How Kid Cudi and Kehlani Opened Up a Door to Change the Way We Talk About Mental Health

BY: MELISSA KELLEY

Celebrities have recently came forward about their struggles with mental health, which has sparked debate about mental illness in the black community. R&B singer Kehlani made headlines this year when she opened up about her depression and suicidal thoughts.  Shortly before the release of his new music, rapper Kid Cudi detailed his history of mental illness and the humiliation he carries because of his thoughts. 

The reaction to Kid Cudi and Kehlani’s revelations about their inner demons were entirely different. While Cudi received praise and even sparked an online conversation about black men and mental illness with the hashtag  #YouGoodMan, Kehlani received swift backlash from some fans. 

Many minimized her mental illness and attempted to connect her depression to an alleged fling with singer PARTYNEXTDOOR. The Bay-area native was supposedly dating Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving during the time of her hospitalization. Ironically, many of the people who praised Cudi were the same people who criticized Kehlani. Twitter took notice.

Despite the praise for Cudi online, some of his contemporaries in the industry had no love for the rapper. Drake took a dig at Cudi on the newly-released song “Two Birds One Stone.” 

“You were the man on the moon, now you go through your phases/
Life of the angry and famous/
Rap like I know I’m the greatest and give you the tropical flavors/
Still never been on hiatus/
You stay Xan and perked up so when reality set in you don’t gotta face it.”


Some say Drake’s diss was warranted and in retaliation to Cudi’s September tweetstorm that called out Kanye West and the 6 God. Still, Drake’s problematic lyrics spread the idea that mental illness is a weakness instead of a disease. While Cudi’s admission gave black men an outlet to talk about mental health, Drake’s subliminals and the nasty reactions to Kehlani’s suicidal urges prove that the black community still has work to do when it comes to talking about mental health.

Depression is often stigmatized among African-Americans. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that women and African-Americans are significantly more likely to report major depression than other segments of the population. However, the CDC study also revealed that only around 8 percent of African-Americans sought treatment for depression compared to 13.6 percent of the general public. This means that black women have the highest rates of depression in the U.S. but are the least likely to seek treatment.

Kehlani was brave enough to seek treatment and talk about her experience in a speech she gave during a concert in May:

“You know I'm very honest with the people that support me. It wasn't a first time thing, and that's not okay. It's not okay for anyone. Not the people around you, not the people who love you, not the people who care about you." 

The Grammy-nominated artist went on to discuss her work with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and encouraged others to get help. “Suicide is something that so many young people are dealing with...and so many young people slip under the rug. Please, don't try it, don't do it.” 

While the reactions to mental health among black people have been mixed, both Kehlani and Kid Cudi’s admissions positively contributed to the on-going discussion on mental health among black people. They’re changing perceptions about mental health by showing vulnerability and opening up about tough experiences. These admissions create space for both black women and men to dig deeper and understand their own mental health histories. 

Cover: (Van Sarki/ FAT MANMagazine via 2DopeBoyz)

Jenna CaldwellComment