31 celebrities who smashed the stigma surrounding mental illness in 2016.

"Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist."

It may not seem like that big of a deal when a celebrity speaks up about their experiences with mental illness. But it is.

Throughout 2016, dozens of actors, authors, artists, and athletes — trailblazers we're used to seeing smiling on red carpets or snagging gold medals on TV — shared the personal battles they've faced behind closed doors. It was a groundbreaking year.

“It levels the playing field," Aaron Harvey says of the many public figures who chose to speak up. Harvey is the founder of Intrusive Thoughts, a group set on humanizing those living with mental illness. “Suddenly, you realize the same struggles that you have might be the same struggles that someone you really idolize have. And that [makes it] OK."

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When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem before an August preseason game against Green Bay, he was the only one.

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," the quarterback told NFL.com following the game.  

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