Lili Reinhart is best known for playing Betty Cooper on CW's hit show Riverdale. But she's also known for her Twitter feed, where she speaks up about social issues and fires back at body-shamers. True to form, the actress used social media to open up about her struggles with depression for Mental Health Awareness Month.
In what she called a "Twitter rant," Reinhart wrote, "Riverdale came into my life when I was going through the worst depression I had ever experienced. And in the end it completely saved me." The actress reflected on what it was like to find out that Riverdale had been picked up. "I cried tears of joy. In that moment I became a working actress with a steady job. Something I had been working towards for 7 years," she tweeted. "And now here we are, gearing up to film season 2. And I could not be more grateful."
Reinhart's tweets continued with a pep talk for her fans, and advice about how she managed to overcome her depression. "When I’m feeling depressed or sad, I remind myself how far I’ve come. And how I didn’t let my depression consume me. To anyone out there who feels depressed or hopeless… do not fucking give up on yourself," she wrote. "You’re all you’ve got. And you deserve the world."
"Your mental health should be your priority. Don’t forget that. This is your life.. and you’ve only got one. So don’t waste it by being sad," she continued. She finished up with a final dose of encouragement and asking her fans to pay it forward. "You will get through whatever you’re going through now. And you’ll be so much stronger at the end of it. You’re stronger than you know," she tweeted. "I felt the need to put some love out into the world today. I encourage you to do the same."
Reinhart's tweets were met with overwhelming support and appreciation from people who have struggled with depression. However, not everyone appreciated what Reinhart had to say. Some people pointed out that the actress' tweets minimized the mental illness.
After the pushback from people who criticized what they saw as Reinhart's perpetuation of the harmful narrative of bootstrapping one's way out of depression, the actress fired back with her own set of tweets. "Apparently everything I say is going to be taken the wrong way from this point on in my life. Which is disheartening that people want to make me a villain. So no... I in no way meant that depressed people should just 'stop being sad,'" she wrote.
"I've dealt with depression my whole fucking life so obviously I know that. I'm saying find yourself some help. And don't wait for things to change. You have to go out and get that for yourself," she said. "You have to find your own happiness and be willing to get better. And that's what I did when I moved to LA for the second time, trying to follow my dream. I was proactive about changing my life."
The disagreement and discussion happening between Reinhart and the people critical of her tweets is a valid one. People with depression are often told to be proactive and just buck up. They're told to stop being so sad all the time, as if their depression is something they can change on their own. “When [loved ones] don’t understand what’s happening, their responses are ‘suck it up’ and ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself,’” John F. Greden, M.D., the executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, told The Huffington Post. "It’s not understood that these are underlying illnesses and chemical abnormalities, so what they’ll do is use these phrases. ... These comments are probably one of the worst irritations." Many people who struggle with depression have tried all of the things they possibly can to get well and know that it's not as simple as just "being less sad."
At the same time, Reinhart's lived experience is her truth, and she has a right to share what worked for her because that's real. Her openness about something that is still so stigmatized is sure to help a lot of people. But when it comes to talking about depression and mental illness, we need to make room for as many narratives as we can, because no two people have the same experience. "We need so much more openness, transparency and understanding that it’s OK to talk about depression as an illness," Greden told The Huffington Post. "It’s not a weakness. It’s not a moral shortcoming. It’s not something people brought on themselves."
As for Reinhart, she's made it clear that she has no intention of shutting up anytime soon. Preach.
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.
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