It’s no longer just rock stars getting inked - singers, comedians, actors, and more continue to sport tattooed bodies. An abundance of celebrities also advocate for mental health and Psychiatrist Donald Sklar provides insight to suggest the two are closely connected to one another. Scott Helman, Pete Davidson, and Ariana Grande are just a few mental health advocates who demonstrate having an abundance of tattoos and living with mental health disorders go hand-in-hand.
Scott Helman, a 25 year old Toronto-born singer, openly talks about his ADHD diagnosis and touches on his struggles with addiction, depression and anxiety. His mental health impacts many aspects of his life from his music to his tattoos. Helman has an arm full of colourful, mis-matched tattoos, with some on his legs and hands as well. He explains why he started getting inked at only 18 years old,
“I connected a lot more with being an outsider and being an outcast, and being an artist, so it just made sense to me. I actually went with my mom to get my first one which is so funny ‘cause I’m like, ‘I wanted to be a badass outsider’ and then my mom took me to some place in North York. My dad was pissed.”
Helman also says that getting tattoos provides him with a sense of control in curating his appearance,
“I get to decide for myself what’s important and what deserves imagery, and what deserves to be represented and then I can put that on my body.”
In regards to his ADHD diagnosis, Helman states after undergoing four days of testing with a “psychologist dude”, the day he found out he had ADHD was the best day of his life,
“I remember running into my elementary school with the piece of paper and screaming, ‘I have ADHD! They figured it out!’”
Helman says his ADHD either causes him to focus intensely for a long period of time or for no longer than five minutes. He also says he has a “super addictive personality” and believes his ADHD definitely played a role in his decision to get so many tattoos,
“Once I got one, I was just like, let’s get a thousand!”
Psychiatrist Donald Sklar explains the state of your mental health has a substantial impact on your decision making skills. This speaks to why many celebrities with mental illnesses partake in excessive tattoo-getting.
He states, “If you’re overly narcissistic you might become involved in more impulsive and more dangerous, attention-seeking behaviours.”
Sklar goes on to explicate why those who have dealt with trauma or mental illness are drawn to engaging in risky behaviours,
“Because of the way they deal with their past, the individual can become either hyper-alert and avoidant, or engage in more risky behaviours.”
Pete Davidson, comedian and SNL regular, emulates this risky behaviour as a way to cope with his mental illnesses. At the age of just seven years old, Davidson lost his firefighter father during the 9/11 terrorist attack when his Dad died at the scene while responding in the line of duty. Largely because of this loss, he battles with borderline personality disorder, depression, suicidal-thoughts, and bipolar disorder.
Davidson aims to raise awareness for mental health through comedy, despite his self-deprecating humour often being mistaken as making light of serious issues.
In an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Davidson explains when he reaches “rock bottom” he resorts to cutting. He continues to say the act of getting tattoos - he has 104 according to Body Art Guru - and the feeling associated with it acts as a substitute for his self-harming tendencies,
“I cut my chest. That’s why I started getting tats on my chest - to cover them. It’s just like a release, if you can’t get a tattoo.”
Tattoos are a means of creative expression and can double as a cover-up for self-harm wounds. As explained by Sklar, the past traumatic experiences these mental health advocates have endured is directly tied to their engagement in getting tattoos - an inherently risky behaviour.
Moreover, Sklar states there is a correlation between mental health and creativity, explaining that “having an early difficult experience, tends to make one more creative”.
Not surprisingly, the careers and lives of Scott Helman, Pete Davidson, and Ariana Grande are all rooted in creativity and getting tattoos serves as an additional creative outlet.
Ariana Grande has 55 tattoos and counting according to an article from Insider, which also states she got “at least 40” tattoos since the beginning of 2018. Uncoincidentally, Grande began building upon her tattoo collection shortly after the Manchester bombing which killed 22 individuals, and injured over 800 others who attended her concert on May 22, 2017. Consequently Grande lives with PTSD, battles depression and anxiety and is an avid tattoo-getter.
While tattoos remain trendy, it seems as if celebrities who endure mental health struggles will continue to be the face of tattoo-reason for fans around the world for years to come.