I’m Listening 2021:  Normani’s panel discussion with AFSP highlights the power of accepting your mental health needs

On World Suicide Prevention Day Normani joins AFSP and I'm Listening for a candid panel conversation
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By , Audacy

Warning: Mention of suicide and mental health issues

On World Suicide Prevention Day, Audacy’s I’m Listening initiative joined forces with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for a panel discussion aimed at deepening the awareness and conversation around suicide prevention, during AFSPs all-day Facebook Live event.

Normani, who joined a panel lead by Audacy’s Yesi Ortiz spoke to I’m Listening’s Dave Richards, and AFSP’s Dr. Christone Moutier about her own relationship to mental health and how music has the power to bring communities together when it comes to topics centered around mental health.

The “Wild Side” songstress started by discussing how she grew up talking about mental wellness. Throughout her childhood, the singer tells us that her mother and father always prioritized her mental health. “They always encouraged me to use my voice and to speak up if I had anything going on,” explains the artist.

Normani continued, “you know being one of three Black kids at school for me was really, really a challenge at such an early age… so they just encouraged me to always speak my mind and to come to them and not be afraid… which I feel like I’ve carried throughout the course of my career now.”

Since the age of 15, the former Fifth Harmony member has been learning how to grapple with being in the spotlight, while also learning how to make her mental wellness needs her most important priority.

Having been on a “pedestal” throughout her most formative years, Normani says that this constant being in the public eye not being “allowed to make mistakes without being criticized or scrutinized” lead her to become a “super perfectionist.”

“I feel like especially in the black community, mental health and being able to talk to somebody or talk to a therapist is frowned upon because we’ve always just been taught to be okay and to preserve,” notes the “Motivation” artist. She follows up by adding, “but it’s a topic that isn’t talked about as much as it should be.”

Richards goes on to point out the power in public figures, like artists and athletes, coming forward to discuss mental health experiences. Explaining, “It’s so powerful to be able to know that ‘oh wow! My favorite whomever is also suffering from something.’”

Normani says, “For me… one of the most challenging points is just really accepting that it is okay not to be okay.”

“I’ve gone through so much. I’ve been through so many challenges and ups and downs. I’ve been okay and I know what it feels like to not be okay… having to accept that in front of the whole world makes it even more challenging and embarrassing in a sense,” says the singer.

Now, Normani tells us, “I’m allowing myself the opportunity now to be human and to also speak to somebody. I started therapy, which was one of the best decisions that I personally could have made for myself.

Turning to Dr. Moutier during the panel discussion, the doctor explains how mental health issues have been internalized throughout history.

AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer says “I take a big picture view… before we have science and a way of understanding these experiences, they’re very internal, they feel super private. And you look back throughout history… people had a way of trying to understand and categorize what it was when somebody was dealing with serious depression, or schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, or addiction, or suicide. There was a misunderstanding of what all that was.”

The doctor also notes that in the beginning, mental health was “highly, highly stigmatized.” Now in 2021, we’ve reached various paths to understand human behavior from technological, scientific, and anthropological angles.

“We have a way of understanding these internal experiences, that before we felt so much shame… We need to understand that when someone else is suffering they’re going to feel not themselves… we have to find ways to make it extra safe so that people can talk about it,” explains Dr. Moutier.

As culture continues to shift around mental health, the conversation about listening to your mind has made its way into the workplace, faith-based conversations, and so many other areas of life that would have been seen as taboo not long ago.