There’s an unfortunate stigma around mental illness, which results in a culture of silence around the subject. In the black community, that culture of silence is twofold, thanks to narratives and stereotypes that place black men and women in boxes of strength and invulnerability that leave little room for reaching out.
Luckily, in recent years, more and more black people, including those in the public eye, have opened up about dealing with and overcoming the struggles of mental illness.
In honor of Minority Mental Health Month, which is recognized in July, below are some prominent black celebs, from Alicia Keys to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, talking about how they overcame mental illness.
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In 2013, the former Destiny’s Child member revealed that she has been battling depression since she was a teenager. “We’re taught, ‘Just go to church and pray about it. The Lord is going to heal you,'” Williams told HuffPost at the time.
“Well, in the meantime, I believe God-gifted people, physicians, doctors, therapists —that’s your healing. Take advantage of it,” she said. “Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It’s OK if you’re going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is OK to go get help.”
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Marshall, a wide receiver for the New York Giants and founder of the mental health initiative Project 375, opened up about his ongoing experience with borderline personality disorder in a 2015 HuffPost blog.
“We need to accept that mental illness is a disease — and like any other disease, it needs stronger research, early screening and treatment, especially for young people,” the athlete wrote.
In a 2007 interview with People, Keys revealed that she has dealt with depression in the past. “I was feeling so sad all the time, and I couldn’t shake it,” Keys said.
“I started burying my feelings, and it got to a point where I couldn’t even tell my family or my friends, ‘I’m twisted,’ or ‘I’m exhausted,’ or ‘I’m so angry.’ … I became a master of putting up the wall so that I was unreadable,” she said.
The singer-songwriter said she had to “learn to let go” in order to get through it.
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Wayne Brady has been very vocal about his depression throughout the years. In a 2014 interview on ET, the comedian admitted that he’d suffered a debilitating mental breakdown.
“Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad week is another, having a bad life … You don’t want to move, you can’t move in the darkness,” Brady explained.
“It took me a while to get my stuff together to go, ‘You know what? If you’re not happy, you have to do something about it,’” the comedian added.
“Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step,” he said. “To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.’”
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Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, has been very public about how his sports psychologist saved his life.
Speaking with ESPN in 2015, Peace explained: “Everybody has different issues, good or bad, that they carry with them on the court. It affects you. And for me, it affected me to where sometimes I would be overly aggressive and, in other ways, it would affect people to where they can’t perform on the court.”
“I was always able to perform, but sometimes I would act out and I wanted to see a sports psychologist,” he continued. “Because to me, I didn’t need a psychologist to get my mind right. I needed a psychologist to help me perfect what I love, and I can’t perfect it when I’m on the bench or when I’m getting suspended because I’m playing upset.”
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Lisa Nicole Carson, best known for her role on the ’90s hit TV show “Ally McBeal,” revealed in 2015 that she took a decade-long hiatus from Hollywood due to complications with bipolar disorder.
Carson wrote in Essence, “I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh*t together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical. Do not be afraid to go to a therapist or a doctor to make sure everything is fine.”
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Known for his charm and his thousand-watt smile, Johnson has discussed his darker moments with depression in the past. “I didn’t know what it was,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of his first bout of depression in his 20s. “I didn’t know why I didn’t want to do anything. I had never experienced anything like that.”
On a 2015 episode of “Oprah’s Master Class,” Johnson said that he got through depression by realizing that he wasn’t alone.
“Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good,” he said.
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The rapper has had a long and public battle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. In 2011, he spoke candidly with ABC News about his ongoing struggle, saying:
“I used to be really clear on who was what and what characteristics each personality had. But I don’t know at this point. I’m not even sure there is a difference. I’m Earl when I’m with my children. I miss my children,” the rapper said.
He added that, though he still struggles, God has been a big part of his healing process.
“Every day, I start my day off with a prayer, ask God to guide my steps. Cover me and keep me safe.”
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In 1998, Jackson told The Washington Post that she struggled with depression throughout her early career, and made the mistake of not reaching out for help.
“I remember, even after the ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour in 1990, when I was in my early 20s, I was really bummed out,” Jackson said.
“Looking back on it now, it was depression,” she said. “But it hits a lot of people — and a lot of artists — and I didn’t know that. Nobody ever talked about that in my family — I still haven’t talked to anybody in my family about it.”
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Jennifer Lewis, one of Hollywood’s most beloved character actors, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two decades ago.
“It’s hard to accept that you have a problem,” Lewis told NewsOne about her diagnosis.
“That’s another piece of the disease – the denial,” she added. “You think everyone cries themselves to sleep. You should ask yourself why am I so depressed, why am I so angry with my children, angry with my partner … why am I depressed, or over the top?”
Lewis, who currently stars on “Black-ish,” says that one must practice self-love in order to overcome mental illness: “You have to look in the mirror … and say, before you can go or grow into anything, you have to say you love yourself.”
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In October 2016, Kid Cudi shared a deeply candid Facebook post in which he wrote about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans,” Cudi wrote.
“Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges,” he continued. “I am not at peace. I haven’t been since you’ve known me.”
The post sparked an important conversation about mental health in the black community, especially among black men.