“I'm so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable”: Winona Ryder on depression and anxiety

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Harriet Hall
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Mental health is increasingly becoming a topic of discussion – and one we shouldn’t hide away from. Thanks to countless celebrities of late admitting to their own struggles including Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora - we’ve seen that having anxiety or depression is widespread.

Now, Winona Ryder has spoken out about her own admission of mental health struggles, which she opened-up about in an interview with Diane Sawyer in 1999, saying that it's time we stop labelling these experiences as negative.

The actor has been famed for playing complex female roles, many of whom have suffered with mental health including in Girl, Interrupted, Heathers and Reality Bites.

Ryder became an A-lister in the 1990s as a result of these roles, but took 10 years off following an arrest for shoplifting, before appearing back on screens in a similarly complex role in Black Swan.

The actor is now back in the limelight thanks to her role as bereaved mother, Joyce Byers, in hit Netflix show, Stranger Things.

This week, in an interview with New York magazine, the 44-year-old has said that it’s time to put a stop to the shaming of women for their feelings, saying:

“I’m so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable. It’s so bizarre to me.”

Speaking about her past discussions on mental health, the actor has described to the magazine how it has changed the world’s perception of her, saying:

“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. To do what I do, I have to remain open.”

But the Golden Globe-winner says that she has no regrets about opening up about her struggles because of the positive responses she received from others who were experiencing similar things:

“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.’ 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.”

When it comes to Stranger things, Ryder says that her character – who is experiencing deep grief and confusion after her son goes missing – is often touted as having ‘problems’, rather than reacting in a normal way to an awful situation.

“There’s a line in the show where someone says [of her Stranger Things 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?” she says.

Having herself been painted with a particular brush, the actor says that there’s a stigma surrounding admitting you’re struggling, saying:

“I talked about my experiences with anxiety and depression when I was that age. And I think by doing that, maybe coupled with my physical size, there’s this ‘crazy’ thing. And I’ve realised recently it’s literally impossible to try to change that story.”

Although she openly admits that she does “have the qualities” of being “sensitive, fragile,” she also says “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.”

The star hit back at the mental health terminology, saying that this stigma surrounding it overshadows the fact that many of these feelings are experienced by many young women, saying:

“Even that word, anxious. It’s a bad word. 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.”