Greetings, SuzyKnew! Readers!
Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams made news this week when she reportedly checked herself into a healthcare facility to seek help with her depression. The singer-songwriter, Broadway actor and pop star has spoken publicly about her struggles with depression before, and has also been a vocal advocate for mental health.
That is no small feat for a member of one of the best-selling female singing groups of all time.
The gorgeous Ms. Williams, who turns 38 on July 23rd, took to Twitter this week to explain, saying
“For years I have dedicated myself to increasing awareness of mental health and empowering people to recognize when it’s time to seek help, support and guidance from those that love and care for your wellbeing,” the singer wrote. She “sought help from a great team of healthcare professionals. … Today I proudly, happily and healthily stand here as someone who will continue to always lead by example as I tirelessly advocate for the betterment of those in need.”
Not only do I applaud Ms. Williams for her transparency, I’m in awe of her bravery. I know first-hand how hard it is to publicly talk about struggling with a mental illness. I’m not a celebrity, but I have written and published a few articles about my own battles, and believe me, it ain’t easy. So I can imagine how hard it must be for someone with Michelle Williams’ star power and recognition to be so vulnerable about such a sensitive topic. That’s why I have nothing but high praise and appreciation for her.
Mental illness is as prevalent in the Black community as anywhere else, yet it’s so stigmatized we barely talk about it. And that stigma is literally killing us! While suicide rates in the U.S. among Black people remains lower than our white counterparts, they have increased in recent years (according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). It’s heartbreaking to think about how many lives could’ve been saved had those people sought and received the help they needed. Studies show that one of the biggest barriers to getting help for Black people is the stigma associated with having mental illness or disease.
As I pointed out in an article published here on SuzyKnew a few years ago, many of us rely on platitudes like “Pray on it”, “Take it to Jesus” or “Talk to Pastor about it”, instead of confronting the issue and talking about it with one another, or getting professional help. We tend to sweep those symptoms we see in our loved ones under the rug or pass them off as quirks.
But silence is deadly when it comes to depression, as we’ve seen time and again. Substance abuse, domestic partner violence, rape/sexual assault and other violent crimes are often rooted in untreated mental illnesses. The only way to eliminate the stigma of mental illness in the Black community (and elsewhere) is to talk about it as candidly and as often as possible. We need to normalize the treatment of mental ailments the same way we view treating hypertension, heart disease or diabetes, all of which also plague African Americans in alarmingly high numbers. (You can read the entire piece here: https://suzyknew.com/5425-2/)
That’s why I’m so proud of Michelle Williams and can’t thank her enough for being so open with her struggles. I wish her wholeness and healing, and all good things going forward. I wish that for you as well, Sisters!