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Chance the Rapper is not holding back when it comes speaking about the benefits of prioritizing mental health.
In a new interview with Taraji P. Henson and her best friend Tracie Jade on Facebook Watch's Peace of Mind with Taraji, the rapper opened up about dealing with the "dark days" of his mental health and how it inspired him to fight for better mental health services in Black communities.
“I think Black men are naturally guarded," he said when asked about the pressure many Black men face to "man up" and not show their emotions. "You kind of have to be [because] your weakness is preyed upon. So, I think it's a defense mechanism. You go to a funeral, like, you kind of don't want to cry. You know what I mean? You don't want to subject yourself to the feeling of like, that weakness, of like, you know, it just takes a lot to be cathartic, to cry, to empty yourself.”
"I saw my friend killed in front of me when I was 19," he continued. "I've seen people I didn't know get killed too, and you become kind of like numb to it. Somebody else died last week. But it stays with you, you know what I mean? And you don't realize until later [that] it could have lasting effects.”
“A couple of years ago, I, for the first time experienced a friend, somebody that I knew from growing up, that was having a mental health crisis," he said. "His family and his friends had exhausted their efforts over years and years of trying to help. I didn't really know that much about this stuff. There's probably a ton of situations where people, you know, we just wrote them off as like, ‘crazy,’ or like, ‘they was tweaking.' But they were actually going through a chronic mental health disorder."
After realizing "the kind of care" his friend needed "wasn't available in the city" for those who can't afford it, he decided to team up with local advocates to help build the change.
"We basically found every possible mental health initiative within the city of Chicago, and then within Cook County, and then eventually through the entire state of Illinois," he explained. "[We] created this app that allows people to get in contact, whether it's an in-person meeting or tele-health, with a mental health service provider, and get the help that they need, instantly from their phone. And it's free."
While Chance acknowledges it's great that celebrities are starting to drive the message that "health is beyond just our physical state," he argues that equal access to mental health services isn't going to happen until those in power, particularly "our lawmakers and the billion-dollar companies," rise to meet the community's need.
“We're talented people, but we're not the people that make the big decisions," he said. "We're not the people that write the biggest checks. Those kind of things have to happen."
Still, looking ahead Chance says what can happen on the ground level is for Black men to "lead by example."
"When you show emotion, it allows other people to show emotion," he explained, urging for Black men to try and "give your kids and the people that you influence a space to talk through how they feel, and a space to feel how they feel."