Of course there are artists out there who have become increasingly open about their struggles with depression and addiction. Artists like Kid Cudi and his classic album Man on the Moon has been credited by numerous artists and countless fans for saving their lives. Kid Cudi has also been credited with paving the way for hip-hop artists to talk about their struggles with depression and addiction and even launch the "emo rap” genre and Spotify playlist "Tear Drop," connecting with young people who are suffering from depression and struggling with substance abuse.
Lil Uzi Vert on “XO Tour Lif3” references his struggles with abusing drugs and contemplating suicide due to a relationship falling apart, while Lil Xan’s most popular song “Betrayed” is about his issues with Xanax abuse. Even mainstream hip-hop artists are opening up -- Kendrick Lamar shared his struggles with depression on “u” and Logic famously brought the audience at the 2017 VMAs to tears with his performance of “1-800-273-8255.” Showing just how widespread of an issue depression has become, calls to the hotline increased by 50 percent after the performance made it acceptable to reach out for help. We need artists to continue to be vocal about the issues they are going through because it helps countless lives when they do.
I don't expect Lil Xan to start making music about going to therapy, but when he publically makes statements about mental health issues and advocates for taking better care of yourself it makes a serious difference. I am calling for people to use their platforms to help fight the opioid epidemic, the Xanax and Lean craze, and raise awareness about depression.
The first step is that we talk about mental health issues openly and honestly. At the 2018 Billboard Live Music Summit & Awards, I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel titled: 'Shattering the Stigma: It's Time to Talk About Mental Health' alongside Gary Gersh of AEG, Kathryn Frazier of Biz 3, Erica Krusen of MusiCares, and the founders of Project Healthy Minds Phillip Schermer and Sabrina Khan.
We used our platform to talk about the usefulness of going to therapy, checking in and reaching out to those who may be struggling, and what organizations and resources are available for artists. Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die from overdosing on opioids and the drug fentanyl has been a part of the deadly prescription drug combinations that have taken the lives of Lil Peep, Mac Miller, Tom Petty, and Prince. As mental health and problems with drug addiction come to the forefront of mainstream life, we in the music industry must recognize that we too are suffering from these issues and we are suffering with the eyes of the world on us. For that reason, when we address issues of mental health and drug addiction our voice is amplified and it lets the world know that it is ok to be fighting mental health issues and seek help for drug addiction. We can be a powerful example for those who need us.
We should applaud the efforts of Demi Lovato, Kid Cudi, and Lil Xan who have all entered or are currently in rehab programs for drug addiction or artists like Kanye West who has been so open about mental health issues like bipolar disorder and depression. Checking into rehab is amazing! Taking care of your mental health is amazing! Going to therapy is amazing! We have to shatter the stigma that prevents artists from seeking professional mental health help because the alternative is grim.
We also have to address the structural issues in the music industry that lead to problems in the area of mental health. Many in the music industry do not work traditional jobs that provide healthcare benefits which can make costly therapy or psychiatry appointments unattainable.
MusiCares is a charity via the Recording Academy that provides resources for artists and those working in the music industry. When someone in the music industry has a financial, medical, or personal emergency and does not know where to turn MusiCares is there to help. Please check out the work they are doing and reach out if you are in need.
Just a few more tips. If you're an artist struggling with mental health issues, reach out to your team and ask your manager, agent, publicist, or a friend for help. Let your close friends and family know and try to talk to your physician -- even a general doctor can help and provide resources. If you are concerned about a friend, co-worker or employee, make sure you check in often. Ask questions like "how are things going?" and "are you ok?" Mental health issues are something that one doesn't have to face alone and there are plenty of friends and allies in the music industry who are here to help.
To learn more about MusiCares and the services they offer, visit grammy.com/musicares.
Nick Jarjour is a music manager at Maverick. Email him at Nick@maverick.com.