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What Kanye West can teach us about bipolar disorder & Black mental health

The full episode transcript for We Gotta Talk About Kanye West.


Into America

We Gotta Talk About Kanye West

Trymaine Lee: A quick content warning. This episode contains discussions of intimate partner abuse, mental health, and suicide.

Lee: For the better part of a decade, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were one of the most influential couples in pop culture. The rapper and the reality TV star were already famous on their own, and when they got together, their celebrity was nearly unmatched.

They had four children, launched their own fashion and beauty empires, and had an estimated combined wealth of $2.1 billion. And because the couple was on E!'s Keeping Up with the Kardashians, moments that would usually be private for a normal couple played out on television, like when Kim found out that Kanye had been hospitalized for a psychiatric emergency in 2016.

Kim Kardashian: What's wrong? (VOICE BREAKING) Don't scare me, please. What's going on?

Lee: He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. One of the first times he talked about it openly was in 2018 on Jimmy Kimmel.

Kanye West: It's not I hate bein' bipolar. It's awesome. It's actually-- it drives more of how you really feel. So I think it's important for us to have conversations about-- you know, open conversations about mental health-- especially with me being Black, because we never had therapists in the Black community. We never approached, like, takin' medication. And I-- I think it's good that, when I had my first...

Lee: The media has often made a spectacle of Kanye's erratic behavior, like when he stormed the stage during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards way back in 2009.

West: Yo, Taylor. I-- I'm really happy for you. I'm gonna let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time.

Lee: Or his ill-fated 2020 run for the presidency.

West: By turning to faith, we will be the kind of nation, the kind of people God intends us to be. I am Kanye West and I approve this message.

Lee: Kanye has said that he goes off his bipolar medication for long stretches, and even called bipolar disorder his superpower. When Kim Kardashian filed for divorce last year, Kanye's mental health became a topic of discussion again. Recently, Kanye started making increasingly dramatic public statements like posting a video of him leading a mass prayer to bring his family back together, and sending Kim, his estranged ex-wife, an entire truckload of roses on Valentine's Day.

When Kim began dating SNL star Pete Davidson, Kanye's declarations took on a more menacing tone, calling on his fans to accost Davidson if they saw him in public. Kanye also posted screenshots of text messages allegedly from Kim onto his public Instagram account where, Kim says, it was creating a dangerous and scary environment.

And earlier this month, Kanye released a music video that included a scene of him decapitated what appeared to be a claymation version of Davidson. While some Kanye fans have defended his actions as either the byproducts of creative genius, or by a by-any-means approach to getting his family back together, others have said that Kanye's behavior is bullying and harassment, bordering on abuse.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah is one of the people who have warned that Kanye's actions should be taken seriously. There is no reporting to suggest that Kanye has been violent, but Noah told viewers he feels strongly about the story because of his own family's history. His stepfather was abusive and was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Noah's mother in the head.

Trevor Noah: What we're seeing though is one of the most powerful, one of the richest women in the world, unable to get her ex to stop texting her, to stop chasing after her, to stop harassing her. Just think about that for a moment. Think about how powerful Kim Kardashian is, and she can't get that to happen.

Lee: To be clear, the majority of people with mental health issues are not violent. And we want to be careful not to equate mental illness with violent or threatening behavior. And, again, there is no evidence that Kanye has been violent. But Kanye's apparent struggles with bipolar disorder, and his online treatment of his ex-wife, offer an opportunity to shine a light on the need to address mental illness and the toll it takes on families and relationships in the Black community.

Dr. Maia Hoskin: We are told it is not permissible to show vulnerability.

Rwenshaun Miller: We can't wait until it's a crisis goin' on, right, for us to have these real conversations with each other.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee and this is Into America. Today on the show, two Black mental health professionals talk about the deeper issues that Kim and Kanye's story brings up for our community, the systemic challenges that make accessing proper care difficult for Black people, and the tricky balance of caring for someone struggling with mental illness and holding them accountable for their actions.

Lee: All right, thank you all for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Miller: Appreciate you havin' us.

Lee: Rwenshaun Miller is a licensed professional counselor based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. He's also the founder of Eustress Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on raising mental health awareness in Black communities. I was also joined by Dr. Maia Hoskin of Los Angeles.

Hoskin: I am a professor at Loyola Marymount University and I'm also the academic program director over there.

Lee: Dr. Hoskin trains graduate students to become counselors and has a therapy practice of her own. So as she saw the news coverage of Kanye West, she was watching from the perspective of someone who understands a mental health crisis when she sees one.

Hoskin: Kanye West's mental health has been so sensationalized that it's almost as though he's kind of used as a pawn. And mental illness overall is kind of being used as a pawn, particularly in the Black community, as a site for gossip.

And so while, yes, I'm definitely concerned for Kim Kardashian, I'm concerned for their children's safety, and not just physically but emotionally, psychologically. Because no matter how we look at this, his behavior has been abusive.

And abuse doesn't just come in the form of physical abuse. I mean, threatening abuse, right? Psychological forms of abuse. All what we've been seeing, even putting all of their business, so to speak, airing out all their dirty laundry, that's psychologically damaging.

And so it's been actually difficult to watch because I wrestle often between feeling empathy for Kanye, you know, knowing that he is wrestling with a mental illness or a mental health diagnosis, but also wanting him to be accountable for his actions and understanding that this doesn't get him carte blanche to act in these abusive ways.

Lee: How do you all think race and gender frames the way we're viewing this entire thing? Obviously, it's Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, so they're celebrities, right? So part of this is celebrity culture and exploitation in the media. But really, there are Black men and women who are goin' through similar issues all across the country, it just plays out in a different way. So how does that kinda frame the way we're engaging with mental health in the Black community in particular?

Miller: I think it's not even just race and gender. We also gotta add social status to that too, right? Because let's be real: If Kanye was doin' this stuff and he was some regular Joe out here in Charlotte, yo, either the police woulda been ran up on him, potentially shot him, or he'd be in jail already.

So all of these things play a major role into that. But then also they've made their money off of this reality TV stuff. They made their money off of this particular drama and all of those particular things, right? So that's why people are buying into this.

Lee: Rwenshaun feels something of a connection with Kanye West. He also has bipolar disorder.

Miller: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where there is a chemical imbalance in your body. A lotta times we throw this term out there loosely. We say the weather is bipolar or that person is bipolar just because their mood shifts from, you know, they were happy one minute and then they're sad, you know. Yo, everybody is like that.

No. When it comes down to my manic phase, I'm in this hyper phase for like up to two weeks. And I don't have to sleep during that particular time period, I don't have to eat, but I feel like I can do everything. And then I've been in my stage of depression for as much as eight months. So these phases are not these quick shifts like a lot of people think. So it's a mood disorder. You have one end of the spectrum where you have your high highs, and the other end you have your low lows.

Lee: In 2006 when Rwenshaun was a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill and a member of the college's football team, he was sitting in his dorm room recovering from a knee injury when he got a call from his mom.

Miller: My mom, she could tell there was a difference in my voice just on the phone. She sent my cousin in to check in on me, and my cousin just came in and she just started cryin' because I wasn't what she was used to seeing. My hair was all over the place, I didn't shower, I didn't care about myself. I lost about 25 pounds over a matter of six weeks. And I was out of it.

And so my family ended up telling her to take me out of the dorm room, took me to her apartment. Then my family showed up. They was about eight deep. And it was like, "Well, if you're not gonna tell us what's goin' on with you, we're gonna take you somewhere that's gonna get you some help."

When they said that, I knew they were gonna take me to the hospital, so I didn't wanna go. So I fought the entire way there. And when I got to the hospital, ended up punchin' a nurse. They ended up putting me in a straitjacket in a padded room.

So, like, that was one of my lowest points in my life, I can't even lie. Because as you're sitting there, ya have this high sense of self, right? Your identity is tied to so many different things. Like I said, I was a scholar, I was a athlete, I was successful in so many different things. But now, I'm in a psychiatric ward and then lookin' through a small glass at my family members.

Lee: After receiving treatment, Rwenshaun eventually left the hospital, started taking medication, and attending therapy for his bipolar disorder. He went back to school but decided not to tell anyone about his experience. And not long after that, he stopped getting treatment and he continued to suffer with his disorder in silence for another seven years, not telling his family or friends what he was struggling with.

Miller: We as Black people wear masks wherever we go, right? I got really good at puttin' on a smile on my face, or really good bein' around my friends, or bein' around my family and acting like everything was great. But during that time period, I was goin' through a fifth of tequila every other day.

Lee: Rwenshaun says the stigma around mental health within the Black community, especially among Black men, played a major role in keeping him from asking for help.

Miller: I didn't want anyone to call me crazy. I didn't want anybody to look at me differently from the aspect of, "You're not the Rwenshaun that we know. You're not, you know, that scholar, you're not that athlete. You're not the man anymore because you're crazy." So I dealt with that on my own for seven years.

Lee: And in those seven years, Rwenshaun says he barely survived his lowest lows.

Miller: You know, a lotta times people look at suicide as something that's, you know, selfish or is weak. Honestly, I was tired of bein' in pain. I was in emotional pain. I would have delusions and hallucinations where I would hear three distinct voices goin' on in my head tellin' me that I'm not worthy, tellin' me that I don't need to be here anymore, that the world would be so much a better place without me here.

And for me to try to attempt that three times, I don't see nothin' weak about that at all. I felt like I had no other way out, or it was my opportunity to finally take control over my life. Yes, listenin' to it now, it's irrational, yes. But when you're in that mind state, that's all you can think about.

Lee: What was the moment when you decided to take that mask off? Like, what was that moment when you said, "You know what? I have to get real about this. I can't pretend anymore, the weight of all of this, I'm in all this pain." When did you reach that point where you said, "I have to get help and I want to be here and I wanna get better?"

Miller: So, for me, that last attempt. Man, I probably cried for about two hours after that gun jammed on me. And durin' that time, I was like, "Well, you done tried all of these things. You know, you would drink, you would party and do all this, that. That stuff never got you better. But it was one thing that did help you and that was goin' to therapy, that was taking your meds and doin' all of these things." And so I had to get back on that.

Lee: Rwenshaun went back to treatment and started taking medication again. And when he recovered, he recognized there were many other Black men out there just like him who had a difficult time seeking out therapy or believed it wasn't an option for them. So he decided to go back to school to become a therapist to serve people who look like him.

Rwenshaun is careful to say that he hasn't studied Kanye's chart so he can't speak directly to his mental health conditions. But as someone with bipolar disorder and who treats people who have the disorder, Rwenshaun says Kanye's talk about rejecting treatment is frustrating.

Miller: That rhetoric that you're spitting out is very dangerous to some folks. I know for personally, when I'm in my manic phase, I really feel like I'm a superhero. But I'm doin' reckless stuff, very reckless stuff that could be dangerous to myself and dangerous to other folks.

Or, on the flip side of that, when there's the depression aspect, you got individuals that's out here that maybe work at McDonald's or somethin', right? And they can't get outta their bed to go to work. So then you look at they can't pay their bills, can't take care of their kids.

It's so many different factors that play into this role when he can have that opportunity to take off that time and do those particular things and take care of yourself, or go to Wyoming where he bought a ranch, and all of these particular things. Everybody doesn't have that luxury to do so, that privilege.

Lee: But, Rwenshaun, going through bipolar disorder yourself, does that change the way you see what he's going through? I mean, 'cause on one hand, certainly his behavior is concerning, there is threats of violence, there's Pete Davidson, there's all this stuff happening. But it's clear that he may actually be going through a crisis right now--

Miller: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Lee: --right? How should we be viewin' this? From someone who has gone through this, how should we be viewin' his behavior? And is there a way that we should be thinkin' about this that we're not?

Miller: I really wonder about the people in his circle. Some of the things where we know that he's not gonna listen to certain people, but you gotta check this dude. When it comes down to protecting women or protecting, you know, his children or all that stuff, that's gonna be his direct circle. That's gonna be a man checking him as a man, and understanding like, "Yo, what are you doin'?"

Like, "You need to reel this back in. If you need to talk, you need to talk to me. Don't be puttin' all of this stuff on social media or, you know, doin' all of these rants and all of those particular things." I think for us as a general public, I think we still have to stop sensationalizing this thing. We're lookin' at this like it's a TV show instead of it's real lives that are actually in account.

Lee: Rwenshaun, you talked about Kanye's circle and concern for his circle, that his circle might not be doin' enough. And it's one thing to say, like, "Look, your partner's goin' through somethin'. He needs some help." But as Black men, you know, we have ego, we have all the things that come with just bein' a man anyway, and socialized as men.

But then as Black men in particular, right, how do we as brothers engage with each other and, like, best practices in terms of, like, "Bro, you need some help"? Like, how can we do that in a way that others might not be able to do for us?

Miller: We can't wait until it's a crisis goin' on, right, for us to have these real conversations with each other, you know. And, like, really ask the real questions. I don't wanna hear, "Oh, I'm good," you know what I'm sayin'. "I'm just chillin'." Or, you know, "I just need some time to myself."

Lee: 'Cause we always good.

Miller: Right. Right, right.

Lee: 'Cause we're always good.

Miller: Right. 'Cause we always gotta put on that façade. At what point do you be your authentic self and really let somebody in on what's goin' on with you? And a lotta times with that, that's gonna be me comin' to you and bein' like, "Trymaine, like, yo. I had a hard day, bro. Like, I ain't been sleepin' well."

And so that vulnerability comes from our end first to openin' up the door for somebody else to be vulnerable with you. But then also we've gotta stop playin' into this toxic masculinity of, you know, like you've got to be hard or you can't cry or only emotions that you're able to exhibit is anger and happiness.

Yo, the outside world already gonna treat us that way. Why we gotta be that way to ourselves? Why we gotta be hard with each other? We gotta be able to just sit down and have and hold space for one another to be like, "Hey, yo, I want you to be authentic with me." And then let's help find solutions.

Lee: But there's another piece of the Kanye West and Kim Kardashian story that Rwenshaun says proves the need for accountability among Black men: Kanye's harassing and bullying behavior.

Miller: When you see something that is wrong, you know, call him out on it. Whether that be, you know, not even just physical abuse but how they talk to their partner. And I say "partner" not just because of the fact we don't have just male and female relationships. We have male and male relationships or, you know, they and they. Like, so there are too many different things.

But then also understanding that you gotta call them out, and to check them on those things. Be like, "Yo, like, what is wrong with you from the aspect that you gotta talk to this individual like that?" You gotta check their ego. You gotta check their power struggle when it comes to those particular things, you watching somebody else be abusive in any type of form to their partner, to their children, to anyone else.

We gotta understand we have a privilege as men that some women or whoever else may not be able to call out. So that's your duty, your responsibility to call those out. Because, again, it comes down to the point of protecting other human beings. And understanding that certain things are just not right.

Lee: When we come back, Dr. Maia Hoskin joins the conversation. We talk about the challenge of being a support system and the barriers to accessing mental health care in the Black community.

Lee: Dr. Maia Hoskin, the therapist in Los Angeles, says that, while we should exercise compassion and empathy for people going through a mental health crisis, it's important to understand that their actions can still harm their loved ones. And often, that means the women who care for them or about them.

Hoskin: Because I do think and research supports that Black women are taught, and we in many cases internalize this notion of taking care of the community, even if it's to our own personal detriment. And so if we're interacting with, we a relationship with, or we have a relative, son, brother, what have you with someone who's in a similar situation to Kanye, and they're dealing with a mental health issue, right? Still supporting them.

But really reshaping and thinking about what that support looks like. And support doesn't necessarily have to look like, "I'm going to say yes to you every time. I'm going to open my door to you every time. I'm always gonna be a shoulder for you to cry on, no matter what," right?

A support might look like, "Listen, this is getting out of control." And presenting some type of ultimatum: "Either you're gonna get the help that you need for whatever you're dealing, or I can't be here for you like that anymore." And I know in the Black community, especially for Black women, that sounds, "Oh, that's so harsh."

You know, when I talk that way to my husband about my family members or, you know, friends, he's like, "Oh gosh, you're just so harsh. You can be so cold." And it's like, no, you know? Because not only do I have to protect my own mental and emotional health, right, but this is me caring for this person.

The easy road is we say, "Oh, okay. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes." That's a lot easier. I avoid conflict, everything, right? But for me to say, "No, I can't sit here and watch you go through this when there are resources for you." And so I think that we need to start finding the language and getting used to using that language and putting our foot down. And not seeing this as a selfish thing, for our own benefit, but really benefiting that Black man and truly giving him the support and helping motivate him to get the help that he needs.

Lee: Dr. Maia, I resonate with everything that you say, especially as I'm the only child of a Black woman. And, you know, at times, I'll admit it, she coddled me. And a lotta times to her own detriment. So as a Black woman, I ask you: How do you identify your own emotions? And where you draw your line as for your particular boundaries that you set with not only just, you know, maybe your husband or the men in your life that may be dealin' with mental health challenges, but then also your kids.

Hoskin: I think, you know, this is I think true for everyone. You know, when you feel that this situation is no longer safe, and again, in the Black community, we need to start re-conceptualizing a lot of things. First: What does safety look like? First: What does trauma look like?

In the Black community, we often are under this misconception that, in order to be, you know, traumatized or exposed to trauma, that means you have to be beaten or some catastrophic event has to have taken place. No, you can experience trauma as a result of a lost one, a divorce, a job loss, bein' broke during the pandemic, right?

Miller: Bein' broke period.

Hoskin: Period. Period. Because we're already exposed to daily anti-Blackness, discriminate, racism. So anything on top of that further exploits already existing trauma that we have accumulated over the years just by being Black in America, right?

Lee: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Hoskin: I think that when we get that feeling of, "This is no longer safe for me," when you feel that you are being drained, where you feel like you have no more to give but yet you find reserve, reserve, reserve, that is when it's time to pull the plug and say, "I can't do this anymore."

Miller: And I think we as Black men, I think, Trymaine, you probably can attest to this too, we do the same thing.

Both: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: And it may look a little different because of the fact of we may not lean heavy on our emotional piece to supporting somebody, but we, "Oh, I gotta grind. I gotta grind. I gotta--"

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: --"make this bread. I gotta provide. I gotta provide."

Both: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: "I gotta, you know, do all of these things," that we push everything to the background. 'Cause I know even when I asked one of my homeys, I said, "How do you prioritorize your life, yo?" He said, "My son first, then my partner and our relationship, then it's me." And I was like, "Yo, that's backwards, bro." I was like, "Because you givin' yourself the leftovers."

Both: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: "What are you teaching your son at this moment as far as putting everybody before you put yourself, before you take care of anything?" And so what's right for your kids is to take care of your health.

Lee: You know, that's somethin' that I'm always careful in the way I frame some of these questions is us talking as Black people in this conversation, but I wanna make sure I caveat it with this idea of stigma. Sometimes I think we make it seem like the Black community experiences a different kind of homophobia, or a different kind of this or that, right? Like it's a special thing.

But in the sake of the context of this conversation, I do wanna talk about stigma of seeking health care and goin' through mental health issues in the Black community. Because we are Black people, we've never existed outside. Like, I don't know what it means to be white at all. But I know that we do carry a thing with us where it's like you don't want to be stigmatized with whatever that thing is. Like, what is the stigma? Is that stigma real? And if so, how do we break it down?

Miller: So, like, in my work, I know I work a lot in, like, the community and stuff. And it's very stigmatized from the aspect of I'm pretty sure we all can relate to this in some fashion: "What goes on in this house stays in this house," right?

Both: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Yes.

Miller: So we're not gonna go out and say, "Oh, I've been in the bed for three days," or whatever. Or we even aren't even gonna label it as depressed, right? You may label it as you got a demon or just, like, whatever else. We'll--

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: --call it everything else but what it actually is, right? Understand, we gotta evolve. Think about when you was a kid and your needs, your psychological needs that were neglected. Why would you do that to the next generation?

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: We're so used to operating in dysfunction that we're scared to create peace--

Hoskin: Yep.

Miller: --in our lives and heal in our lives that that's what we run away from.

Hoskin: Right. Yeah, because we don't know it's dysfunction. And, you know, I was talkin' to my cousin a while back about, you know, our mothers and our mothers' mothers and generations before of us of women. And we started talkin' about this notion of the long sufferers, right?

And there's this myth in the Black community that, in order to have anything of worth, you gotta suffer. It gotta be painful. It gotta be ugly. You gotta fight. Whereas white folks are like, "Okay, you know, let's work." You know, what is it? You know, work--

Lee: Smart not hard.

Hoskin: Smarter not harder, right? And the same thing is with mental health though. You know, when you talk to older Black generations about, "Well, so this was traumatic," they're lookin' at you like, "What? Girl, bye."

Lee: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Hoskin: You know, "You better go on and get that. I went through it and I was fine," right? So I think--

Miller: But you're not though.

Lee: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Hoskin: Right, but you're not. You're not, and you don't understand that. Because if you were okay, you would actually understand that this was traumatic, and you would understand why this was traumatic for me, and you would have more empathy for me, right? But I think there's a lack of education and information of even understanding that these experiences, that anyone can have, not just Black folks, but anyone can have, but especially being Black in America, are traumatizing.

Lee: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Hoskin: But a lot of this goes back to the stereotype of the strong Black man, the strong Black woman, right? We are told it is not permissible to show vulnerability. It is a weakness to ask for help. It is a weakness to seek help, right? And so the only places of refuge that we can find safety or solace are the barbershop or the beauty shop, a basketball court, or the church. Right?

Historically, these are norms and traditions that have been passed down to us. And other than that, we have to remain resilient. Our worth and our value is in our resilience. Our worth and our value is in our strength to just continue just to take, take, take, take, take, never ask any questions, never say, "I need help." Never say, "Well, why do I need to take that?" right? Right? That is where our value is and that's where our worth is. And in a lot of ways, we have, over hundreds of years, continued to internalize and not question that.

Lee: But it's not just the stigma of seeking help, or the difficulty of finding a safe place that prevents Black people from accessing the mental health care they need.

Hoskin: Poverty, unemployment, right? Those are huge barriers that prevent us from having access to quality health care. But what we have to keep in mind is mental health can be tricky. Not all mental health providers accept insurance. So, first, you're presented with an issue of, okay, socioeconomic status: Do you have the money to pay $150, $250 an hour to a therapist or to a psychiatrist or a counselor?

And then above that, if you do find someone who takes insurance, how do you go about doing that, right? So then there's also a lack of information and education within the Black community of how do you go out and how do you seek out those resources?

Lee: Another barrier to this care is the lack of Black mental health care professionals. For example, in 2016, the American Psychological Association reported that just 4% of psychologists in the U.S. were Black. Maia sees this struggle firsthand.

Hoskin: Even when I've gone to see a therapist before, in my past personally, I've always wanted to see a Black woman. And at least where I lived, it's been like trying to find a needle in a haystack, right? And so that's another issue of that representation.

There is a certain amount of distrust that many Black people feel towards whites or authority, right? Or this country overall, right? Which might inform or shape our help-seeking behaviors and our levels of comfort going out and seeing and speaking to a counselor or therapist. So when we are not able to be matched with or to find a counselor or a therapist who looks like us, that could be a major hindrance of, "Oh no, I'm not even gonna do that because they're not gonna understand where I'm coming from."

Lee: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Rwenshaun, I see you amen-in' over there.

Miller: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely amen-in' everything. But I wanna even dig a little bit deeper with it.

Hoskin: Oh, hey.

Miller: So let's even think about, you know, the structure of psychology. It's not built for us. It's built off a white man principle.

Hoskin: Yep.

Miller: You have these different studies that say "research based" or "evidence based." Who are the individuals that you're researching?

Hoskin: Right.

Miller: Because I know if you go to my hood, my folks, if you're talkin' about psychology research? "Nah, we good on that, G." So, like, they're not doin' these things on our people. But then also understanding that, from my own personal view, I understand that mental health care can look different for our folks.

We gotta (UNINTEL) culture into our things. Man, I got a PlayStation in my office where my kids, they come, we playin' PlayStation till I figure out how to build that rapport with them. Or we're goin' to the gym, we go work out. Because those are the things, I gotta make them feel comfortable. Or I'm goin' to their house, sittin' on their couch. And, like, I need to see the totality of what's goin' on around you.

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: So our therapy may look a lot different than it does from the therapy that you see on TV or the therapy that rich people go to or the therapy--

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: --that white people may go to. It looks completely different. It may include Reiki or energy healing. It may include drum circles. It may have medication, it may be herbs. It may be a lotta different things. But then you add in the prayer aspect of it too. So we also gotta break down that barrier, like you can pray and go to a therapist at the same time too. Or you can, you know, still take your meds and still pray. Lean in on your folks and have these different supports.

Lee: The last thing I'll say on the rapport, it's funny, with your PlayStation. Me and my best friend of more than 30 years been playin' Madden since nineteen ninety, like, four. And I've realized over the years, whatever we're goin' through, we always on the mic, we talkin'.

I'm of course puttin' in that work and winnin', I hope he hears this. I'm puttin' that work in and winnin', realizing that, "Oh, this is our form of connecting." And so no matter what happens, this is our way to ease that we just bull shittin'--

Miller: Right.

Lee: --but we're actually havin' real conversations about life and what's goin' on.

Miller: Right.

Lee: Why does representation in mental health care providers, why does that matter? Like, what's at stake here? If we don't have that representation, how do Black people who are trying to address their mental health needs, how do they suffer as a result of not havin' that representation?

Hoskin: Many don't go.

Miller: Right. Right. You don't go.

Hoskin: Many don't go. I think--

Lee: Simple as that?

Hoskin: --many don't go and they don't get the help that they need. And so not only do Black people, they pay the price in a major way in terms of mental health and they don't get the help that they need. But we continue to see white supremacy thrive.

And whites are exonerated from the responsibility of understanding our experience and not just calling themselves an ally because they put a Black square on their Instagram, but really being a co-conspirator and standing by our side and really wanting to understand beyond sayin', "Okay, this is a box checked off."

Miller: From the aspect of just bein' able to see somebody that looks like me, and you bein' comfortable. But then so I'm gonna take it back to even when I had my first therapist and he was a Black male. For one, I questioned if he was a doctor because of what he had on because we don't see these particular things.

We always see certain people or certain social classes in a certain way. And when I first saw him, he dapped me up. And I was like, "Yo, all right, I'm comfortable." But then also, with that, he had to refer me to a psychiatrist who was a older white male. I was like, "Look, yo, I don't know about this." He was like, "Trust me." He said, "I know this dude. Me and him work closely together. And then also, I'm gonna even go with you to your appointment."

Lee: So even the cosign as conduit to quality care, he sayin' like, "Nah, nah, nah, I know this guy."

Miller: Right.

Lee: And so havin' him in the cosignin', you trust him. "I'm gonna get you in the right place. I ain't goin' to send you anywhere."

Miller: Right. Exactly.

Both: Right, yeah. Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: But then also my psychiatrist understood that dynamic, so he invited my therapist in. And then also, he worked together in a collaborative effort to address my needs. That's true allyship: How are you actually gonna really work with the community instead of just tryin' to fix the community?

Lee: As we look at what's playing out right now, and hopefully this does indeed have a good ending because it looks like a slow motion train wreck. Hopefully it's not, for all parties involved.

Hoskin: Right.

Lee: But what's the big takeaway here, do you think, at this point?

Miller: I would say there's different layers to this. Understanding, no matter how much money and stuff that you got, mental health is gonna impact us all in some form or fashion. No matter your celebrity status, no matter, you know, anything. Everybody always goes through something.

Hoskin: Yep.

Miller: This is something for you to consider. What things do I need to take care of within myself? What emotions? What traumas? What things do I need to do to make sure that I am healthiest that I can possibly be? Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, you need to take care of yourself. But then also with that, checkin' in on your close circle. You know, really askin' people, "How are you doing?"

Hoskin: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

Miller: And from a broader standpoint, also understanding that the system needs to change as far as how we are helping folks. Not just brushing them off or just consider them crazy and counseling them, we need to also understand what things do we need to do to treat them as humans first and not just objects.

Lee: If you or a loved one needs help accessing treatment for mental health care, you can call the health department's national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP. That's 1-800-662-4357. To stay in touch, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the handle @IntoAmericaPod. Or you can tweet me @TrymaineLee. That's @TrymaineLee, my full name. And if you wanna write to us, our email is

Into America is produced by Sojourner Ahebee, Isabel Angell, Allison Bailey, Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs, and Joshua Sirotiak. Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Aisha Turner. I'm Trymaine Lee. Take care of yourselves and be good to each other. We'll see you next Thursday.