Over the past week there have been two deaths that have made national news. The suicide of Steve Stephens, Cedric Anderson and former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez. We’ve discussed drug culture in previous pieces but these three deaths have shined a light on suicide and mental health particularly how it effects the Black and Brown communities. In this week’s piece we discussed the fragility of one’s mental space and having one’s identity wrapped up in someone else or something. I want to continue to conversation on mental health because the use of hard drugs has been engraved into the Rap music of today and most of the time if someone is using and abusing drugs and/or alcohol there is a mental space that is being protected, hidden, and suppressed for whatever reason. We cannot act like the industry does not put a lot of stress on young Black and Brown men and women that sometimes has resulted in more drug use and abuse, violence, promiscuity, and death.
Depression and anxiety are only precursors to more serious mental health issues such as Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia. Approximately 1 in 5 youths aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. That is the target audience for Rap music. Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness. On top of that our community is half as likely to seek services. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24. I’m sorry but I had to bang you in the head with these numbers! You laugh at Kanye West but at least he’s not popping Xanax and Percocet but I know there is someone out there thinking that popping pills is the better alternative. Although Xanax is used to treat mental illness it is mostly used for only anxiety whereas Percocet are not used to treat mental health at all!
As legal penalties on marijuana weaken I will not suggest that anyone under the age of twenty-one utilize the recreational drug. Your son and daughter’s favorite Rapper pops pills because they are trying to mask their real issues and don’t want to or don’t know how to cope with their environment and personal life. When someone is pushed into the limelight with money and fame it doesn’t change you it only magnifies the person you already are including your problems. With fame, money, and success come triggers. Triggers are exterior events or conditions that may yield very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms. Flashing camera lights, less sleep, and negative social interactions are all examples of triggers that may affect young Rappers. Even those who work behind the scenes can experience high levels of stress and anxiety working for some of the young entertainers. Some of these young entertainers are the youngest child of those who were hit and survived the crack epidemic in the eighties. Being born addicted to drugs, having to go through withdraw as an infant, being “clean” for ten to fifteen years, and then popping pills as a young adult is not healthy physically, emotionally, or mentally. Pressure not only makes diamonds but pressure burst pipes as well.
Please visit NAMI for more information.