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Evan Rachel Wood wants you to know that depression isn’t a weakness: it’s a sickness

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The actress opened up about her suicide attempt at 22 and why she checked herself into a mental health hospital for treatment. 

When she was 22, Evan Rachel Wood checked herself into a psychiatric hospital after she attempted suicide.

“I have absolutely no shame about it,” the actress has recalled in a powerful essay for Nylon. “Looking back, it was the worst, best thing that ever happened to me.” 

The suicide attempt was a result of years of rape and assault at the hands of an abusive partner. Wood had PTSD from the trauma of that relationship, as well as anxiety and panic attacks. “My mind was not a peaceful place,” she writes. “My mind at the time was filled with scars and shadows and, most importantly, so much shame.”

In the essay, Wood details the symptoms of her PTSD, which included paranoia and fear that kept her awake at night. “I was afraid to be alone, but I also couldn’t be around people,” she writes. “I could barely leave my own house… I was defensive, I was impulsive, and I had no healthy coping mechanisms yet. I lost friends. I lost job opportunities. From the outside, I was just a reckless trainwreck. I did a lot of things I am not proud of, and I own that now. But I also forgive myself.” 

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Wood stressed that no-one should ever dismiss their mental health issues as the result of “just ‘being crazy’”. It doesn’t matter if you are a successful actor, as Wood was, or in the public eye, or have a flourishing career or a strong support network. 

Equally, it doesn’t matter if you have or are none of those things. Needing help is not a sign of weakness or cause for shame. It’s an integral part of treating mental illness. “I needed help,” Wood writes. “I needed understanding. I needed to feel unconditional love. I needed to not be judged.”

Wood’s stay at the hospital saved her life. Through group therapy, she was able to process the extent of the impact of her trauma on her mental health. She connected with the patients and the psychiatrists. Art and physical therapy soothed her soul. Today, she has continued therapy but no longer takes medication.

Evan Rachel Wood speaking at the 2019 Women’s March in Los Angeles

“[Medication] got me where I needed to be, and now I am able to cope on my own,” Wood writes. “This is not true for everyone, but it is not something to be ashamed of. Everyone is different and needs different things. I am not always perfect, I am not always at my best, I still struggle with my PTSD, but I know that I will get through it. I have better tools now to get through what seem like the impossible times, and most importantly, I know my worth.”

Wood also stressed that mental healthcare “shouldn’t be a luxury for the rich”. The actress was rejected from several facilities and only managed to find a last minute place in a private psychiatric hospital because she was able to pay for it, and even then she felt lucky to have found anywhere at all. 

“It felt like I barely made it in by the skin of my teeth,” she recalls. “And I am privileged. Imagine how hard it is with no health insurance or money or resources?”

“There is no economic class, race, sexuality or gender that is safe from their own mind,” Wood concludes. “We know success doesn’t cure depression, we know that people telling you they love you doesn’t cure depression, we know that just thinking positively doesn’t cure depression. Depression isn’t weakness, it’s a sickness.” 

Evan Rachel Wood

Which is why there is no shame in asking for help when you need it.

“Sometimes I feel like a version of me did die that night,” Wood writes. “But a new me was born. Now my life is in a place I could have only dreamed of because I committed to do the work and I continue that work every day of my life in every step I take.”

In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a 24-hour phone service every day of the year at 800-273-TALK (8255).

In the UK, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. 

Mind also provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. You can find more information on their website.

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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