Mental Illness in the Time of Modern Hip-Hop

In case you haven’t heard, rapper Lil Peep died Nov. 16. The 21-year-old died of an apparent drug overdose while on his tour bus.

If you are unfamiliar with Lil Peep and his music, he was open about his struggle with depression and drug addiction. His music featured lyrics such as, “I had no one by my side", “Lord, why do I gotta wake up?”, “Lord why do I wanna die?”, “Dropped a pill in my champagne” and “Imma get a Maserati just to take my life inside” -- just to quote a few. Lil Peep, or Gustav Ahr, was crying for help in his music. He sadly passed away before he could receive it.                                                                                                                 

Far too often the hip-hop world glamorizes drug use. While listeners of this genre applaud artists for bringing up real-world issues, we tend to overlook the more dangerous topics involved. Because trends are formed by prominent figures in popular culture, it is our job as followers of media not to romanticize the darker topics that we are exposed to. Popping pills and having depression are not cool trends.

According to addictioncenter.com, over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have an addiction excluding tobacco. Of those people, 6.8 million of them also live with a mental illness. Someone who struggles with a mental illness is statistically more likely to develop an addiction as well. Mental health isn’t taken nearly as seriously in our country as it should be. As a result, some people turn to self-medication, or abuse a substance to feel better.

Instead of brushing off a celebrity’s talk of suicide or addiction, we can use it as an opportunity to educate ourselves on the subject. I would first like to reiterate that death by overdose is not the person’s fault and is instead due to a lack of treatment. While the user makes the conscious choice to do the drug, it is because they feel it is their only way to escape reality. Instead of shaming people for doing drugs, we must help them deal with their struggle at the root of its problem.

Unfortunately, this is a widespread issue and you’re likely to know someone who struggles with a mental illness. In order to better understand someone who is ill, we need to listen when they are comfortable speaking. It is common for someone with depression to feel helpless which is why they may not turn to someone for guidance. If someone opens up to you about their mental illness, take it seriously and do your best to comfort them. While it’s easy to respond with “I know how you feel,” this is actual a form of conversational narcissism and can actually be more hurtful than helpful. Instead, encourage the individual to get professional help and express how much they are valued as a person.

As I mentioned before, a lot of times drug use and abuse comes from an underlying problem. It is crucial to understand that problem in order to help your loved one overcome that addiction. Overcoming addiction is a long journey that will likely take professional help; however, there are ways to offer support. Encouragement is crucial in helping them avoid the feeling of shame or guilt. Relapse can occur, so keeping your loved one busy and offering alternative activities to drugs can help; but remember: you cannot treat someone. You can only help.

In the wake of many tragedies happening in our world, all we can do is try to better ourselves and those around us. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness or addiction, don’t feel ashamed to call these numbers.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 217-673-3000

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP

Rest in peace Gustav Ahr and to all those who lost their battle to mental illness or addiction.