Why Selena Gomez's mental health leave announcement is a lesson for all of us.

Today, 24-year-old Selena Gomez announced that she is taking time off to address her issues with “anxiety, panic attacks and depression”.

In a statement to People magazine, Gomez said, “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways… I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges.”

Lupus is an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure. Gomez has spoken in the past about undergoing chemotherapy as treatment and told Billboard magazine that she “locked herself away until she was confident and comfortable again”.


Today, Gomez could have easily cited Lupus, the symptoms of which can be crippling, as her sole reason for taking a break. She could have simply disappeared. But she didn’t.

She said, “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off… I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”

Gomez’s decision isn’t just ‘brave’. It’s really, really smart.

One of my favorite nights on tour

A photo posted by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

For one, speaking so candidly helps challenge the stigma that continues to plague discussions around mental health. Her statement presents anxiety and depression as features of one’s health, just like glandular fever or the flu. But Gomez has also exemplified an important point of mental health treatment that we do not talk about enough.



The key to overcoming these sorts of struggles, is seeking help before it becomes debilitating. Anyone who has visited a psychologist once they’ve already stopped getting out of bed, or eating properly, or speaking to friends and family, knows the difficulty of trying to pull oneself out of the void.

William Styron eloquently describes the “downward spiral of depression”, almost like a force that begins with small abnormalities, before becoming a source of complete destruction. Early intervention, similarly to a disease like cancer, is the key to recovery.

Celebrities who have spoken out about their anxiety. Post continues after gallery. 

Mamamia spoke to Youth Access Clinician Holly Murphy from Headspace Chatswood, and asked why seeking help early is so critical.

“Well, as a clinician, and from research in psychology, early intervention is really important. To seek help at a point when it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a diagnosis, or have been labelled with something… can prevent you from getting to that point where it can get worse and can get really debilitating.”

Murphy said specifically of Gomez, “I think that’s pretty courageous of her” given that “there’s still that tendency to fall back on the physical”. She described how there is still a “bit of a resistance” to declare one’s mental health issues, even though it’s really important, particularly for people who live with chronic mental health issues.


The subject of taking time off school, university or work, is often discussed in her office. Murphy advised that if you have a “particularly stressful job, if you find that you’re unable to switch off when you go home, you have a really stressed out or anxious mood that lasts for days on end, if you’re finding that’s really sticking around and if you’re feeling that you don’t have a particularly supportive environment…” then it might be time to consider taking some time to focus solely on your mental health.

Mental health services in Australia. (Post continues after gallery.)

Taking the time to invest in your mental health has the potential to prevent anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness taking a firm hold. For long time sufferers, it’s vital that we recognise the warning signs, and act on them before it’s too late.

Finally, Gomez’s statement reminds us of how important it is to be transparent. For anyone who has called in sick with a ‘headache’, when what they were truly suffering was a bout of intense anxiety; it’s time to own it. Myself included. We get sick with food poisoning. We get sick with tonsillitis. And we get sick with depression.

Then, and only then, will our mental health be treated with the same respect – and the same support – as our physical health.

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online,here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.