Gisele Lessons

Gisele speaks out, 50 for 50 #26

The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. 
Trigger warning: suicide. 
If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text CONNECT to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741.
This morning I watched Good Morning America. Robin Roberts interviewed Gisele Bündchen about her new book, Lessons, My Path To A Meaningful Life. During the interview, Robin asked Bündchen about an admission Bundchen made in the book that during her twenties she suffered from panic attacks. That life became overwhelming to the point she considered suicide. Bündchen teared up, nodded, and admitted yes. “It was closing in on me.” She realized she needed to make significant changes and did. She reached out for help. 
Like a lot of people, I assumed for a long time that celebrities were immune to mental health disorders. With power, money, resources, looks, fame came contentment. How false, how downright wrong these thoughts were. Mental illness hit my family and my eyes were opened to the facts. Mental illness does not discriminate. Anyone can struggle with a brain disorder. 
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 adults is affected by a mental health condition. Mental illness affects everyone directly or indirectly through family, friends, coworkers, and close acquaintances. The CDC states that suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.   
Like Gisele, more celebrities across more platforms than ever before are speaking out about their personal experiences with mental health.
To name just a few: 
Movies: Jim Carrey, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Dwyane The Rock Johnson
Sports: Michael Phelps, Branden Marshall, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan  
Television: Ellen DeGeneres, John Hamm, Lena Dunham, Carson Daily 
Music: Demi Lovato, Adele, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik
Royalty: Princess Diana, Prince Harry
With each admission comes greater awareness, compassion, empathy, and normalization. Persons willing to share their stories and the truth of life with mental illness combat stigma, a poison that still prevents many from seeking the support and assistance they need. NAMI’s 2018 theme for the year has been #CureStigma. The snowball effect is gaining traction, and I hope the trend continues, but there’s more work to do.   
The recent and shocking deaths of well-known celebrities like Anthony BourdainKate Spade, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington highlight a devastating truth that is happening to families from one end of the country to the other, from one end of the economic and cultural spectrum to the other. Loved ones are dying. People are struggling. Each of us has a powerful weapon in the fight to end stigma and silence around mental health: our mouth.      
If you sense that someone you care about is hurting, trust your gut. Don’t be afraid. Broach the topic. Ask a question. Are you thinking about hurting yourself? I care about you; can I help? Your willingness to be present may be the ray of light someone has been waiting for to share their feelings. And asking directly doesn’t put ideas into their head. If you have further concerns reach out to a mental health professional. If your concerns are immediate dial 911.
Signs and symptoms of mental health conditions from the American Psychiatric Association:
o Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care
o Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings
o Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
o Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
o Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
o Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
o Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity
o Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality
o Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
o Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
o Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior


When my daughter got sick, I didn’t think anyone could understand what we were going through. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Through my own work with a mental health professional along with the doctors, therapists, nurses, school counselors, teachers, support specialists and others who helped my daughter, I learned my feelings were normal but also unnecessary. We were not alone. I share here to roll the snowball further down the hill, and I thank Gisele and everyone who speaks out about mental health. It’s time to #CureStigma.  

You can buy Bündchen's book HERE.

Finding Help: Mental Health America

Tips For How To Help


NIMH: Finding Help

don't call me crazy

Buy HERE. In (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, thirty-three actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore a wide range of topics:

their personal experiences with mental illness,
how we do and don’t talk about mental health,
help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently,
and what, exactly, might make someone crazy.

If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages . . . and let’s get talking.


  1. Thanks for bringing more attention to your readers about depression, and specifically about it being a brain disorder, like diabetes is a pancreatic disorder. Unfortunately, mental illness runs in my family. I can trace it as far back as one of my great grandmothers (depression) on my mother's side of the family. Then it went to my mother (depression), to my brother (paranoid schizophrenic), to me (depression) and to my son (bipolar disorder). My father had an aunt who was schizophrenic and that aunt's daughter died by suicide. Medication has been a game-changer for my mom, my son and me, yet they are not perfect remedies.

    There is no cure for mental illness, but it can be managed, so much so that it doesn't feel debilitating for long periods of time (and in my case, with depression, I'm talking about years here). However, one has to be forever vigilant of triggers and self-care remedies to keep on top of managing this disorder.

    I am so thankful that celebrities have spoken out about their own experiences with depression. I remember the direct aftermath when Robin Williams died by suicide. Many people asked, "What did he have to be depressed about?", as if fame and fortune was an exact recipe for eternal happiness. I hope the masses learned that mental illness is complicated and no one is immune just because he or she has fame and fortune.

    The upside for people who have no real understanding of mental illness is that they probably haven't experienced it personally or with a close family member. But because mental illness is so prevalent, everyone needs to know the warning signs and that brain disorders are serious conditions that need medical attention.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Sue. You raise many excellent points. When my daughter was in treatment, an assignment we had to do was to create a family tree indicating on it the known family members with mental illness. Not a single child in treatment had a tree free from disease. The point, of course, was to show the kids (and parent, too) that mental illness is biological and inherited. Even if this fact was something many of understood, it was very helpful to see it rendered visually. And as to medication, absolutely. I believe that my daughter would not have been able to heal as she did without the assistance of medication. She is on far few medications now than she was–1 only–but will likely need to remain on some level/dosage for the rest of her life. With mental illness, as you identify, the brain does not function correctly. Medication helps the deficit. Thank you again.

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