15 Times Black Celebrities Have Spoken Out About Prioritizing Their Mental Health

Photo:  Marcus Ingram (Getty Images)

Photo: Marcus Ingram (Getty Images)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a national movement to raise awareness around mental health in an effort to erase the stigma and provide people with the information and support they need. This issue is particularly concerning in the Black community, where adults are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems, including major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, according to research from the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry.

But celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Courtney B. Vance and Michelle Williams are doing their part to help erase the stigma around mental health. They have all been open about the ways in which therapy has helped them through some of the darkest moments in their lives and encourage others to seek help as well. Here are some of the times celebrities have been outspoken advocates for mental health.

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If you or someone you know needs help, these resources are available:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 (for English or Spanish) to be connected to trained counselors in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network

  • Crisis Text Line: Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service in English and Spanish.

“You don’t owe anyone years of your life in exchange for the decline of your mental and emotional health.” – Keri Hilson

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 09: Singer Keri Hilson performs onstage during halftime at the game between the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on February 09, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – FEBRUARY 09: Singer Keri Hilson performs onstage during halftime at the game between the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on February 09, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Singer Keri Hilson burst onto the scene in 2009 and seemingly had the world at her feet. But a less successful sophomore album and a painful breakup left her at a low point. But since that time, Hilson has been open about her battle with depression and how she’s managed to come out stronger on the other side.

In June 2022, she tweeted:

Just read: “You don’t owe anyone years of your life in exchange for the decline of your mental and emotional health.”

“I realized how people end up in the grave. Because that one moment of just breaking or feeling like I can’t, I can’t go on, it’s too heavy. That was somewhere I don’t ever want to go again.” – Fantasia Barrino

NEWARK, NJ - AUGUST 26: Singer-songwriter Fantasia Barrino performs on stage during the 2018 Black Girls Rock! at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey.

NEWARK, NJ – AUGUST 26: Singer-songwriter Fantasia Barrino performs on stage during the 2018 Black Girls Rock! at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey.

American Idol alum Fantasia Barrino battled depression for years before a 2010 suicide attempt. But she credits nurses in the hospital with nursing her back to health physically and mentally.

“I realized how people end up in the grave. Because that one moment of just breaking or feeling like I can’t, I can’t go on, it’s too heavy. That was somewhere I don’t ever want to go again.”

“I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health… My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth.” Kerry Washington

Photo:  Amanda Edwards (Getty Images)

Photo: Amanda Edwards (Getty Images)

Actress Kerry Washington has always been outspoken about the importance of her mental health. And in a 2015 interview with Glamour, Washington said she’s been open about seeing a therapist in hopes that it will help normalize the idea of prioritizing mental health.

“I say that publicly because I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health… My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?”

“Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Thankfully, I found my way through it.”Janet Jackson

Photo:  Kevin Kane (Getty Images)

Photo: Kevin Kane (Getty Images)

In a 2018 issue of ESSENCE, the GRAMMY-award winning singer got real about her ongoing struggle with depression and how she’s been able to work through it, writing:

“I struggled with depression. The struggle was intense … Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority. It could relate to failing to meet impossibly high standards. And of course there are always the societal issues of racism and sexism. Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Thankfully, I found my way through it.”

“It is important to not necessarily go because you think something’s wrong, but you should if you’re in an industry like this, prioritize it because nobody else will.”Issa Rae

Issa Rae Talks ‘Raedio’ and Prioritizing Therapy (Extended Cut) | The Read with Kid Fury and Crissle

In an interview on The Read podcast, writer, actress and producer Issa Rae opens up about choosing to make therapy a priority, saying:

“But it is important to not necessarily go [to therapy] because you think something’s wrong, but you should if you’re in an industry like this, prioritize it because nobody else will. And that’s what I’ve learned just throughout my journey here.”

“As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety, prioritizing and protecting your mental health is everything.” Janelle Monae

Photo:  Leon Bennett (Getty Images)

Photo: Leon Bennett (Getty Images)

Janelle Monae has been an outspoke advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. And in 2022, she was honored for her work with Trevor Project’s Suicide Prevention Advocate Award. In her acceptance speech, she encouraged the audience to make caring for their mental health

“As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety, prioritizing and protecting your mental health is everything. Amazing organizations like The Trevor Project have got your back, and I will personally continue to advocate for you and celebrate you always. No matter what you’re going through, your life matters so much — don’t let anyone try to dim your light.”

“In the African American community, we’ve been taught to tough it out, hide our suffering, but this is something none of us have ever experienced, and no one should suffer in silence.” Taraji P. Henson

Photo:  Greg Doherty (Getty Images)

Photo: Greg Doherty (Getty Images)

Taraji P. Henson might be one of the most outspoken advocates for mental health in Hollywood. In addition to being open about her own struggles with mental health issues, she’s done her part to help others in need. Her Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation works to erase the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community by connecting them with culturally-competent programs and resources.

In 2020, she launched a campaign to connect African Americans to free therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an announcement for the campaign, she said:

“In the African American community, we’ve been taught to tough it out, hide our suffering, but this is something none of us have ever experienced, and no one should suffer in silence.”

“To challenge myself to go to therapy, s###, that’s like a whole new step in a whole new generation. That’s growth.” – Kendrick Lamar

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 01: Kendrick Lamar attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 01: Kendrick Lamar attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar has always been candid about his struggles with mental health, even in his music. On the track “Father Time,” from his album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, he raps about learning to keep things inside from his father.

“I got daddy issues, that’s on me
Everything them four walls had taught me, made habits bury deep.”

Kendrick Lamar – Father Time ft. Sampha (Official Audio)

But n a Spotify mini doc entitled, “A Day In Ghana with Kendrick Lamar,” the rapper opened up about how he had to overcome issues of the past to get the help he needed.

“To challenge myself to go to therapy, s###, that’s like a whole new step in a whole new generation. That’s growth.”

“It’s challenging to talk about how you’re doing mentally since it’s an invisible injury — people can’t see it, so it’s harder to understand, but I think that’s why it’s so important we feel empowered to open up about it.”Simone Biles

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 22: Simone Biles during the AthletaWell Gold Medal Groove at Athleta Town & Country Village on January 22, 2023 in Houston, Texas.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 22: Simone Biles during the AthletaWell Gold Medal Groove at Athleta Town & Country Village on January 22, 2023 in Houston, Texas.

In a 2022 interview with Good Housekeeping, the gymnast talked about her decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games to focus on her mental health, saying”

“It’s challenging to talk about how you’re doing mentally since it’s an invisible injury — people can’t see it, so it’s harder to understand, but I think that’s why it’s so important we feel empowered to open up about it.”

“Mental Health is our “silent” crisis. There is no shame in speaking out and seeking help.” Viola Davis

Viola Davis at City Year Los Angeles’ annual “Spring Break: Destination Education” held at Sony Pictures Studios on May 6, 2023 in Culver City, California.

Viola Davis at City Year Los Angeles’ annual “Spring Break: Destination Education” held at Sony Pictures Studios on May 6, 2023 in Culver City, California.

EGOT-winner Viola Davis shared a graphic depicting the impact of racism on mental health, in an Instagram post, she captioned:

“Mental Health is our “silent” crisis. There is no shame in speaking out and seeking help. I myself suffer from anxiety and there is much stigma when you are not perceived as a “strong” Black woman. But….let’s redefine strength…as vulnerability, authenticity and the courage to say, “I’m hurting”. Let’s rethink saying, “Thick skin”. When it’s thick, nothing can get in but nothing can come out. With love….❤❤❤ #BLM #BlackMentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthIsMentalWealth”

“I think we all need to find a good person to chit chat with and just like we tune up our cars, we need to tune up ourselves.” Courtney B. Vance

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 09: Courtney B. Vance attends Oscar Wilde Awards 2023 at Bad Robot on March 09, 2023 in Santa Monica, California.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 09: Courtney B. Vance attends Oscar Wilde Awards 2023 at Bad Robot on March 09, 2023 in Santa Monica, California.

In a 2022 panel discussion with Senior Writer Candace McDuffie at The Root Institute, actor Courtney B. Vance opened up about how therapy helped him cope with the loss of his father. During the conversation, he told the audience he believes everyone can benefit from therapy, saying:

“I think we all need to find a good person to chit chat with and just like we tune up our cars, we need to tune up ourselves,” he said. “Ain’t nobody else gonna help us if we don’t help ourselves.”

“It’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it.” – Naomi Osaka

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: Naomi Osaka attends Victoria’s Secret x Naomi Osaka on February 21, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 21: Naomi Osaka attends Victoria’s Secret x Naomi Osaka on February 21, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

At just 25 years old, tennis player Naomi Osaka does her best to prioritize her mental health, even when her decisions impact her career, including her decision to withdraw from the French Open in 2021 to protect her mental well-being.

In a 2021 essay in Time Magazine, the young star wrote about her decision to focus on her mental health and made an impassioned plea to the media to give athletes space when they need it.

“I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it’s still so new to me and I don’t have all the answers. I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”

“My thing is to hopefully help make somebody strong enough to say, ‘Alright, let me go process this pain and this trauma so that the rest of my life, emotionally, I’m leading and I’m loving from a more healed, whole place.”Michelle Williams

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 14: Host Michelle Williams speaks onstage during the 2023 Beloved Community Awards at Hyatt Regency Atlanta on January 14, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Formerly known as the Salute Greatness Gala, the Beloved Community Awards is a part of the weeklong celebration of the 2023 King Holiday Observance. The event recognizes community leaders, businesses, and organizations that exemplify excellence in leadership, philanthropy and social justice in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JANUARY 14: Host Michelle Williams speaks onstage during the 2023 Beloved Community Awards at Hyatt Regency Atlanta on January 14, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Formerly known as the Salute Greatness Gala, the Beloved Community Awards is a part of the weeklong celebration of the 2023 King Holiday Observance. The event recognizes community leaders, businesses, and organizations that exemplify excellence in leadership, philanthropy and social justice in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

Both the pressure of the spotlight and the eventual breakup of the group had a deep impact on Williams and her mental health. In 2021, she released a book, Checking In: How Getting Real About Depression Saved My Life – and Can Save Yours, in which she writes about how seeking help saved her life.

“My thing is to hopefully help make somebody strong enough to say, ‘Alright, let me go process this pain and this trauma so that the rest of my life, emotionally, I’m leading and I’m loving from a more healed, whole place.”

“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.”Lisa Nicole Carson

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 25: Actress Lisa Nicole Carson attends the 2018 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 25, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 25: Actress Lisa Nicole Carson attends the 2018 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 25, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.

Actress Lisa Nicole Carson, best known for her roles in Love Jones and Ally McBeal, opened up to ESSENCE in July 2015 about her struggles with bipolar disorder and her decision to step back from her career to prioritize her mental health, saying:

“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.”

“I made the choice for the first time in my life to go get help for what I didn’t understand.” Kid Cudi

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 08: Kid Cudi attends Celine at The Wiltern on December 08, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 08: Kid Cudi attends Celine at The Wiltern on December 08, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

In 2016, artist Kid Cudi took a break from his career to seek help after a battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. In an interview with SELF, the artist talked about how his friends, fans and family (especially his daughter) providing the inspiration he needed to take care of himself at one of the lowest points in his life.

“I want to live for my daughter, for my family, for my friends, for my fans. I want to live, I want this for myself. So, I made the choice for the first time in my life to go get help for what I didn’t understand.”

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