Goldie Hawn Shares Her Experience With Mental Health at UCLA Women’s Summit

Goldie Hawn - Getty - H 2018
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Hawn was joined by moderator Lisa Kudrow, plus Tipper Gore and Candice Bergen at the Wonder of Women Conference on Wednesday.

"I lost my smile," said Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn to a room filled with about 200 women and a handful of men.

It was a sensitive moment at the Wonder of Women summit in the UCLA Luskin Conference Center, an inaugural event backed by the Semel Institute — bringing scientists, actresses and trailblazers together to discuss the stigma around female mental illness.

Hawn, a keynote speaker at the all-day summit, shared with guests her experiences with identity and depression, and her path to happiness. "My life changed in a moment," she said after explaining her difficult transition from a career as a dancer to an actress. "When people asked me what I wanted to be, I told them I wanted to be happy," Hawn said, sharing that there was a significant period in her life when she was not.

Hawn spent nine years in therapy — not because she needed to, she said, but because she was fascinated by the human mind. And after taking up the practice of meditation in 1972, Hawn had an experience that was like "meeting (herself) again for the first time."

"There is nothing more important than learning how your brain works," she said. "It allows us to become kinder and more aware."

The Wonder of Women Summit consisted of talks and panels, with Friends alum Lisa Kudrow both emceeing and moderating. In addition to the panels discussing mental health, the summit ran the gamut of topics, including female visibility, other medical conditions such as heart health, cultural roles and female political voices. 

Co-chairs Cece Feiler and Terry Hyman Hamermash told The Hollywood Reporter that they believe there cannot be whole health without mental health, explaining that whole health should encompass body and mind. The summit circled back to the entertainment industry when actress Candice Bergen and writer Diane English of the 1989 to 1999 CBS comedy Murphy Brown addressed guests about women in politics and the workplace. After showing the famous clip of Bergen's character addressing the vice president after being criticized for being a single parent, Bergen and English dove into a discussion about the topic. 

"Murphy was a show that always had something to say about the social and political change in our country," English explained. Murphy Brown is set to return with a new season this fall. 

"We start filming Aug. 3," Bergen said. "And the first episode is appropriately called 'Fake News.'" 

"Women feel stress more severely than men," English said, going on to explain that she was met with startling statistics after meeting with a cancer specialist while writing the last season of the show. "The character Murphy was diagnosed with breast cancer in the last season of the show," she said. "(The specialist) shared with me a study that showed that six to eight years before a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, the likelihood that she experienced a traumatic event is extreme." 

After a break, former second lady Tipper Gore and Nancy Rubin took to the stage. Furthering the dialogue of mental health, Gore and Rubin spoke to the mental toll that politics has brought from their early careers in the 1970s to now. "We weren't invited to or included in anything that our husbands were," Rubin explained, noting that being a young woman at the cusp of a career in Washington was incredibly stressful. But both women had a personal connection to their advocacy for the de-stigmatization of mental illness. 

"Sometimes you choose a cause, but sometimes a cause chooses you," Rubin said, and went on to explain that witnessing her mother battle the physical and mental toll of cancer inspired her to found Community Outreach, an organization dedicated to prevent suicide. With the support and alliance of Tipper Gore, who has worked to equalize the perception of mental health, their partnership and friendship has lasted decades.

The summit concluded with a personal story. Talinda Bennington, the founder of 320 Changes Direction and wife of late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington who committed suicide in July of 2017, shared with the guests the lessons she has learned since her husband's death. "He died when we, his friends and family, thought he was OK," Bennington said. "We were married, we were best friends, but since his death I have learned about his struggles, his conditions — and him."