Emmy-winning actor Courtney B. Vance has opened up about his family’s struggle with mental illness and how it has shaped his life.
Sitting down with Good Morning America, the Uncorked star revealed that his father took his life after a battle with depression when Vance was 30-years-old. “I was rocked. My mother called in hysterics,” he said.
Not long after his father’s passing, Vance and his sister began professional therapy to cope with their loss. The 60-year-old credits therapy for saving his life from what could have been a similar fate.
“It saved our lives and saved each of our lives. I could have been a statistic myself. If the hero in my life, my father, did that to himself, that potentially could have been an option for me,” he said.
Decades later, Vance was faced with the unimaginable once again when his 23-year-old godson also committed suicide over the summer.
“He was in crisis. His mind — it was attacked. And he couldn’t take it anymore,” Vance said.
Following the suicides of those close to him, Vance is now encouraging others to seek out therapy to help deal with life’s darkest moments. He has teamed up with licensed psychologist Dr. Robin Smith to raise awareness during Mental Health Week.
“We’re going to break this curse, we’re breaking it right now,” Vance declared.
Smith emphasized that it is perfectly normal to feel down, despite seeing those we look up to appearing to have it all together.
“Part of being human is that we feel joy and we feel despair,” explained Smith, who also serves as Oprah Winfrey’s long-time resident therapist. “We feel hope, and we feel hopelessness. But we don’t hear that. We don’t hear our leaders talking about how they are restless and afraid because, you know, they’re supposed to always have an answer. That’s absurd. We are so ashamed to be human.”
Smith also called for the normalization of therapy to ensure that mental illness does not get the best of us.
“It can be traditional to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, and mental health expert. It’s important if we can do it, but what therapy really is, it’s finding a safe person and place where you can express what is going on within you. The conversation you have been having with yourself all of your life. The more we hide our sickness, the more our sickness reigns supreme.”