A few weeks ago, rapper Kid Cudi posted on Facebook about his decision to check himself into rehab for depression and anxiety: “I am not at peace. I haven’t been since you’ve known me … My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember … ” While he received support from quite a few celebrities, he also received some backlash: Drake released a diss track targeting Cudi and his decision.
While a diss track is not itself a big deal in rap, in this instance is certainly different. Mental illness is not viewed in the same way as physical illness, and the stigma against mental illness is what caused Drake to release this unnecessary track. This wasn’t just to stir up drama between rappers. Drake’s song was an attack on a person who made a difficult and life-changing decision.
While this still may seem minor, consider this: Drake is one of the most influential rappers and celebrities of our generation and his music draws massive attention. Would he have released a diss track targeting someone with a physical or chronic illness?
Physical illness yields compassion and support, while mental illness is something that classifies people as weak or whiny. There is already an astounding amount of people who are aware that they have a mental illness and do not seek help. Of the 14.8 million American adults who suffer from depression in a given year, less than one-third of them receive treatment, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine journal.
What makes the implications of the track even stronger is that mental illness is especially prevalent among college students, who tend to be the target audience for rappers and musical artists like Drake. One out of every four college students suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression, and 75 percent of these students do not seek help. It’s clear that there is a disparity between physical and mental illness, and Drake’s track only went toward widening it.
It is difficult to justify why this disparity exists, however, one strong possibility is that there is not enough education surrounding mental illness. People do not understand that the effects of mental illness can be just as life-threatening as physical illness if they go untreated. It is certainly hard to understand these effects, as they are not always visible to the naked eye. There must be more transparency regarding mental illness and its implications. It is also important for mental health to be considered a crucial part of primary health — not secondary or unnecessary to overall health and well-being.
Kid Cudi made a bold and courageous move by speaking publicly about his decision. Drake made an ignorant move by releasing this track. Many people share this ignorance, and we can no longer accept the sentiments that feed into this stigma. An illness is an illness — there should be no disparity between the two.
Emily Kaufman is a sophomore majoring in English.