treatment Experience
For her InStyle cover, the singer discussed entering into a 90-day treatment center for depression and anxiety in Tennessee (more on that later) and how going away for that period of time “was the best thing that I ever could’ve done.” “Everything I cared about, I stopped caring about. I came out, and it felt like, ‘OK, I can only go forward,'” she recalled while mentioning the best parts about stepping away from the spotlight. “I was in the countryside and never did my hair; I took part in equine therapy, which is so beautiful. And it was hard, obviously. But I knew what my heart was saying, and I thought, ‘OK, I think this has helped me become stronger for other people.'”
For her first American Vogue cover, Gomez opened up about how touring was a mentally draining practice for her as a musician, after she abruptly entered the 90-day treatment center and canceled the rest of her 2016 Revival Tour. She revealed she had been diagnosed with lupus and undergone chemotherapy during her 2015 Billboard cover story, which led her to receive treatment from at an outpatient facility that cut her 2014 Stars Dance Tour short.
“I’ve cried onstage more times than I can count, and I’m not a cute crier,” she told Vogue. “Tours are a really lonely place for me. My self-esteem was shot. I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage. Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t capable. I felt I wasn’t giving my fans anything, and they could see it — which, I think, was a complete distortion. I was so used to performing for kids. At concerts I used to make the entire crowd raise up their pinkies and make a pinky promise never to allow anybody to make them feel that they weren’t good enough. Suddenly I have kids smoking and drinking at my shows, people in their 20s, 30s, and I’m looking into their eyes, and I don’t know what to say. I couldn’t say, ‘Everybody, let’s pinky-promise that you’re beautiful!’ It doesn’t work that way, and I know it because I’m dealing with the same sh– they’re dealing with.”
While detailing the 90-day program, which included individual therapy, group therapy and equine therapy, Gomez also touched on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an evidence-based treatment developed to treat borderline personality disorder. “DBT has completely changed my life,” she says. “I wish more people would talk about therapy. We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who’s down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.”