Hip-hop works to break down mental health stigma for black men

Tears streamed down the face of suicide survivors as they stood on the stage at the Video Music Awards as hip-hop artist Logic performed “1-800-273-8255,” a song titled after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The bi-racial rapper, who openly discussed having anxiety, has used his music to address the seriousness of mental health and urge people from diverse backgrounds to seek professional assistance.

“I just want to thank you all so much for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about,” he said during the VMAs in August.
Image: Khalid, from left, Logic, and Alessia Cara perform “1-800-273-8255” at the MTV

A history of stigma surrounds mental health, specifically in the black community, and it contributes to the normalization of self-medication and ignoring destructive symptoms, experts say. In 2015, 2,504 blacks died by suicide in the United States, 2,023 or 80.79 percent of which were male, according to a report from the American Association of Suicidology.

“In the black community we sweep those things under the rug, because we just don’t know how to have those conversations,” said Dr. Daphne Watkins, director of the Joint Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Science at the University of Michigan.

In recent years, hip-hop has increasingly served as a catalyst for awareness and created a culture that promotes discussion, especially within the black community. Rappers are using social media and lyrics to address their vulnerabilities with fans.

Just weeks after the VMA performance, Logic broke down on stage at Thrival Innovation and Music Festival due to exhaustion, but used that as an opportunity to be transparent with fans.

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