In 2017, a radical Islamic terrorist detonated a shrapnel-laden homemade bomb at the Manchester Arena in the UK, killing himself and twenty-two innocent bystanders and injuring 139 others. The suicide bombing took place immediately after an Ariana Grande concert.
The act of senseless violence had a lasting impact on the singer’s mental health. This week, Grande, 25, took to Instagram to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by sharing a comparison of her own brain and a healthy brain, which she captioned as “hilarious and terrifying.”
The “Thank You, Next” singer posted side-by-side pictures of a healthy brain and a brain with PTSD, which had several illuminated areas. She also shared a scan of her own brain which like the PTSD scan, was also illuminated in several areas.
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PTSD affects roughly 10% of women and 4% of men, according to Psychology Today. The disorder is accompanied by numerous symptoms, including re-experiencing the trauma through distressing memories of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares, emotional shock, and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the ordeal, and an increased difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling anxious, and being easily aggravated and angered.
In an interview with British Vogue, Grande spoke about her experience with PTSD. “It’s hard to talk about because so many people have suffered such severe, tremendous loss. But, yeah, it’s a real thing,” she said. “I know those families and my fans, and everyone there experienced a tremendous amount of it as well. Time is the biggest thing. I feel like I shouldn’t even be talking about my own experience – like I shouldn’t even say anything. I don’t think I’ll ever know how to talk about it and not cry.”
Grande also revealed her ongoing struggle with anxiety. “I think a lot of people have anxiety, especially right now,” she said. “My anxiety has anxiety… I’ve always had anxiety. I’ve never really spoken about it because I thought everyone had it, but when I got home from tour it was the most severe I think it’s ever been.”
The singer has continued to be open about her struggle with anxiety. In 2017, she shared on her Instagram Stories that she had almost backed out of performing at NBC’s Very Wicked Halloween Special, a celebration of the musical’s 15th anniversary.
“Can’t believe I almost let my anxiety ruin this for me today!!!” Grande wrote. “not today Satan ! not tomorrow or the next day either … finna sing my heart out and be a big walking vessel of love bye.”
More and more, celebrities like Prince William, Prince Harry, Shawn Mendes, Sterling K. Brown, and Grande are helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, helping those who are struggling with PTSD, anxiety or other mental health issues to seek treatment.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depressive, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma-related disorders, 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD. Sixty-seven percent of people exposed to mass violence tend to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events. In addition, those who have experienced previous traumatic events run a higher risk of developing PTSD. The disorder can also affect children and members of the military.