June 14, 2024


A Passion for Better Health

Celebs Share Mental Health Care Tips At The Chita Rivera Awards

The Chita Rivera Awards, held on May 20th, honored dance and choreographic excellence on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in film. The star-studded event included Kristen Chenoweth, Brooke Shields, Huey Lewis, Bebe Neuwirth and David Hyde Pierce who presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Bernadette Peters. Proceeds benefited the New York Cty Dance Alliance Foundation whose mission is to broaden performing arts awareness while advocating education and high standards of excellence in dance.

I love musicals and celebrities as much as the next person (if not more!) The real reason I attended this incredible award show was so I could ask several high-profile figures one question: What do you do to care for your mental health?’ May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as a physician who cares for scores of patients with mental health and substance use disorders, mental wellbeing is very important to me. Unfortunately, people experiencing mental illness continue to face stigma and do not receive the care they need and deserve. Impaired mental health adversely impacts a person’s ability to function at home, school and work. But the more we—particularly celebrities—talk about mental health in an open, honest and compassionate way, the more likely we are at reducing stigma, and improving access to care and quality of life.

How The Stars Care For Their Mental Health

Bernadette Peters, the evening’s ultimate honoree, uses many tools to care for her mental health. “Meditating is very important. Quieting the body down, quieting the mind down. It’s remarkable what [meditation] does. I can’t advocate for it [enough].” The multi-talented, Tony- and Golden Globe-winning singer and actress is also an animal welfare advocate, having co-founded Broadway Barks with Mary Tyler Moore. “Pets are beautiful. Seeing them brings a smile to your face; you’re on a road of positivity.”

Singer and actress, Kristin Chenoweth, shared that she “recently started doing hot yoga.” The legendary star of Wicked added that meditation sound baths also bring her peace: “Sometimes you need 30 minutes of nothing [accompanied by] chimes and sound bowls.” When I suggested that the arts, music and dancing were part of her DNA and likely played a role in her mental health, the Tony Award-winner’s eyes lit up: “That’s my therapy. If I didn’t have [the arts] as a way to get it all out, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Actress, model and author Brooke Shields has been very open about her experiences with post-partum depression and growing up with a mother diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. The mother of two daughters and women’s advocate attributes time with her family and close friends as caring for her mental wellbeing.

Broadway legend Norm Lewis who sang a powerful rendition of Miss Saigon’s Bui Doi cares for his mental health through regular meditation and prayer. He also tries to “eat right and sleep.” As a doctor, I said that was perfect advice! Like Chenowith, Lewis was transparent about the impact of the arts on his mental wellbeing: “That’s my church. It’s a gift that I’ve been given. I’m just holding onto it as long as I can.”

Lisa Mordente, daughter of the late Rivera, also finds pets to be therapeutic. “I sit with my dogs and just connect and run and roll around the floor and just be with them. They are my center.” Filmmaker and choreographer, Kenny Ortega, who supportively held Mordente’s hand throughout the red carpet, believes in gratitude: “Just really work to live in gratitude. Truly. That really serves me mentally, emotionally and creatively.”

Rock and Roll star Huey Lewis, who did not let hearing loss stop him from making the musical, The Heart of Rock and Roll, links geography to his mental health…as well as humor! “I live in Montana: more cheese, less rats!” The long-time lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News adds, “I go to Mother Nature. More critters. I love the outdoors.” As for music, the field that launched him to global stardom: “Music is a wonderful thing. It’s a tonic, isn’t it, really?”

Science-Based Mental Health Tips

So, what does the research indicate as effective ways to care for your mental wellbeing? I must say that the celebrities I spoke with are practicing the right self-care strategies! I provide the same clinical advice to my patients. Sleep, ideally seven to nine hours each night; regular physical activity; mindful practice such as meditation, yoga and prayer; and simply doing things you enjoy such as listening to music, watching a movie and spending time with supportive family and friends can all nurture your mental faculties. It’s also important to to seek out professional help through a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist if and when you need it; remember, there is no shame in asking for help. Personally, I do many of the same things as the stars I spoke with: daily meditation; playing piano; watching television, movies and hockey; exercising; and of course, watching my favorite musicals on Broadway!