Trevor Noah (pictured above), host of “The Daily Show,” was at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Quebec, Canada, last Friday to accept the Comedy Person of the Year Award — but the topics he touched on that night were anything but funny.
The comedian shared with the crowd his deeply private struggles with depression. He also thanked fellow comedian Jim Carrey for sharing his story on how to manage depression.
Noah said he had struggled with depression for years, and Carrey helped him realize the problem was common among comedians.
“Jim Carrey was one of the first comedians that described the beast that many of us face in this room, and that’s depression,” Noah said to the audience. “I thank you because, you know, I found a way to fight it. I found a way to build a community, and that’s what this place is. It’s a community of people trying to do something.”
Credit goes to Noah for facing his problem head-on and attempting to help others as he was helped. Some celebrity artists have managed to win their battles with depression, with the help of family and friends. Others have not been able to find that help — and have left the rest of us to wonder why they didn’t ask or what more could have been done.
In the last few years, the rock music world alone has seen the tragic end of Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland (2015), Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell (May 2017), and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park (July 2017) — all of whom committed suicide after succumbing to the deep-rooted depression and emotional torment that sometimes fueled their music.
“Depression is a real monster,” actress Gabby Sidibe wrote on Twitter after the passing of Bennington (pictured on the left in first article image).
It seems an especially serious problem for artists, Sir Elton John said in a recent interview with the Sunday People after the death of Bennington.
“You know artists are prone to being a little destructive, whether you are an actor or singer or visual artist,” John said. “It is so awful for someone to be so depressed that they commit suicide, especially when they have families.”
“You know artists are prone to being a little destructive.”
Only two months before Linkin Park singer Bennington took his own life, he performed the song “Hallelujah” at the funeral of Cornell — who left behind a wife, family, friends, and countless fans.
All three of the previously mentioned rockers had covered up for their mental struggles with alcohol and substance abuse at various stages of their lives.
In a radio interview with the show “Daily Blast,” Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist and addiction medicine specialist, said doctors are killing addicts, including Cornell (pictured on the right in first article image), by prescribing anti-anxiety drugs such as Ativan, which, according to Pinsky, can lead to suicidal and “very strange thoughts.”
“Somebody with his addiction history — he’s a man with an opiate addiction history who has been deeply involved in recovery. He should never get that medication, never, ever, ever, ever,” Pinsky said of Cornell.
Sadly, depression and addiction exist well beyond the music world and in other artistic arenas as well.
We lost actors Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2014 and Heath Ledger in 2008, and in all three cases, millions of Americans were stunned to discover the depth of these individuals’ struggles with substance abuse and depression. Williams had spent time in a Minnesota rehab facility shortly before his death. Ledger passed away from a deadly mix of prescription drugs, and Hoffman’s battle with depression and addiction ended with a lethal mix of drugs.
Addiction and depression can go hand-in-hand, and research shows things are getting worse in America. Are we becoming a society that masks its mental health issues with prescriptions, drug use and alcohol? Does that explain the uptick in overdoses and suicides? As America mourns the loss of each cultural icon who passes away far too soon, one hopes we can learn from their crushing loss — and get the courage to seek the help we or our loved ones need. But that help has to real, sustained, available — and easy to find.
(photo credit, homepage images: Christopher Simon, Flickr/Stefan Brending; article image: Disney/ABC, Flickr)