When our idols pass it can feel like a blow to our resolve, particularly when they served as our creative inspirations. It can feel demoralizing. Malcolm McCormick/Mac Miller’s overdose last Friday (07/09/2018) follows other high profile celebrity suicides like that of chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade.
In ‘Is Your Playlist Problematic?’ we spoke about how art is a reflection of society. As with any other artist, the experiences of musicians and what they sing about at any given moment is a sample of the current social climate. This is especially true when we speak about artists like Mac Miller, who have huge followings, as their experiences and music become even more relevant due to their mass appeal. His death has us asking questions and talking about addiction, mental health, suicide and the need to know more about treatment and how to cope with them.
References to codeine, ‘Molly’, cocaine and other drugs are sprinkled in the lyrics of some of pop culture’s biggest influencers.
In response to Mac’s passing, J.Cole has urged other musicians going through depression or addiction to reach out to him. Cole’s response sends the signal that addiction and mental illness does not make you weak. It encourages support and open conversation in an industry where drug and alcohol abuse are normalized.
‘You are not alone’
In light of the news, The Chainsmokers encouraged their fans who are dealing with addiction to seek help, and know that they are not alone.
The stigmas around mental illness that manifest as addiction and potentially end in suicide mean that suffering from either makes you feel weak, alone and hopeless. Simply knowing that someone else is experiencing what you are, and hearing someone else speak about their experiences may help to encourage you to seek support, diagnosis and treatment.
Speaking to a depressed or suicidal person can be a landmine that seems easier to avoid. Often we think that talking to someone who is potentially suicidal will only exacerbate these feelings but that is not true. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) points out that simply knowing you have support can play a key role in the decision of whether or not to end your life or not.
The ‘face’ of depression
Other artists have reflected a common misconception with suicide and addiction in their reactions. A very common one being that it was never expected. It’s perhaps one of the most harmful. The perception that depression and addiction have a face.
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you changed my life forever man.. i’m just happy I got the chance to know you. to thank you & to appreciate you while you were here. we were just talking last night.. We were shooting the conversations video next wednesday.. I Cant believe this. u always had a smile on your face no matter what was going on. RIP MAC, you’re a fucking legend FOREVER. I love you.
There is no type of person who experiences either, neither does success protect one from experiencing both. No one expects suicide, yet SADAG reports that 75% of people who successfully commit it, had spoken about it before it happened.
Which brings us to taking attempts at reaching out seriously. Mac’s history of drug addiction (mostly with promethazine, codeine, and cocaine) was well known with the rapper speaking openly about it, and with ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande having addressed it in the past. Grande tweeted a response to a fan who blamed her for Mac’s issues with sobriety – which is a problematic mentality that has re-emerged since his death and caused Grande to disable comments on her Instagram.
“I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety and prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course)”, Grande replied, “but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his shit together is a very major problem.”
Mac previously told Billboard that he had experienced suicidal thoughts when discussing his 2015 album, GO:OD AM. “That was the plan with Faces: [Closing song] “Grand Finale” was supposed to be the last song I made on earth,” Miller explained. “I don’t feel that way as much anymore.” He spoke about his path to sobriety but admitted he was not completely sober yet.
On Swimming, Mac rapped about depression and anxiety particularly on the track, ‘Small Worlds’, where he said: “Tell myself to hold on/I can feel my fingers slipping/In a motherf*ckin instant I’ll be gone.”
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I love you brother …. you gave me good advice & you was my friend & you jumped on my album 😿 I miss you bro , I really doooo , this one is really never gonna feel the same. you told me to come over this week but I was in Paris …. I’m sorry … I wish I was around more bro … Malcolm I love you ! Pray for the world & Mac’s family !
Many of his friends tweeted that he had reached out to see them not shortly before the news broke.
While his death is not anyone’s to account for, it brings up the need for not only de-stigmatizing mental illness and suicide, but also knowing the signs of the former, and how to out to reach out to those around us who we think may be experiencing depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.
For more information visit SADAG’s website.
If you are experiencing, or need help assisting a loved one suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts please contact SADAG on 0800 567 567. Lines are open 7 days a week, 8 am – 8 pm.