This year during Black History Month we want to highlight public figures who are advocates for mental health in the Black and African American communities. In the past, there has been a stigma around mental health, which has caused many people to stay silent about their struggles. These types of stigmas have been increasingly detrimental to racial and ethnic minorities, causing these groups of people to remain silent and not get help when needed.
However, in recent years, many public figures have come forward and talked about their personal struggles with mental health and how they are advocating for the Black community through various platforms.
Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson is an American singer and actress who has been open about her struggles with depression and anxiety. After losing the father of her son in 2003, and losing her father to cancer in 2006, Taraji has been dealt some difficult situations. In 2018 Taraji created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation as the pioneering Black mental health advocacy agency in the U.S. She named the foundation after her father because he struggled with his own form of mental health struggles much like her but was unable to access resources or gain support. In addition to her foundation in 2020 Taraji created and co-hosts a bi-weekly Facebook watch series about mental health called Peace of Mind with Taraji and features mental health advocate Tracie Jade. Taraji is helping to break the stigma about mental health struggles in the Black community and providing resources for everyone to get help whenever they are ready.
Brandon Marshall is a former NFL player and Superbowl winner with the Denver Broncos. Brandon says that he has dealt with mental health struggles since college, which led him to act out in various ways. After realizing that he needed more help than just traditional therapy, Brandon checked himself into McLean Hospital in 2011 through a three-month outpatient program. While there, he received various forms of treatment and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While playing in the NFL was Brandon’s platform, it would not be his ultimate purpose in life. After announcing during a press conference about his BPD diagnoses, one of his teammates pulled him aside and thanked him for shedding like on topics like this. In 2016 Brandon and his wife Michi Marshall created the foundation Project 375, which is dedicated to education, support, and treatment for mental health. Brandon has this to say about the stigma regarding mental health challenges, “we’re telling boys who are going to be men not to connect with emotions, not to show pain. It’s not okay. So 100% there’s a stigma attached to men and mental health, but that is being broken as well.” Brandon is an excellent example to boys and men in the Black community that mental health is essential, it’s not something that you be ashamed of.
Michelle Obama is the former First Lady of the United States of America. Michelle has been an advocate for veterans, service members, and military family members seeking mental health help, as well as a huge advocate for girls and women’s health, education, and rights. Michelle has been very candid about how she has suffered from low-grade depression due to the pandemic, racial tensions, and political divisions in the U.S. She expressed her frustrations regarding how the Black community was supposed to just brush off all the racially charged events and murders happening around the nation. And how it was unrealistic for the Black community to rise above the trauma, and not expected to feel the devastation and losses around the country, the Black community needed time to heal and mourn all the loses.
Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi who is known by his stage name Kid Cudi is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor. He has been very vocal about his battle with anxiety and depression over the years, speaking about it through his music, interviews, and social media. Kid Cudi released a heartfelt message to his fans through Facebook in October of 2016 that he had checked himself into rehab for his struggle with depression and suicidal urges. Kid Cudi spoke about how he needed to do this for himself and his family, his daughter, and his fans. After his post went viral, it sparked a hashtag movement on Twitter #YouGoodMan. This hashtag movement brought awareness for Black men to open up and talk about their experiences with mental health. In 2020 Kid Cudi released his album Man on the Moon III, in which, through many songs, he talks about his internal struggle with mental health. Kid Cudi is an inspiration not only to the music world but to all of the Black community and how it’s okay to not be okay, and that there’s no shame in asking for help.
If there is one thing any of us can take away from these four different public figures, with four completely different backgrounds is that you’re not alone when it comes to your mental health challenges. And it’s okay to ask for help.
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