In addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also Depression Awareness Month. Depression, however, is often stigmatized in the black community.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 7.5 million African Americans have a diagnosed mental illness, and up to 7.5 million more may be affected but are undiagnosed. Women may be over-represented in these populations given the reported 2:1 gender ratio of depression.
Recently, former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams gave a popular face to the mental health issue when she opened up about her ongoing struggles with depression.
“I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” she said on the show. “When I disclosed it to our manager [Mathew Knowles] at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘You all just signed a multi-million dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?’” she recalled Beyoncé’s dad telling her at the time.
“So I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just tired,’” the 37-year-old continued. However, Williams’ depression only got worse “to the point where I was suicidal … and wanted out” from the group.
The gospel and dance chart diva says she has struggled with depression since she was 13 years old, and it wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she realized what she was suffering from.
“I think at the age of 25, had I had a name to what I was feeling at the time, I would have disclosed that ‘I’ve been suffering from depression,’” she said.
After her episode of The Talk aired last week, Williams thanked the show for “being a safe place” to discuss her story. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!” she tweeted her fans.