Selena Gomez has become an open book. Over the past year, the singer and new Vogue cover star has grown increasingly forthcoming about her struggle with depression and anxiety. Now, that honesty is translating into a sign of real strength, turning Gomez into a compelling new voice for a generation of young women, and breaking down conversational barriers surrounding emotional health.
In the April issue of Vogue, Gomez reveals that, after canceling the end of her Revival tour last summer to check into a treatment facility in Tennessee (“I was depressed, anxious. I started to have panic attacks right before getting on-stage, or right after leaving the stage”), she gave up her cell phone to engage in 90 days of individual and group therapy with a small number of young women who felt similarly unmoored. That sense of female camaraderie became a source of stability for Gomez, a revelation that feels particularly poignant at a time when women around the globe are coming together in mutual support. “You have no idea how incredible it felt to just be with six girls,” she says. “Real people who couldn’t give two shits about who I was, who were fighting for their lives. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was the best thing I’ve done.”
In like-minded fashion, a growing number of women in the public eye have begun to come forward about similar battles. Earlier this month, Chrissy Teigen wrote a candid essay about postpartum depression that called for lessening the stigma through discourse, following the likes of Adele and Gwyneth Paltrow; in February, Lena Dunham and Girls executive producer Jenni Konner led a talk at Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y called “Growing Up With Anxiety,” where Dunham expressed the hope that one day the world would be “teaching kids from a young age that it’s as okay to say ‘I’m anxious’ as it is to say ‘I hit my knee.’ ”
Through her own honesty, Gomez has also sought to break down the veneer of celebrity perfection, becoming a role model and forging a deeper connection with her fans in the process. That up-close and personal relationship can be admittedly complicated—it’s one reason she unplugged from social media for months—but by breaking the mold through more open conversation, Gomez has made a powerful point: that it’s not just okay, but important to share these universal problems.
Proof that it’s not just talk? Gomez’s reveal that she now visits her therapist five days a week, and is a profound believer in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a treatment first developed for patients with borderline personality disorder that is now more widely used to treat conditions like depression. It puts the focus on improving communication, mindfulness, and developing the right cognitive tools to deal with emotional ups and downs—a more skills-based approach to coping with stress. “DBT has completely changed my life,” she says. “I wish more people would talk about therapy.”
Of course, that’s exactly what she has stepped forward to do, pointing toward the unrealistic standards women are held to that keep them from speaking out. “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,” she says. “We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.” Here’s to a courageous new vision of what it means to lead by example.