Hey Drake, Depression Isn’t Just a Phase

Telling a Black parent about struggling with depression or anxiety will typically warrant a response of this nature: “It’s just a phase,” “Just pray about it,” or my personal favorite, “Just think about all the good things you have.” This is largely due to the stigma that surrounds mental health in the Black community: A stigma that either denies mental health as a real illness or categorizes it as a weakness that the victim can simply “get over.”

Popular Hip Hop artist Drake reinforced this belief in his new song Two Birds, One Stone. Drake made the song as a diss track in response to comments made by Kid Cudi, another Hip Hop artist. Soon after Cudi’s original diss, the artist took to twitter and apologized for the unnecessary comments about Drake and other artists. Cudi then revealed that he is fighting depression and suicidal thoughts and will be checking into a rehabilitation center to seek professional help.

Over the weekend, Drake decided to release a response to Cudi’s criticism towards him, but instead of criticizing Cudi’s music, Drake attacked Kid Cudi’s struggle with depression. In his lyrics Drake writes You were the man on the moon//Now you just go through your phases//Life of the angry and famous”.

It was hurtful to listen to someone I look up to reinforce everything that is wrong with the way the Black community views mental health issues. Drake supported the destructive idea that depression is not a serious illness, but rather a weakness and a fault. Drake’s behavior is harmful because as an influential black male, his opinion on this subject matters more than most. Black males are the most marginalized in expressing their struggles with mental health issues because they must deal with the stigma of “weakness” that surrounds the subject and how this intersects with the expected gender roles for black males.

So, to Drake and any other person who does not understand mental illness: depression is NOT like that emo “phase” you went through when you were 13. Depression is not someone just choosing to be angry and sad all the time. Thinking about all the good things one has won’t cure the chemical imbalance that causes depression. Depression is not Child’s Play and it’s definitely not something you can use to prove you’re a better rapper than another person. Get it together, Aubrey.

McCall Dempsey and Southern Smash

Parts of my body I’m not a huge fan of. Wearing a crop top also means a fifteen-minute pep talk prior to wearing it. I tend to avoid mirrors. I’ve cried in a dressing room. Shorts also require a pep talk.

As a college student, as a girl, as a member of the world we live in today, I am not unique in struggling to view myself in a positive light.  There are larger forces—magazines, ads, Instagram models, TV shows, artists, musicians—that are telling me something about my body is wrong or different. Simplest solution? Lose the weight. Simplest way to do this? Cut calories, obsess over eating, and workout relentlessly.

Many girls think they are alone in this cycle of self-depreciation. They think if they share their problems, they will be judged or hurt. McCall Dempsey, founder of the body positivity non-profit, Southern Smash, felt this way too. She spoke to a group of girls on Sunday, October 16th sharing her incredible story. McCall struggled with disordered eating for over 15 years. She nearly lost her own life to this obsession with her body image. McCall overused diet pills, restricted calories and worked out obsessively for 15 years. Eventually, she entered a rehabilitation facility to heal. Today, she stands the mother of two adorable kids and a successful public speaker about positive body image and self-love.

Image courtesty of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

But, McCall’s story is not mine to tell. I encourage you to watch this video on McCall’s blog to learn more about her story. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, definitely go. She will leave you in tears, both from the power of her story and her hilarious commentary. After her rehabilitation, McCall speaks at colleges to raise awareness for eating disorders.

One of the most poignant takeaways from McCall’s speech was that eating disorders do not always look like how our high school health class teachers told us they do. Eating disorders are not always thin, sickly girls. McCall showed us pictures when she was struggling with disordered eating and she looked like a normal, healthy, happy college-age girl. These pictures were a powerful reminder that you really never know what someone is going through.

Image courtesy of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

After McCall’s time in rehabilitation, she confronted her biggest enemy with a smash – the scale. McCall (as do many others) put her value as a person in a blinking number. To end this unhealthy relationship and encourage other girls to do the same, she created Southern Smash, a non profit focused on raising awareness around eating disorders and, the best part, smashing scales! McCall travels around college campuses to speak about her story and host a scale smash. Southern Smash was on UNC’s campus on Tuesday, October 18th for the signature scale smash. This powerful event brought together the UNC community to raise awareness for eating disorders and put ourselves above the number on a scale.

Images: Southern Smash Facebook page 

Voting is Your Voice: Make it Heard

Election 2016 is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Candidates’ faces plastered on television screens, the latest heinous comments Donald Trump has made attacking women, people of color, or people with disabilities take over your newsfeed.

I can’t count on both hands how many times, in the past few months, I’ve walked to class and been bombarded.

“Hi! Are you registered to vote? Do you know your polling place? Here, take some resource flyers.”

By the twentieth time, it can get redundant and annoying. However, considering voting rights have been aggressively attacked within our state for years, it’s encouraging to see this vital work being done.

In 2013, North Carolina’s legislature passed what activists and politicians have termed “The Monster Voting Law.” This legislation significantly rolled back voting rights by requiring photo ID to cast a ballot and cutting early voting days and hours. The republican-led legislature also eliminated out-of-precinct voting, preregistration for teenagers under 18-years-old, and same-day registration.

This litany of voter suppression tactics disproportionately impacted marginalized populations that tend to vote democrat, including the elderly, working class folks, college students and people of color.

By requiring strict photo ID to cast a ballot, a significant portion of the population was unable to exercise their political voice. Under the law, students were unable to present student ID. Many elderly and working class folks do not possess driver’s licenses required to vote. It is clear that this law was a direct political attack on oppressed groups and democratic voters, as uncovered by The Daily Show three years ago (link).

Thankfully, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the oppressive law this past July. But voter suppression has not yet reached a necessary end.

Local boards of elections are still finding ways to silence voices by cutting early voting, limiting weekend hours and choosing inconvenient polling sites. Trump is urging his supporters to monitor polling sites for nonexistent voter fraud, effectively encouraging voter intimidation and harassment.

From reproductive rights to economic inequality to college tuition rates, there is so much at stake in 2016. It is vital that, despite obstacles and opposition, we all make our voices heard.