- Thoughts about self harm and suicide are common in the United States.
- Open discussions about mental health and thoughts of self-harm are a key part of prevention strategies.
- Celebrity disclosures about mental health can facilitate reduction of stigma through social modeling.
Megan Jovon Ruth Pete, aka Megan Thee Stallion, has not been shy about including her personal mental health struggles in her songs. In her more recent 2022 album "Traumazine," Megan raps about complex emotions surrounding multiple traumatic events in her life, including the death of her mother. Her merchandise features clothing quoting lyrics like "bad b*tches have bad days too" or "bad anxiety." Her new single "Cobra," released on November 3rd, 2023, may be her most mental health-relevant single to date.
“At night, I’m sittin' in a dark room thinkin’, probably why I always end up drinkin’. Yes I’m very depressed. How can somebody so blessed wanna slit they wrist”
“Never thought a b*tch like me would ever hit rock bottom, man I miss my parents, way too anxious, always cancel my plans”
Even the name of the single, "Cobra," has significant meaning. Megan told Teen Vogue that cobras represent courage, self-reliance, and, with the act of shedding their skin, they represent healing/renewal.
In CDC data from 2015-2019, it was estimated that 4.3 percent of adults, or 10.6 million people in the United States, have thoughts about suicide. In 2021 the CDC estimated that 12.3 million adults in the United States had thoughts about suicide.
It is well known that education about mental health and open discussions about thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts are a key part of prevention strategies. Specifically, mental health education targeted at adolescents and youth has been found to help prevent suicidal behavior.
Data supports the notion that celebrities disclosing their own struggles with mental health conditions can reduce stigma by normalizing conditions and bringing them into public awareness. This process is multifactorial, but it is thought to be related to social modeling—or the process by which we learn from the social impact of other people’s behaviors. Specifically, it is reassuring when a celebrity candidly discusses their experiences and they remain respected, revered, and in good social standing. It seems that disclosing personal experiences is potentially more influential than when celebrities support general mental health causes.
The fact that Megan is a Black woman is also important when considering the impact of her disclosures. Due to the unique intersectionality of sexism and racism at all levels (from personal to systematic), Black women and girls are particularly vulnerable to psychological distress.
What's more, there are important cultural factors that contribute to the decision to seek care and how culturally sensitive and helpful that care will be. This includes things like well-founded mistrust of the medical system, lack of providers with similar backgrounds, and limited access overall. This disenfranchisement experienced by Black women makes amplifying their stories and listening to their voices when they talk about mental health all the more important.
When media attempts to tackle mental health topics, it is consistently the most authentic when those with lived experience are included. Megan’s continued vulnerability and strength to candidly rap about her experience adds to the growing repertoire of modern media content that is genuine and valuable.
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7 dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.