Hip-hop is one of the world’s most popular music genres, with its global prominence transcending language and geography. More than ever before, hip-hop artists are publicly acknowledging their mental health struggles, promoting anti-stigma campaigns around mental health, and normalizing seeking treatment for mental health issues.
Hip-hop can be a vehicle for tackling stigma around mental health and addressing cultural imbalances. Hip-hop connects with groups that healthcare has historically struggled to reach, particularly men within the Black community. Underrepresented communities are at higher risk of developing mental health problems, and they are more likely to experience worse mental health outcomes. This is, in part, due to socioeconomic disparities. They are also less likely to use mental health services. Stigma around mental health issues is common in underserved communities, and it is a substantial barrier to accessing health services. Discrimination, bias, and a lack of cultural competence from healthcare professionals can also lead to unmet needs, late presentation of symptoms, and poorer quality of care.
For those who embrace hip-hop music and culture, we believe this medium could facilitate engagement, help normalize mental health, and promote seeking access to treatment. In addition, there is hope that the awareness gained from engaging with resources related to mental health and hip-hop can provide new ways for opening up conversations between health professionals and patients (such as asking if the patient likes music, and whether any particular genre, artist, and/or song resonates with how they are feeling at the moment). Health professionals do not need to have any knowledge of hip-hop. Culturally sensitive and context relevant approaches might open up more patient centered ways of building trust and deepening discussions about mental health, which can otherwise feel very stigmatizing. Likewise, understanding how mental health is portrayed in hip-hop can offer a different perspective for healthcare professionals, helping them to build empathy with someone whose experiences may be completely different to their own. This knowledge might also help health professionals to be more aware of any potential trends that link the contagion effects of suicide, self harm, and self medication from hip-hop icons to some of their patients, and to be prepared for this.
Hip-hop is an art form filled with passionate expression, and its lyrics resonate with people all over the world. Art and culture are powerful mediums for self expression and for translating experiences. It can also help shape perceptions, challenge opinions, bridge communication, and help to understand other people’s points of views. Since the genre’s conception almost five decades ago, hip-hop’s progressive narratives have increasingly addressed stigma around mental health problems. Hip-hop artists are speaking candidly through their art form, and they may be helping people around the world to acknowledge their own inner struggles.
Read more on BMJ.com.