Schools are no longer the only place adolescents are learning about mental health and its impact on the world around them. Hip-hop artists are raising awareness for one of the most pressing issues of the twenty-first century: mental illnesses, specifically depression. The genre has become an outlet for millions, as internationally recognized and well-known artists are sharing their personal experiences with mental health. Whether it be through lyrics or social media, these artists are showing that nobody is perfect, and that it’s okay to not be okay.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, one in five adults living in the United States suffers from a mental illness every year. “Although the 1990s saw enormous change in the U.S. mental health care system, little is known about changes in prevalence or treatment of mental disorders,” stated a study titled “US Prevalence and Treatment of Mental Disorders.” But as hip hop evolves, it is encouraging more people to normalize and destigmatize mental health issues.
While there are celebrities in every facet of fame sharing their stories, hip hop has arguably contributed the most to the dialogue. Artists have taken advantage of various social media platforms to share some of the mental health challenges they face. Kid Cudi, a rapper who has discussed mental health for years, informed fans via Facebook in 2016 that he was beginning therapy for “depression and suicidal urges.” On “The Arsenio Hall Show,” Cudi stated that his goal from the start “was to help kids not feel alone and stop kids from committing suicide.” This summer, Earl Sweatshirt canceled several concerts in a statement that cited ongoing fights with “anxiety and depression.” On the track “u,” Kendrick Lamar opened up about his life-long fight with depression, and XXXTENTACION centered his debut album “17” on depression, addressing his pain on nearly every track.
Logic discussed mental health — in particular, anxiety and depression — through the release of his song titled “1-800-273-8255,” after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (NSPL) phone number. According to John Draper, the NSPL’s director, the song’s impact was “pretty extraordinary”; the day the song was released marked the second-highest call volume in the history of the service. In the days following Logic’s performance of the song at the 2017 VMAs, the number of calls to the hotline was 33 percent than on the same dates of the year prior.
These publicized struggles with mental illness are helping listeners, everyday people, realize that the “larger than life” figures they look up to are just as prone to difficulties with mental health as everyone else. It is vital that these figures continue to express their emotions and inspire their listeners to seek help. As a community, we can use the genre as a tool toward further addressing mental health and supporting those struggling with it.