Juice WRLD Died this month. At the age of 21, from a seizure. Due to the pills he ingested in order to avoid incarceration at the airport.
[Before I dive into the depths of all of this, I would like to say that I have provided some links to helpful resources towards the end of this post, in the event you are in need.]
If you don't know who Juice WRLD is, he was a rapper. A talented kid with a lot of room to grow out of the darkness from whence he bloomed. If i'm being honest it's not like I was his biggest fan, or listened to his music frequently. Yet, his death still affected me. Much like the death of Mac Miller, who I was a genuine fan of & revered his artistry.
The thought of death by suicide or complications of drug overdosing, is quite a harrowing thing to ponder for any given length of time. As an artist who pursues to entertain in a similar way as Juice WRLD, Mac Miller & many others like them have done, I often wonder what truly is the "Price of Fame" (word to Big K.R.I.T., because I feel he articulates very poetically the trials & tribulations of that lifestyle from his perspective — I am speaking strength, wellbeing, peace of mind, health, abundance, & perseverance into existence for you K.R.I.T., I speak of you in this context only to honor your strengths).
There are so many other artists, actors & more that come to mind in this specific topic of conversation, I will let your minds fill in the blank so that I don't go too far off on a tangent shouting out each & every one of them.
Death is inevitable. Death comes unexpectedly. Death comes to some at the right time. Death comes to others accidentally & unwillingly. Death comes to others still — who, for some reason, choose to opt out of life.
The conversation of Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing as it pertains to the artists & entertainers in the world is one that we continue to hear time & time again. It can't ever be talked about enough because solutions are still very much needed. Guidance is still needed. Support is still needed. A way out of the darkness... is still needed.
As a HipHoppa & Lyrical Performing Artist, it still perplexes me so that the mainstream media & the broader group of consumers choose to hype & over-glorify Hip-Hop about drug abuse, violence, murder, & the sabotaging of self & others.
It is one thing as an artist to speak on the reality you are facing & poetically channel that into an honest self-reflection & therapeutic release. It is one thing as a consumer to appreciate that shared perspective & share in the profound moral lessons that come from such a painted picture.
It is another thing as an artist to have to be consumed by that darkness, having been either forced into creating the same kind of content by their label or by the mass demand of their audience. It is another thing as the label/management/whomever, to assist in propagating such harrowing & self-destructive musical spells, regardless of the emotional trauma it may be reinforcing on the artist.
It is another thing as the consumer to shame an artist for their growth & overcoming of such self-destructive habits & realities. It is another thing as the consumer to make memes laughing at the grim reality of an artists' words; hearing its darkness & trading their potential sanity for clout (word to Future, regardless of whether or not he's still doing the Molly & Percocet).
I need not go on. I don't say this to publicly shame the authors of these tweets, I do it to illustrate a point. I will even say I have found myself laughing at some of the memes like this.
Perhaps for the same reason many of us do... to keep from crying & losing our ever-loving minds.
I think the most difficult thing to admit is that a vast number of Americans are close to wits end. Suicide rates are at an all time high. Death by overdosing opioids & other pharmaceuticals is at an all time high.
As an artist, I would say that most of us are empaths. Our Divine Feminine creative energy channeled through our artistry, yet vulnerably exposed to the extremes of both love & hate. The artists, celebrities & the entertainers stand in the limelight, in the face of everyone's adoration, judgement, contempt, & dismay.
We are somehow both the spearhead & the target. Thrust forward at the edge of everyone's excitement & anxiety, having to find a way to cushion ourselves from the blow. Sometimes, we don't make it.
After hearing the news about Juice WRLD, the executive board of The National Collegiate Entertainers Group on which I currently serve, begun discussing how we could help prevent this & provide aide to young upcoming artists, thanks to my bro Zay Bcuz.
The initial bit of research felt quite disappointing, realizing that there is no real focus on this issue yet from a national curriculum level. You would think this is a subject matter worthy of its own area of expertise, much like how a student can go to law school & study the specifics of entertainment law, or how a med student can study the specifics of anesthesiology. I thought it'd be as simple as googling "Entertainment Therapist" or "Artist Therapy" to discover some Wikipedia page all about it.
Alas, I found just a few out there who are ardently working towards suicide prevention & mental health therapy for Artists & Entertainers.
First & foremost is Silence The Shame. As our executive board's discussion continued, my bros Conway & AG DYNASTY posted links from speakers at one of their panel discussions with the Atlanta Hawks. Silence the Shame is a non-profit awareness, education and advocacy organization. Through community conversations, compelling content and other programs, our goals are to normalize the conversation, peel back the layers of shame to eliminate stigma and provide support for mental health/poverty.
Another one that I came across thanks to our Pres, is Nuçi’s Space. They are located in Athens, GA (nearest location to Atlanta) & their mission is to prevent suicide. With a focus on musicians, Nuçi’s Space advocates for and helps to alleviate the suffering for those living with a brain illness and fights to end the stigma of mental illness. Nuçi’s Space maintains a health and resource center for musicians as a safe space to seek support and guidance.
Those organizations, along with other firms & independent light-workers like EHS Services, The Industry Therapist, Dr. Philip Pierce, & a few more are significant beacons of hope in a world that needs more like them.
One major step forward in regards to mental health services for music artists specifically, is news that AG shared with us about ASCAP launching their TuneUp Wellness Program for music creators. It will provide innovative wellness services, recovery support, wellness events & more. I think it's an earnest move from the PRO (Performance Rights Organization) to help artists who struggle with depression, anxiety, drug addiction, & suicidal thoughts. I would hope that ASCAP & others like BMI, SESAC & those abroad continue to endeavor doing the same.
As for me? I can’t let the darkness defeat me. I will continue to write my affirmations, valuing myself & my mental health first & foremost before any person, possession or opportunity. For my fellow creatives out there, or anyone who has experienced what it's like to battle with the darkness of suicidal thoughts, I extend a word of strength & resilience, which you are free to say aloud with me...
— "I cannot & will not succumb to opting out of life. Darkness cannot & will not derail me. I’m too eager to see what’s on the other side of that chasm... Life has far more beauty left in store for me to behold."
All the best,
Sean aka Mr. Wildenfree
Allow my experiences to paint a picture. My tale is one that will resonate with the disenchanted — the peculiar ones who know how marvelous life really is, yet from time to time struggle to see it all with enthusiasm.
I am peculiar & unashamed. I am not normal — & I never tried to be... I'm living my life so very Wildenfree.