Why Winona Ryder Doesn’t Regret Opening Up About Depression

When Winona Ryder burst into the spotlight in the 1980s, mental health was still a taboo topic. After all, opening up about mental illness is difficult enough for anyone, let alone an A-list actress launching a Hollywood career. Today, Ryder is glad that she was so up front about depression and anxiety in her 1999 interview with Diane Sawyer, in which she discussed her feelings of guilt and shame about depression. "I don’t regret opening up about what I went through [with depression], because, it sounds really cliché, but I have had women come up to me and say, 'It meant so much to me,'" she says in a new interview with The Cut, in which she also discusses her experience with stalkers. "It means so much when you realize that someone was having a really hard time and feeling shame and was trying to hide this whole thing."
Thankfully, mental illness has become less stigmatized as celebrities like Cara Delevingne and Kristen Bell have also been forthcoming about their own struggles with depression and anxiety. Back in the 1990s, however, Ryder's revelations were treated as shocking, and caused a public narrative to form about her persona based on the stigma of mental illness. "I remember I did Diane Sawyer, and I talked about my experiences with anxiety and depression when I was that age," she told The Cut. "And I think by doing that, maybe coupled with my physical size, there’s this 'crazy' thing. And I’ve realized recently it’s literally impossible to try to change that story." "There is a perception of me that I’m supersensitive and fragile. And I am supersensitive, and I don’t think that that’s a bad thing," she said, adding that she's "so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable." That shame, she says, has also extended to her character on Netflix's Stranger Things. "There's a line in the show where someone says [of her character], 'She's had anxiety problems in the past.' A lot of people have picked up on that, like, 'Oh, you know, she's crazy.' And I'm like, 'Okay, wait a second, she's struggling.' Two kids, deadbeat dad, working her ass off. Who wouldn't be anxious?" Ryder asked. "Even that word, anxious. It’s a bad word," she continued. "And so like all of these words — it’s kind of what I tried to do with Girl, Interrupted, and why I was so invested in that book and trying to get it made [as a movie]. My whole point was, this happens to every girl, almost." We may still have a ways to go in terms of destigmatizing mental health, but it's good to see that Ryder isn't giving up the good fight — even if it means putting herself under the harsh scrutiny of the media.

If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

More from Mind

R29 Original Series