Celebrities making the headlines isn’t always good news, but lately, many stars have gone public about living with chronic conditions and ailments that are often heavy on stigma and light on awareness.
In 2015, Demi Lovato announced that she was living with bipolar disorder. That same year, Selena Gomez revealed her lupus diagnosis in Billboard. The latest person to join this group is Chrissy Teigen, who via a Glamour magazine cover story in March announced that she was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. With our 24-hour news and social media cycle, celebs are positioning themselves as authentic catalysts to turn these moments into opportunities to bring awareness to these conditions. And media is the vehicle they choose for using their influence to create a lasting impact and ensure that these condition-based conversations stay at the forefront of the public’s consciousness.
Teigen is a social media star because she is extremely open and honest with her followers and tells it like it is. She has an extensive social media profile across Instagram (11.4 million followers), Twitter (4.96 million followers) and Snapchat. Her Instagram post that corresponded with the Glamour piece has received over 917,000 likes and 16,000 comments and her tweet the day the article was released got over 65,000 likes and was re-tweeted 13,000 times. Her essay on PPD resonated so deeply with her followers because she didn’t attempt to sugarcoat anything; she talked about her symptoms such as mood swings, lack of energy, and getting physically ill due to the anxiety. She also let people know it is okay to open up and talk about PPD, acknowledging that her use of the word depression may even help lessen the stigma around it.
In the two weeks following Teigen’s Glamour piece on March 6, Google search interest for “postpartum depression” spiked to levels that were four times higher than what was seen during the three months prior. It is fair to say that there was a definitive correlation between Teigen’s announcement and the spike in search interest. Throughout this analysis, the most interesting thing to note was the 70% increase in searches of “what is postpartum depression.” The impact that Teigen’s revelation had in drawing attention to PPD proves the need to authentically share these moments about health conditions, especially highly stigmatized ones, and the value that disease awareness and education can have.
The intent with disease or condition awareness and education (DSA) is to arm patients and caregivers with valuable information that helps them make informed decisions for themselves or loved ones. While Teigen’s announcement was not supported by a pharmaceutical company, it did provide some of the desired effects of a DSA campaign.
First and foremost, the Glamour piece and their promotion of the story across various media platforms, including Teigen’s tremendous social network brought considerable awareness to women living with PPD and anxiety. Second, it got people talking about her essay and PPD. In the weeks after the Glamour piece, other major publications picked up on Teigen’s essay and four of the top five Google search results for “chrissy teigen postpartum depression” are from People, Vanity Fair,Huffington Post and CNN. The ultimate outcome is that it drove people to take action and learn more, as evidenced by the major spike in search interest for postpartum depression.
As is typical in this day and age, shortly after the announcement and the initial surge in interest, search trends have dipped back down to similar levels that were seen prior to the announcement. This lends itself to the understanding that in order to truly impact the public’s knowledge of a health condition it takes more than a one-off celebrity story. It requires the media to persistently drive the effort, whether it be paid, earned or, ideally, both.
While not to the level of Teigen, Glamour itself has quite the social portfolio across Facebook(5.3 million Likes), Instagram (1.4 million followers), Twitter (1.3 million followers) and Pinterest (261,000 followers). Because it has already sparked this conversation — and has a large, primed audience — they could expand upon their initial effort by following up this story with features on “regular” people living with PPD or perhaps even bringing back Teigen as a guest contributor to chronicle her life with PPD.
One article alone is just a story, but the ability to combine that story with ongoing media and extensive social outreach can create a steady stream of enlightening and inspiring conversations that keep lesser-known health issues on the public's radar.