We’ve made a tad bit of progress but we still don’t talk enough about mental health in the Latinx community. Though more and more Latinx celebs these days have been opening up about some of their struggles with depression, anxiety and or other mental disorders, in efforts to shed light and overcome the mental health stigma that still very much exists in our communities. Brazilian supermodel, Gisele Bündchen might seem like she literally has it all—a successful modeling career, a handsome quarterback husband, two gorgeous kids and non-stop traveling— her life is far from perfect. Her struggles are as real as anyone’s. In fact, in her new memoir, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, Bündchen opens up about her struggles with mental health and how they almost led to suicide.
“Things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what’s really going on,” she told People. “I felt like maybe it was time to share some of my vulnerabilities, and it made me realize everything I’ve lived through, I would never change because I think I am who I am because of those experiences.”
In the book, Bündchen shares how she’s struggled with everything from panic attacks, claustrophobia, and thoughts of death and dying. She told People that her very first panic attack actually took place on a flight in 2003. It was just around this time that the model’s career had begun to take off.
“It felt like everything in my life was going to kill me,” she writes in the book (mentioned in an excerpt published by Page Six). “First it was the airplanes, then elevators. Then it was tunnels and hotels and modeling studios and cars. Now it was my own apartment. Everything had become a cage, and I was the animal trapped inside, panting for air. I couldn’t see a way out, and I couldn’t stand another day feeling this way.”
Bündchen became so overwhelmed by her anxiety that she started considering suicide. “The idea swept over me: Maybe it will be easier if I just jump. It will be all over. I can get out of this,” she writes. “When I think back on that moment, and that 23-year-old girl, I want to cry. I want to tell her that everything will be all right, that she hasn’t even begun to live her life. But in that moment, the only answer seemed to be to jump.”
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Just received a copy of Lessons! I can’t believe my book will be out Oct 2nd! What an incredible journey this has been! I am so happy I get to share it with you. I hope you like it! #LessonsbyGisele 🙏✨😘 Acabei de receber a copia do Lessons (Aprendizados)!!! Não acredito que meu livro já vai ser lançado agora em outubro! Foi uma caminhada incrível e estou muito feliz por poder compartilha-lo. Espero que gostem! #Aprendizados
Fortunately Bündchen eventually got help and was initially prescribed Xanax. But after realizing she didn’t want to depend on a prescription drug, she made major lifestyle changes such as cutting out drinking and smoking, which the model admits she was consuming on a daily basis at one point. She made diet changes such as cutting out sugar and made yoga and meditation a big part of her life. Little by little she started noticing changes in her mental health and how she was feeling. To be clear, diet and lifestyle changes were not Bündchen’s way of “treating herself.” She did seek a specialist and professional help. But making changes to her overall health did improve her mental health.
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Sometimes we feel alone, as if there is no way out, but that is not true. My panic attacks were difficult, and I sought help from my family,specialists, teachers and friends. Asking for help is never a sign of failure but a sign of strength because your life is worth saving. #LessonsbyGisele 🙏🏼 Às vezes nos sentimos sozinhos, como se não houvesse saída, mas isso não é verdade. Meus ataques de pânico foram difíceis e procurei ajuda de familiares, especialistas, professores e amigos. Pedir ajuda nunca é um sinal de fracasso, mas um sinal de força, porque vale a pena salvar sua vida. #Aprendizados
It’s surprising to learn that someone who might seem as “perfect” as Bündchen would have been anxious and depressed enough to consider suicide. It’s so hard to wrap my head around it, especially considering how positive and zen she often comes off. But the truth is, we were all pretty shocked when we learned Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. Demi Lovato who had been open about her issues with addiction, depression and bipolarity seemed like she was doing great and then suffered a relapse this year fans didn’t anticipate happening. Mariah Carey finally revealed this spring that she has been suffering from bipolarity since 2001 and suffered in silence in fear of the stigma associated with that diagnosis.
If you think about how much harder it is for people in the Latinx community to receive proper diagnosis and how much higher the rate of depression is for Latinas, it starts to become less surprising that Bündchen was struggling with mental health issues. In fact, the Brazilian model sharing her story was especially important not just for Latina women but for everyone really. There’s this misconception and this perception we have of certain people—of celebrities especially—that their lives are perfect and that there’s no possible way they could be unhappy or suffering in silence and the reality is, that’s far from the truth. Anyone can struggle with mental health issues regardless of their wealth, fame, lifestyle, age, ethnicity, gender or race. And the more open and honest people are about it, the more we’ll be able to deconstruct this myth that mental issues only happen to “certain people” and the easier it will be for those suffering to actively seek help.
Right now Latinas have the highest suicide rate in the states. In fact, this summer New York officials reported that the Latina suicide rate had hit an epidemic level. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a survey back in 2015 on youth high-risk behavior that showed that 15 percent of Latina adolescents in the U.S. have attempted suicide—that’s a lot. In fact, 15 percent is huge when you compare it to 9.8 percent and 10.2 percent of white and black teens that attempt suicide in the states.
Suicide in the states in general is a problem but the conversations around mental health have evolved and as they continue to evolve, so will the doing away of old taboos and stigma associated with mental health that keeps so many folks away from getting the proper help and treatment they need. I commend Bündchen for sharing her story. We need more people like her keeping it real about the realities of mental health—especially in the Latinx community.