‘Billions’ Actor Malin Akerman Opens Up About Mother’s Struggle With Depression to Help Normalize Conversations Around Mental Health

Malin Akerman may be starring in a new televisions series. The “Billions” actor exclusively tells me that she recently shot a pilot for a dark comedy that addresses suicide. It was written by her husband Jack Donnelly.

For Akerman, who plays a therapist on the show, mental health issues hit close to home because her mother struggled with depression for most of her childhood. The experience inspired Akerman’s work with On Our Sleeves, an organization that helps families talk about mental health.

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“It was up and down with my mom, as it is with depression,” Akerman says. “Sometimes she went real dark and we didn’t see her for days. She would lock herself in her room. And sometimes she was the best thing since sliced bread. And that was so much fun. She’s such a great person. I feel for her. I feel for anyone who struggles with depression.”

While it wasn’t discussed much when Akerman was growing up — her mom wasn’t diagnosed with depression until her later years — she says the family is now very open about their experiences. “It was hard for both of us,” Akerman says. “We’ve talked about it since and now we have a good relationship.”

It took some time for Akerman to realize that mental health struggles are “not a bad thing, but a normal thing.”

“It’s something I’ve had to unpack and work on over the years,” she says. “It’s been part of my journey of breaking family patterns — the ones that I don’t want, and keeping the ones that are great.”

On Our Sleeves provides resources for adults to get children talking more about mental health issues. Akerman celebrated her birthday last week by posting a message on her Instagram asking her 521,000 followers to make a donation to the organization.

She wants people to know that it’s OK to reach out. Getting more honest has strengthened her relationships with friends and family, she says.

“I grew up in survival mode,” Akerman says. “I kept my arm’s length distance from many people because that way you don’t get hurt, right? So now I’ve learned to ask for help and be vulnerable and let people in. It was a discovery to know this just made our friendship stronger. It made us more of a community. We’re all relating to each other. I felt seen for the first time. I didn’t allow it before. I always felt that other people have problems and I didn’t want to burden them with my problems. It was like, ‘I’m fine. I’ll be OK. I’ll fix them.’”

For more information on On Our Sleeves, go to onoursleeves.org.

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