Kid Cudi, Race, & Mental Health

The rapper announced to the world he is not well and has taken steps to get the help he desperately needs. #YouGoodMan – Kid Cudi’s honest words and courageous actions have sparked a larger conversation on race, masculinity, and mental health.


Late Tuesday evening rapper Kid Cudi revealed that on Monday he checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. He posted a message on his Facebook page saying, “I am not at peace.”

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-10-05-03-pm Kid Cudi’s Facebook Page

In his Facebook post he revealed that he has grappled with anxiety and depression throughout his life. He repeatedly apologized throughout his post and signed off with his birth name, Scott Mescudi.

Kid Cudi’s Rise to Fame

The Ohio rapper/singer, who has a six-year-old daughter called Vada, has released six albums since 2009, and has stormed the charts with songs including “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Day ‘N’ Nite.”

As well as this, he has collaborated with stars like Kanye West and David Guetta, all while modelling and appearing on TV shows and in films including Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Entourage.

cudiCudi’s announcement comes shortly after a surprising sound-off against Kanye West and Drake. Following a contentious back-and-forth around accusations that West and Drake use ghost writers for their rhymes, the hip-hop beef simmered down and any bad blood was put to rest during Kanye’s Houston tour stop on Tuesday evening. While onstage, West paused and gave the “Pursuit of Happiness” performer a special shout out.

West declared Cudi, “the most influential artist of the past 10 years,” later adding, “I just wanted to take this time out to say Kid Cudi is my brother and I hope he’s doing well.”

Kid Cudi’s Mental Health History

Cudi has been open and honest about his past battles with depression. Earlier this year, he told Billboard that he had used drugs to cope with his depression. “I thought about how much of a struggle it has been the past eight years, to be in the news and pretend to be happy when, really, I was living a nightmare,” he told Billboard in April. “I have everything I ever dreamed of in terms of stability. But I hadn’t been living that reality, because depression was f—ing me up.”  Scott has been open about various addictions to alcohol, cocaine and anti-depressant medication, although he got sober in 2013.

Celebrity Outpouring of Support

Cudi’s frank admission about his mental health drew support from other artists. Since the news, celebrities from all corners of music have been sending Kid Cudi well wishes from indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara to R&B songstress Monica and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz

African Americans and Mental Health

Cudi’s announcement has sparked a national conversation around race and mental health. African Americans commonly experience more severe forms of mental illness as a result of various barriers and unmet needs. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health , African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. They are also more likely to experience external factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition, including (1) poverty and homelessness, and (2) exposure to violence.

Kid Cudi - Man on The Moon PerformanceAfrican Americans face several barriers that prevent them from seeking adequate care. Some of this can be attributed to lack of information and difficulties in recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Like the general public, this lack of knowledge leads many to believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness.

Research indicates that many black folks rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even when medical or therapeutic interventions may be necessary. One of the biggest barriers to mental health care and black men is the lack of resources and information about where to seek help when they need it. Only one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of the Caucasian population. Socio-economic factors can make treatment options limited. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 19% of African Americans had no form of health insurance. And if they wish to seek out an African American mental health professional, they may be out of luck. Only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Associated are African American. Not only do some Black/African Americans worry that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat their specific issues, some Black patients have reported experiencing racism and micro-aggression from therapists.

Kid Cudi, Mental Health Role Model?

Kid Cudi didn’t ask to be a spokesperson for black men struggling with depression and suicidality. But his courageous act and public acknowledgment has brought national attention to the issue of depression and suicide among young black men. Although there has been limited research done on depression and black men, a 2007 study coming from the American Medical Association showed that Major Depressive Disorder was most chronic for African Americans at 56%.  The rate of black youth committing suicide has never been higher.  The 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for the first time, the suicide rate of black children between the ages of 5 and 11 doubled between 1993-2013 – while the rate among white children had declined.

kid-cudiSuicide has become the third leading cause of death among black people between the ages of 15 and 24. The suicide rate is five times higher for boys than it is for girls. The study found that hanging and suffocation were the most common suicide methods, accounting for over 78% of the suicide deaths. Black Americans die by suicide a full decade earlier than White Americans. The average age of Black suicide decedents is 32, and that of White decedents is 44.

Kid Cudi has challenged the stereotype of black people being too proud to accept help, and is pushing against the macho stereotype of silent suffering disguised as strength.  And it has sparked a conversation in the social media world about the importance of mental health care. His announcement also reiterated the relatability many people have with mental illness and feeling lonely, hopeless, and cut off from others.

Cudi may not have intended to start a conversation, but the black community took to social media to continue it. After Twitter user @DaynaLNuckolls suggested to @TheCosby that there should be a hastag for black men to have a space to discuss mental health, they came up with #YouGoodMan, a place for people to discuss race, masculinity, and depression.

@TheCosby told BuzzFeed News that he feels “black men are the least equipped to deal with their mental health” and attributed their lack of preparedness to notions of hyper masculinity, as well as broader stigmas around mental illnesses.  “Hyper masculinity calls for us to act like it’s OK,” the Brooklyn-based attorney said.

Twitter users also used the occasion to share examples of raps songs that address black men and mental health.

The expansive list is a vivid reminder that there has been a recent surge in public expressions of vulnerability from artists.

You Are Not Alone

Just yesterday I happened upon a remarkable article written by Arvin Temkar titled, “Bruce Springsteen’s depression revelation is heartening—but people of color need mental health heroes, too.” I hope he has followed the Kid Cudi announcement. I think he may need to write a follow-up article stating people of color can embrace Kid Cudi as their mental health hero.

kid_cudi_wallpaper_by_davedangIf you visit his website, Kid Cudi has a simple and concise message to share to the world: “cudi #brb.” Take your time Scott Mescudi. Your fans and celebrities alike will continue to support and believe in you. We’ll be here when you return. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe others will take their own courageous steps to get help because of the example you have set. Let’s hope it becomes a movement for all who are feeling lonely, hopeless, or cut off from others.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @jhetterly.



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