When Ashley Judd read the script for her latest movie, Helen, she worried the role could drag her back to her own dark mental days. The famous actress, who in 2006 went into treatment for depression and codependence, told the Canadian website Canoe that she worried playing a woman struggling with mental illness could trigger the emotions that led her to seek treatment in the first place.

Judd asked two close friends about the wisdom of taking the part. “I said [to them], ‘Do you think I can do this movie and stay safe? Can I play the disease without being in the disease?’ And they said, ‘How dare you not? You of all people are so uniquely equipped…. And you can carry the message in a way that perhaps few others can.’”

In the film, Judd plays the part of Helen, a woman who seems to have it all but who struggles mightily with depression and suicidal feelings. The film, costarring Goran Visnjic as Judd’s husband, premiered to good reviews at the Sundance Movie Festival in 2008 but has yet to find an American distributor.

The 40-year-old Judd has said she struggled with depression since she was a child but didn’t feel there might be a solution until she visited her sister, the singer Wynonna Judd, who was being treated for an eating disorder at a rehabilitation center.

Ultimately, Judd said, she was able to remain detached enough from playing a deeply depressed woman that it didn’t negatively affect her life.