With the sudden death of her young cousin and an unexpected second kidney transplant, it’s been a difficult year and a half for Sarah Hyland. But the 28-year-old Modern Family actress says she’s just getting started. “It was the worst and best year of my life,” Hyland says in a new video for Self magazine. “It started out horrific, but it ended with a beautiful beginning — of not just a new chapter, but a new book.”
Hyland goes on to explain how two years ago, her body began rejecting the kidney she received from her dad in 2012. “When a family member gives you a second chance at life and it fails, it almost feels like it’s your fault,” she says. “It’s not. But it does.” Hyland says she had to undergo dialysis until she was able to find another donor — which, this time, turned out to be her younger brother, Ian.
Although the second transplant went well and Hyland’s health is stable (“my numbers are good”), she’s still reeling from the depression that her chronic illness fueled — depression that ultimately led to suicidal thoughts. “At that time I was very depressed,” she says on the Self video, through tears. “For a long time I was contemplating suicide. I had gone through 26 years of always being a burden. Of always having to be looked after, having to be cared for, ’cause I’ve always had health issues, and it’s a really helpless feeling. Things like this can be really hard on a person.”
Hyland says she’s doing better now, but she’s far from the first to experience suicidal thoughts as a result of chronic illness. A study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario in August 2017 found that people between the ages of 15 and 30 living with chronic illness are three times more likely to attempt suicide as the rest of the population. Another study from September 2017, found that 19 different chronic health conditions — from Crohn’s disease to insomnia — increase suicide risk.
Other celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Lena Dunham and Lady Gaga have all opened up about the mental health struggles they’ve faced as a result of chronic health conditions. The last of whom penned a powerful piece in the Guardian calling for change. “Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address,” Lady Gaga wrote. “Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”
As for Hyland, who appears on the cover of Self magazine’s December issue, it seems it’s time for some rest, relaxation and — if her boyfriend has anything to do with it — movies.
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