In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Cara Delevingne opened up about her battle with depression, just days after she debuted as the face of Saint Laurent’s couture ads. (That’s right. Depressed people can be glamorous.)
“I never said I was quitting modeling,” she started, adding, “I do not blame the fashion industry for anything. I suffer from depression and was a model during a particularly rough patch of self hatred. I am so lucky for the work I get to do, but I used to try and escape and just ended up completely exhausting myself.”
Delevingne shed light – and lent essential visibility – to a mental illness that thrives on the darkness and shame that comes from hiding it. By making her struggles public, however difficult that may have been, she lightened the weight of shame for thousands (maybe millions) of her followers, while also giving the public something quite rare: an honest, nuanced view of what it’s like to live with depression. It can look glamorous, yes. It can look like a perfectly symmetrical, immaculately dressed model. Quite often, depression is not visible at all.
“I’m focusing on filming and trying to learn how to not pick apart my every flaw. I am really good at that,” Delevingne added. “Okay Rant over. Just wanted to clarify and word vomit a little.”
Thousands of her fans responded positively to her outpouring, retweeting her posts and opening up about their own experiences with a disease that’s so easy not to open up about – especially on social media, the land of aerial bagel shots and smiling selfies.
“Most people would look at Cara Delevingne and see a person who has it made. The fact that even she struggles with insecurities is an important reminder that you never know what other people are going through,” Jenny Jaffe, founder of the mental-illness awareness organization Project UROK, tells PEOPLE. “Social media is a wonderful tool, but it’s also easy to present only the parts of our lives that we want other people to see. For Cara to open up on social media so honestly is a really wonderful way to help remind people that everyone, even someone you might never suspect, is going through something.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 15.7 million U.S. adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode in 2014 (a number that represents 6.7% of the population.) Yet we so rarely talk about the disease that affects so many on a national scale, partially due to the stigma of seeking help: two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment. Delevingne talking about depression may not inspire millions to rush to their local psychiatrist, but it undoubtedly chips away at the shame – the fear of disapproval or weakness – that prevents those suffering from depression from getting the help they need.
“Depression can be an incredibly isolating experience. The stigma around mental illness in our society can make opening up about it feel like a big risk, so even if they know the statistics, many people with depression feel like they don’t personally know anyone else who’s gone through it,” Jaffe says. “But when a public personality who people, especially young people, connect with opens up about their struggles, it can do a lot to make people feel less alone.”
While Delevingne’s so-called “word vomit” may have been terrifying to, well, vomit, she’s undoubtedly helped thousands of people feel less alone in their depression. And that’s really beautiful.