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A New Era: Hip-Hop’s Influence on Developing Mental Health Awareness Within The Black Community

Hip-Hop and R&B have both stood as a prominent form of artistic expression for the Black community throughout the decades of its existence. It depicts the current fashion trends, voices our experiences about the society we live in, and mirrors the emotions we feel during a certain time period. Moreover, the influence of many Hip-Hop’s artists, alone, are catalysts for shifts in our way of life and our mentality about certain topics, ultimately leading to some pivotal changes in our culture.

Most recently, in a touching, open letter to his fans via his Facebook, rapper Kid Cudi bravely announced that he had checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. In the letter he stated, “I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. Im scared, Im sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, Im sorry. Its time I fix me. Im nervous but ima get through this.” Days before Cudi’s announcement, singer Solange released her album, A Seat At The Table, a masterpiece of unapologetic, Black pride and a proclamation of the importance of self-care. On the album’s sixth track, Mad, Lil Wayne gives his testimony of past struggles with depression. “Or when I attempted suicide, I didn’t die. I remember how mad I was on that day. Man, you gotta let it go before it get up in the way. Let it go, let it go…” Another song, Borderline (An Ode To Self-Care), hit the nail right on the head. “You know I have the world to think, and I know I gotta go ahead and take some time. Because the last thing that I want is to think that it’s time that I leave the borderline. So let’s take it off tonight, Break it off tonight. Baby let’s know when to let go, know when to let go. Take it off tonight, Break it off tonight. Baby I know you’re tired, know I’m tired…” The song (ironically bearing the same name as a DSM-V Mental Health Disorder) is a beautifully written piece with a vital message: it’s necessary for us to take time out to nurture our mental, emotionally, and spiritual well-being.

Let’s be frank.  We’ve attached a lot of stigma and bias to counseling, rehab, or other forms of therapeutic treatment.  From reading the amount of “sorry’s” in Kid Cudi’s message, it’s obvious that society’s stigmatization of male emotion, specifically for Black men, makes them feel as though they have to suffer in silence. And let’s not forget how, as Black women, we mask our grievances with the Superwoman façade, trying to hold down our spouses, our positions in the workplace, coming home to raise the children and maintain the house all while trying to keep our appearance in tact and hold everyone else together in the process. A good number of us pour so much of ourselves into other people that we leave little to no time for our own self-care. This makes it difficult to be transparent about our insecurities or shortcomings when we’re constantly expected to “man/woman-up” or “stay strong”. Not to mention, most of us are financial disadvantaged when it comes to affording these kinds of therapeutic practices, anyway. 

With all the potential trauma-inducing events that plague Black men and women, it’s natural for the importance of protecting one’s mental health to become a trending theme playing out in our artistic expression of music. A confession which may have once received judgment now receives an outpouring of support, and as a huge Kid Cudi fan, my heart smiled to see his Black, male peers rally behind him. Tweets like, “Tell a black man it’s okay to show emotion today,” and the hashtag  #YouGoodMan are telling evidence of our growing comfort in talking about depression, suicide, and other unspoken issues within the Black community. As we endure the constant battle of navigating the systematic mental oppression of white supremacy throughout the world, it seems as though we are finally giving in to our need to breakdown. No more holding it all in and holding the world up with no stops in between.  Because artist such as Cudi, Lil Wayne, and many more are opening up about their struggles with depression, we are transitioning into a new era for the awareness of mental health amongst Black people. Furthermore, our pursuit of happiness and emotional stability are nothing to apologize or feel guilty for. As a budding therapist hoping to work with Black families in particular, I’m elated to see how the music is changing our perspective around the shame in seeking help or even admitting the need for help in the first place.

A close friend once told me, “We are only at the beginning of Black healing.” That is, still one of the truest statements I’ve heard in a while.

Sending love and positive energy to Scott Mescudi during his journey, and giving thanks to him and other Black artist who have come clean about seeking help for their struggles with mental health.

Peace

 

photo courtesy of saintheron.com

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