Speaking up about mental health, especially in the Black community, has been taboo for years. However, as conversations surrounding mental health begin to become normalized, it is more often than not that you or someone you know has taken the next steps in prioritizing their mental health, including your favorite celebrities. Take a look at when these celebrities and athletes began publicly to share their struggles with their own mental health continuing to destigmatize the issue:
The seven-time Olympic medalist withdrew from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (and later returned) which sparked debate and concern over the athlete's mental health. Biles let out a statement per CNN, to not look at her and her peers as "just athletes or entertainment." “I feel like it’s hard, but it’s harder being a female athlete because everybody prays for your downfall and wants you to mess up and all of that stuff,” Biles said. “I don’t think they take into consideration our mental health because what we do isn’t easy or else everybody could do it. But also, at the end of the day, we’re not just athletes or entertainment. We’re human too and we have emotions and feelings and things that we’re working through behind the scenes that we don’t tell you guys about. And so, I just think it’s something that people should be more aware of.”
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, whose relationships have been in the public eye for decades, spoke about when her 1996 marriage ended with David Justice, she was at her lowest of lows. "I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming when I had an image of my mother finding me," she told Parade in 2007. "My sense of worth was so low. I promised myself I would never be a coward again." She mentioned that picturing how her mother would feel is the image that saved her. Happily, Berry went to seek professional help.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka opened up about her mental health struggles after she withdrew from the French Open last year. She said she experienced anxiety before speaking to the media and revealed she suffered bouts of depression. "Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions," Osaka wrote in a Time Magazine article titled "It's O.K. to not be O.K." She continued: "I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health," she wrote. "I stand by that. Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record (I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour) would be so harshly scrutinized."
Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott, opened up about his personal battle with anxiety and depression after comments were made by Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless who wasn't too fond of the athlete going public about his mental health since he is the leader of the franchise. "I'm going to ask our audience to go ahead and condemn me, if you choose, as cold-blooded and insensitive on this issue," Bayless said. "You are commanding an entire franchise ... you're commanding a lot of young men and some older men. And they're all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team. Because of all that, I don't have sympathy for him going public with 'I got depressed. I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn't even go work out.' Look, he's the quarterback of America's Team. ... If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team's ability to believe in you in the toughest spots. And it definitely can encourage others on the other side to come after you." Dak responded, "No, I think that's a fake leader," he said adding, "Being a leader is about being genuine and being real." Dak who previously lost his brother Jace in April of 2020 to suicide began to advocate for mental health while revealing some of the struggles he dealt with. "All throughout this quarantine and this offseason, I started experiencing emotions I've never felt before," Prescott said. "Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression. And to the point of, I didn't want to work out anymore. I didn't know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn't been sleeping at all." The NFL star however continues to encourage others to speak up and has become a mental health advocate for the national sports organization. "I think that is important to be vulnerable, to be genuine, and to be transparent," Prescott said in an interview in 2020. "That goes a long way when you are a leader and your voice is being heard by so many and you can inspire."
The multi-hyphenated entertainer spoke about prioritizing her privacy and mental health in her 2021 Harper's Bazaar interview. “I’ve fought to protect my sanity and my privacy because the quality of my life depended on it,” she said. “A lot of who I am is reserved for the people I love and trust. Those who don’t know me and have never met me might interpret that as being closed off.” She notes she used to be shy growing up which helped her develop empathy for others. Now as a mother of three, she is instilling those values into her children. "One of my most satisfying moments as a mom is when I found Blue one day soaking in the bath with her eyes closed, using blends I created, and taking time for herself to decompress and be at peace.” She adds that her diet is also a part of maintaining a positive mental space, "...my health, the way I feel when I wake up in the morning, my peace of mind, the number of times I smile, what I’m feeding my mind and my body—those are the things that I’ve been focusing on. Mental health is self-care too."
In 2018, music icon Janet Jackson wrote about her struggle with mental health. “I struggled with depression. The struggle was intense," she wrote in a letter published in Essence magazine. "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," she continues. "Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Thankfully, I found my way through it.”
Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West spoke out about his mental health in his 2021 Drink Champs interview. “We all are on the spectrum somewhere,” he told the hosts, referencing his diagnosis for bipolar disorder, “just only of us went to the hospital or have been diagnosed [with a disorder, or prescribed] medication.” He continued: “There’s a lot of people who will say, ‘I don’t believe that you are actually bipolar.’ And anytime somebody wants to say that I’m wrong about something, hide the truth [or] lie, they say, ‘Ye’s crazy.’ It’s just the ultimate final cut-off to not have to listen.” On destigmatizing the word "crazy," the 'Donda' rapper said the word is used a ploy to stop uncomfortable conversations.
15-time Grammy award winner, Alicia Keys, has always been open about her mental health. Back in 2007, she admitted to PEOPLE magazine that she suffered from depression and that she “became a master of putting up the wall so that I was unreadable.” Now more recently in a 2021 Marie Clare interview, the singer said that she is honing in on her inner strength, “I’m reaching a place where I’m much more confidently clear about the power I possess,” she told the magazine. “I’ve always been strong and determined. I haven’t not known my power, but now I’m clearly aware of all of it, as opposed to just pieces of it.”
Back in 2016, singer-turned-business woman Rihanna was ready to hit the Grammy stage when a wave of anxiety fell over her. "I left the Grammys one time," the 32-year-old singer said in her 2020 cover story for British Vogue. "Left! In the middle of my hair and make-up. My hair half up, half of my lash on…" "It can be devastating," she said adding, "Being on camera, being in a room full of celebrities is still not normal for me, by the way."
The 29-year-old R&B singer, 6lack, is using his influence to empower BIPOC communities who lack mental health resources. The "IMPORTED" singer, who has been candid about his own personal struggles with mental health in the past, told Billboard in 2021 that he wants to do everything in his power to help others, “The past few years have been especially tough for Black people, specifically when it comes to mental health. I’m lucky enough to have access to mental health resources, and a support system of friends and family, but recognize that not everyone is that fortunate. I wanted to do my part to help create a support system for others to start their mental health journey and that’s why I’ve partnered with MHALA & BetterHelp to help destigmatize the conversation and provide resources to those who need it most- our youth.” He added that his mental health journey has progressed due to the availability of resources and wants that for others, “I’ve always done check-ins with myself to see how I feel about myself, life, and the things around me. I will say it wasn’t until recent, that I actually learned the importance of getting to the source of the things that don’t make me feel great. I want to share my experiences and talk about the resources/things that helped me, in order to spark people to do the same for themselves. Sometimes support is all you need to take the first step, so I want my first step to encourage someone else’s first step.”
Actress Kerry Washington opened up about her struggle with anxiety on Twitter back in 2020 writing, “I’m having a hard time sleeping. Lot of anxiety and stress. Thanks for asking.” The Scandal alum addressed her mental health back in a 2015 interview saying that her brain is just as important to her as other parts of her body, “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?”
Grammy-winning recording artist Nicki Minaj had Q+A with her Barbz on Twitter in 2021 where one prompted her to answer a question about her mental health after social media hiatus. "Has this hiatus impacted your mental health in a good way? Ik it’s been the hardest one thus far for us so I can only hope it was worth it," a fan asked. Nicki responded,“Great question. Yes. It was soooo needed for me. I appreciate u guys so much for waiting. But yea, very much needed that zen for important bonding time w|my son, getting back fluid w|writing & smthn else I don’t want to discuss yet. If u know u know.” Back in 2011, Nicki spoke to Cosmopolitan about her mental health before the fame. "I kept having doors slammed on my face," Minaj said. "I felt like nothing was working. I had moved out on my own, and here I was thinking I'd have to go home. It was one dead end after another. At one point, I was, like, ‘What would happen if I just didn’t wake up?’ That’s how I felt. Like maybe I should just take my life?'” At a time when she was struggling with her mental health, she then began manifesting her future. “I will have put out five albums and will have an Oscar and Grammys, and I will be getting married and, a couple of years after that will have a bun in the oven. My whole life is about being Nicki Minaj now. It’s a never-ending saga.”
Movie star, Dwayne Johnson, opened up about the first time he felt bouts of depression at 18 years old. "The first time I had experienced depression, I was 18 years old, and I had no idea what depression was," he said per Men's Health. "Back then, depression was also called 'get off the couch and get your s--- together and change what's happening here.'" Johnson then emphasized the importance of men speaking up about mental health. "I was an only child, and I was always a better listener than I was a communicator in terms of sharing my feelings," he said. "And I feel like the most important thing, obviously, is communicating and realizing that asking for help when you're down and you're feeling wobbly or when you're depressed is actually the most powerful thing you can do. Asking for help is not a weakness. As a matter of fact, asking for help is our superpower, and men, especially us, we fall into this trap of being really adverse to vulnerability because we always want to be strong and feel like we can take on the world." He added: "But the truth is, you have to, and hopefully over time, learn to embrace vulnerability and learn to embrace this idea that you can't always solve everything. A lot of times in life, as you head down the road, you're going to need help, and it's all a part of life."
Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Michelle Williams opened up about her mental health struggles and admitted she at first felt embarrassed and like a "hypocrite" in the beginning. "I remember feeling embarrassed and humiliated. I felt like a hypocrite, at the time, because this is the girl that sings 'When Jesus Says Yes.' This is the girl talking about empowerment and inspiration and I found myself in need of some help," she said. "I found myself telling people to do the same thing that I had been telling people to do for years, which is to get some help if you find yourself overwhelmed." At the height of her career as a bandmate to Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland in Destiny's Child she felt herself battling with depression which she opens about in her memoir, "Checking In: How Getting Real About Depression Saved My Life — and Can Save Yours." In her book, she affirms that "I need help" are the strongest three words a person can say.
Grammy-winning rapper Megan Thee Stallion spoke publicly about how the loss of her parents and grandmother led her to speak out and get help for her mental health. "I feel like right now mental health is more important to me, more than ever, because I have more pressure on me than I feel like I used to have...when I was Megan and I wasn’t as criticized and under such a magnifying glass as I am now," she said on Tariji P. Henson's Facebook Watch Show “Peace Of Mind With Taraji." She added: "It was never a conversation that was on the table," she said. "Now in this space, I've lost both of my parents. So now I'm like, ‘Oh, my gosh, who do I talk to? What do I do?’ And I just started learning that it’s OK to ask for help. And it’s OK to want to go get therapy.”
Like most artists, Compton native Kendrick Lamar, speaks about his personal life through his music. Kendrick's message on mental health has never wavered and he raps about his own struggles on the song "u" which is found on his 2015 album 'To Pimp a Butterfly.' "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." Kendrick later sat down with US Weekly to explain the track, "I've pulled that song not only from previous experiences, but, I think my whole life, I think everything is drawn out of that. Even situations from 'Good Kid M.A.A.D City'…" Lamar said, naming his 2012 album. "Nothing was as vulnerable as that record. So it's even pulling from those experiences of coming up in Compton. It's pulling from the experience of going through change and accepting change — that's the hardest thing for man, accepting change."
America's favorite mama, Jenifer Lewis, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the 1990s, talks about her mental health journey in her memoir "The Mother of Black Hollywood." With her book, she hopes to erase the “stigma, fear, and just plain ignorance about mental illness, particularly among African Americans, has taken a terrible toll on our families and communities,” she writes in her book, per PEOPLE.
Through his music and posts on social media, rapper Kid Cudi has been very open about his struggle with mental health. “Sadness eats away at me sometimes,” a social media post in 2021 read. “How do I deal? A lot of u hit me and ask how I get through. Truthfully, idk. Some days are great, others not so great. I just try to believe God has something better for me.” He added: “I try to have faith in the light. Please, believe.” SNL star Pete Davidson credited Cudi's vulnerability on his album 'Man on the Moon' in saving his life. “I would’ve killed myself,” Davidson said in an interview. “Absolutely. One hundred percent. I truly believe if ‘Man On The Moon’ didn’t come out, I wouldn’t be here.”
Golden Globe-winning actress Taraji P. Henson is putting in work in the mental health space. In 2021, she launched her Facebook Watch show "Peach Of Mind With Taraji" to help destigmatize conversations surrounding mental health. Previously she launched "The Unspoken Curriculum," which aims to help Black students seek help and is part of her non-profit organization named Boris Lawrence Henson, named after her late father. Henson has previously opened up about her mental health struggle to Entertainment Tonight and says that she is in a much better place, "[I'm] much better," said Henson during the interview. "It's called suicide ideation, and it's not that you're really gonna go forth with it, it's just thoughts running through your mind when you're at your lowest. And for me, because I'm in therapy, I knew that saying it out loud and getting it out of my head would deaden it."
Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, Mariah Carey, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II and had been keeping the discovery private. “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she said in her 2018 cover of PEOPLE. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”