'Stranger Things' Star Shannon Purser Talks About Her Struggles With Depression, Self-Harm

By David Konow 02/15/17

The actress, who plays fan-favorite Barb on the hit series, took to Twitter to share her mental health experience. 

Shannon Purser

While fans eagerly wait for the second season of Stranger Things—one of the hottest shows on Netflix—to come back this Halloween, actress Shannon Purser, who plays the role of Barb, decided to speak out about her struggles with depression and self-harm on social media. 

In one tweet posted January 23, Purser wrote, “100% understand. Depression and suicidal thoughts have been with me since I was in middle school. It’s NOT easy to stay alive sometimes.”

Last November, she addressed her self-harm through Twitter, posting a photo of a razor blade with the caption, "I haven't self-harmed in years, but I kept this around, 'just in case.' I forgot it was there & now it's in the trash."

Purser recently told US Weekly she had a hard time making friends when she changed middle schools, and retreated into herself. “I think that for a while my self-confidence and my tendency to want to be alone really didn’t do me any favors,” she explains. “So self-harm was something I could turn to that made me feel like I was doing something about all the negative feelings I had.”

Purser then sought help several years later, at which point she was so unhappy she couldn’t get out of bed. “I felt so isolated and so unworthy of love that I just had to go to my parents and say, ‘I think I really need help or I’m going to continue to fall apart.'”

Purser says she hasn’t self-harmed since she was 15, and now wants to help people who are suffering like she did. (In her tweets, she recommends the Crisis Text Line, which helps people through text messaging.)

“It’s very important to me that people know that depression doesn’t discriminate,” Purser says. “A lot of people look at people who have depression and think that it’s not legitimate because they’re wealthy or it looks like everything seems to be doing fine. But it doesn’t pick and choose. It can affect anybody in the brain, no matter how perfect your life seems."

"The most evil and insidious thing about mental illness is that it isolates us and makes us feel so different that we think no one can possibly relate," she continued. "In the end, that can be how it destroys us if we don’t let people into our struggle.”

Purser admits she still has days “when I feel just as miserable as I did in the worst of it,” but when she went public with her past mental health struggles last year, “it was a realization for me of how far I’ve come. I wanted to share that – not to hold onto things that are toxic for you.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.