Top 10 Courageous Celebrities That Have Shared Their Struggles With Mental Illness

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10 Courageous Black Celebrities That Have Shared Their Struggles With Mental Illness

The recent news of the death of former Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, as well as Regina King’s only child, Ian Alexander Jr., has caused a wave of heartbreak within the entertainment community and the world, at large. However, the suicidal cause of both deaths has exacerbated feelings of grief from the tragedies. 

The ever-increasing number of deaths by suicide in the past few years alone (with it being the 10th cause of death in 2019) comes to not only show how critical it is to destigmatize talk of mental health but specifically how important it is for individuals within communities that shy away from these topics, particularly the black community, to talk openly of their struggles with their mental health and for others to listen and to support them.

Therefore, we have decided to spotlight the plethora of actors and artists who have spoken out about their own troubles with anxiety, depression, etc., and the tools that have helped them in their treatment. In no specific order, here is a list of 10 black celebrities who started the conversation about mental health:

1. André 3000

Despite seemingly belonging in the spotlight, the acclaimed singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actor André 3000 has often tried to avoid it. In 2020 on Rick Rubin’s Broken Record Podcast, the artist spoke of his struggles with social anxiety and hypersensitivity disorder, “I spend 95 percent of my time by myself. That gives you time to analyze, and the brain loves to find problems even if they’re not there,” he said. He further goes on to emphasize the importance of “break[ing] out of that kind of thing” and being around others when suffering from disorders that predicate on isolation.

2. Kendrick Lamar

The celebrated rapper has become a household name for his innovative music, and for his shockingly fast rise to fame from being a 17-year old kid from Compton making mixtapes to being signed by a top record label, Top Dog Entertainment, only a year later.

However, his accolades are due, in part, to how he has integrated his own experiences with depression into his music, “I know your secrets… I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons… And if this bottle could talk I cry myself to sleep / B—- everything is your fault… Shoulda killed yo a– a long time ago / You shoulda feeled that black revolver blast a long time ago / And if those mirrors could talk it would say ‘you gotta go’ / And if I told your secrets / The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.”

In this emotional song, “U,” Lamar discusses his struggle to cope with his illness, as he’s dealt with alcoholism and suicidal ideation, despite his success.

3. Lisa Nicole Carson

Ally McBeal and Love Jones star Lisa Nicole Carson has suffered from Bipolar Disorder for a number of years. However, her experience with mental illness has given her the strength to speak up about and dismantle the “Strong Black Women” stereotype. In an Essence interview, she said “I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall.”

4. Jada Pinkett-Smith 

Instagram @Jada Pinkett Smith.

While opening up on her popular Red Table Talk Facebook Watch Show, Jada Pinkett Smith spoke on a brief period in her 20’s when she felt “extremely suicidal.” The actress has thankfully overcome her depression, but she recognizes that the majority of her healing came from “uprooting some false beliefs” and accepting “just what life is.”

5. Jay-Z

Jay-Z is not only a staunch advocate of mental health resources being placed in public schools, but he’s also a supporter of therapy. While promoting his 4:44 album in a sit-down interview with The New York Times, the rapper explained how fulfilling therapy was for him, “I grew so much from the experience. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such a … you’re at such an advantage.”

6. Brandon Marshall

In 2011, NFL star Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) — a mental illness characterized by unstable emotions, relationships, and behaviors. Rather than hiding his diagnosis and further stigmatizing mental illness, Marshall and his wife, Michi Nogami, became advocates for mental illness awareness with their Project 375 foundation.

In an interview with Essence, Marshall speaks on what he’s learned from his experience with the disorder, “I used to think that mental health meant mental toughness and masking pain,” he says. “I was raised in a community where you didn’t admit to any weakness. As a football player, you never show weakness to your opponent. But when you think about it, connecting with those emotions is the real strength.”

7. Keke Palmer

Instagram @Keke.

While known for her bubbly personality, the actress and television host, Keke Palmer has dealt with anxiety and depression. She spoke exclusively with ESSENCE about her experience with mental illness, saying, “We all have our trials and errors with different things in our lives. Everything is not the end of the world. I realized as I got older, I would love to have told myself that.”

8. Zendaya

Instagram @Zendaya.

Zendaya has been mainly linked to mental illness, while acting in the HBO show Euphoria, where she plays Rue, a drug addict with bipolar disorder and a number of anxiety disorders. However, what some don’t know is that she has suffered from brief episodes of depression in the past.

In the October 2021 issue of British Vogue, she says that it was when things started slowing down, during the pandemic that she felt that, “first kind of taste of sadness where you wake up and you just feel bad all day, like what the f—k is going on?” However, like many others on this list, she has sought out therapy and is a devoted advocate of it, “if anybody is able to possess the financial means to go to therapy, I would recommend they do that. I think it’s a beautiful thing. There’s nothing wrong with working on yourself and dealing with those things with someone who can help you.”  

9. Fantasia 

In 2010, the American Idol winner, Fantasia, attempted to take her own life after overdosing on aspirin and sleep pills. In an interview with GMA, the singer shared that her depression was caused by years of repressing her emotions, “I think it was just six years of everything, of me holding all that stuff on the inside and not letting it out…I got very, very tired.” Following the attempt, she began speaking to a life coach who helped her regain her strength.

10. Kehlani

In 2016, there was an outcry throughout Twitter after R&B singer Kehlani attempted to take her own life. In a now-deleted Instagram post, Kehlani stated, “I’m not a bad person… everyone is hurt and everyone is in a place of misunderstanding… But as of today, I had no single wish to see tomorrow.”

Since then, the singer has thankfully made a full recovery and now speaks on suicide and how to support those dealing with mental illness, “If you have a friend and they’re scaring you a little, just love them. Just hug them, and love them up, and tell ’em that it’s good, okay. And from me to you, you are worth it, you are perfect, you need to be here, you are meant to be here.”

This article is written, in part, to show that nobody is ever truly alone in their pain, whether they’re celebrities like Cheslie Kryst and Ian Alexander Jr., or they’re regular people like you and me. At one time or another, somebody like you has felt depressed or suffered from anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc; however, the time is now to speak up about it, because people are ready to listen and hear you. 

If you’re struggling or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to the resources below: 

BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective): 1 (800) 604-5841

GLBT National Hotline:  (888)-843-4564

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK

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