20 year old R&B singer Kehlani was recently hospitalized for attempting suicide. Kehlani seemed to have begun dating basketball player Kyrie Irving in January, but it seems the relationship didn't last long. However, that didn't stop everyone from slandering Kehlani on the 28th when rapper PartyNextDoor posted a picture (which has since been deleted) of him and Kehlani lying in bed together. The photo quickly gained popularity on Instagram and Twitter, and before you know it, thousands of people on the internet were calling Kehlani "cheater," "hoe," "thot," and much worse. People were already spreading around memes and jokes involving Kehlani, Kyrie, and PND. As many of us know, once something is posted on the internet, its affects can be swift and powerful. Hours after PartyNextDoor's Instagram post went viral, news broke that Kehlani had attempted suicide and was in the hospital.
Many people began voicing their opinions about Kehlani's suicide attempt, one of these people being superstar Chris Brown. On March 29th, Chris Brown tweeted
"There is no attempting suicide. Stop flexing for the gram. Doing shit for sympathy so them comments under your pics don't look so bad".
The tweet has since gotten over 50,000 retweets. Many Twitter users are also mirroring Chris Brown's idea that because Kehlani was rumored to have cheated on Kyrie Irving, we should not feel sympathetic towards her. The thing about that is, it's wrong. There are many reasons why this is wrong, and I'm about to break some of them down for those of you who feel the same way as Chris Brown.
To begin with, we don't know what incidents led up to Kehlani's attempted suicide. I'm assuming the scandal had something to do with it, but I'm not Kehlani, nor am I close with her, so I'm not going to pretend that I know all the things that were happening in her life that could have affected her mental wellbeing, and neither should you. Most of us understand that one can never truly know what another person is thinking or feeling without being that person. It's easy for us as an audience to watch people live their lives and pass judgement. It's hard to try to really understand what they are going through. And most of us like to take the easy way out. Some people have said that Kehlani looked happy and was posing for pictures hours later, so that must prove that this was all a stunt, and that she wasn't really suicidal. People with mental illness suffer in silence every day. They can post photos on Instagram, be part of a sports team, get great grades in school, and still be depressed, suicidal, or anything else. I have been dealing with depression for years now, with this past year being the worst. I go to a great school, I get good grades, I'm very active in social justice movements on campus, yet I have thought about hurting myself many, many times. I finally started seeing a counselor, taking anti-depressants, and making other lifestyle changes. It's gotten better, but it's still a struggle sometimes. But no one could tell just by looking at me. And you can't tell just by looking at your friend, your sibling, your coworker, your colleague, or your favorite celebrity.
Aside from Chris Brown's tweet being blatantly disrespectful to Kehlani--as well as to everyone who is silently dealing with mental illness and/or thoughts of suicide--it encourages the stigma that surrounds people with mental health issues. It reduces a very serious situation (suicide/attempted suicide) to something that is just done for attention or "sympathy." Thousands of people admire and look up to Chris Brown, so what he says can have a large impact. It's disheartening that he is using his platform to spread negative ideas about people who are dealing with weighty life circumstances and/or mental instability. This kind of mentality can cause people to look the other way or to disregard it when someone tries to, or says they will, kill or harm themselves. It can also cause people to be scared to go get help or to tell others about what they are feeling or going through. I have personally experienced this. I was scared for a long time to tell my boyfriend (of over a year at the time) about my concern for my mental health. I still haven't really told my family. Not only can this idea cause someone to be afraid of getting help, it can also cause people to think they don't even really have a problem; that they're just being over-dramatic, or that their feelings and experiences aren't valid. This is also something that I have experienced. I would tell myself that I didn't need to talk to anyone about it because I was just being a drama queen and I needed to get over it. If I had kept thinking that way, I could be much worse off than I am now.
While this whole thing is a sad situation, I'm glad it has given many people the opportunity to talk about suicide and mental health. There are important discussions that must be had between all of us regarding these topics. We must learn from each other and educate each other in order to help those who are ill and suffering. We must develop sympathy for those struggling with things that we can't understand. We must grasp that celebrities are people just like us, and as people, we need to look out for each other and help one another, rather than tearing each other down and pointing fingers--especially when a life is at stake.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.