Musicians & Mental illness Pt 1: Depression Does Not Have to be Your Destiny
Author, Jessica Lynn Gimeno
Before I begin this article on Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams, I would like to dedicate it to Richard P., a Flipswitch reader and listener who died last week of a heart attack. One of my Flipswitch followers, Lisa, notified me of Richard’s unexpected passing. Aside from mental health issues, Richard and I bonded over our mutual speech team backgrounds and political beliefs. Richard was one of many thoughtful Flipswitch followers who have made my job rewarding. My life is better for having known him.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS: SHE’S A SURVIVOR
Now, about yesterday, and that American holiday known as the Super Bowl…for those who didn’t watch, yes Beyonce won! No in all seriousness, the Baltimore Ravens won. In addition to the actual game, however, many people tuned in to see Beyonce’s half-time performance and her reunion with Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland also known as Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling female R & B groups of all time. While I was sad that they didn’t perform Bills, Bills, Bills, I am thankful that Williams, who has released Gospel albums and starred in multiple Broadway productions during their hiatus, has bravely chosen to talk about depression. (Side note: I saw Williams play Shug Avery in The Color Purple and she was fabulous!) Last month, Williams did an interview with Good Morning America talking about how she has fought depression and established the Michelle T. Williams Foundation to help others.
GETTING HELP FOR DEPRESSION IS NOT A SIN
Williams talked about how she privately struggled with depression since her teens. And how she made a choice to be happy. Indeed, none of us chooses to be mentally ill but we do make choices, both conscious and unconscious, about how we react to our illness. One aspect of mental health that Williams talked about was the relationship between faith and recovery. I know many religious people who think that having faith means not taking medication or seeking professional help. Some think that taking medication is a sign of a lack of faith—that one is not trusting in God. Thankfully, Williams eloquently dispels this myth—she said in her People magazine interview, “We're taught, 'Just go to church and pray about it. The Lord is going to heal you’…Well, in the meantime, I believe God-gifted people, physicians, doctors, therapists – that's your healing. Take advantage of it. Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It's okay if you're going through something. Depression is not okay, but it is okay to go get help." I once heard a pastor make an analogy about people who reject help. He said to imagine a person drowning who prays for God to rescue him. And then a rescue team finds him and throws him a lifesaver. But he rejects it! He says that he is still waiting for God to rescue him. I think this analogy is especially true for good people who refuse psychiatric help in the name of faith.
TRUE STRENGTH IS GETTING HELP
Whether one is religious or not, getting help is not a sign of weakness. The ability to admit you have a problem and seek help is a sign of true strength and maturity. If you know someone struggling with depression that refuses help, tell him/her that getting help is the bravest thing to do. Also, do your best to help whether that’s listening to your friend or taking your friend to the doctor’s office. When I was in college, I once walked a depressed friend to the campus mental health center, and it changed her life for the better. She got a bipolar diagnosis after years of struggling. Today, she is a happily married computer engineer.
STAY TUNED! MORE ARTISTS FEATURED
I’ll be doing articles on other popular musicians in the Music and Mental Illness Series. Don’t miss out! Click here to subscribe to Flipswitch podcast and blog.