This U.K. Rapper Wants To Change How We Think About Mental Illness

The World Health Organization estimates that over 300 million people are living with depression. Yet the subject of mental illness remains a taboo topic in our society, particularly for men, who are often told to “man up” when feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts occupy their minds. SLANG (FKA Dan Dare; Brutality) knows all too well what it means to feel lost, and he’s using his music to help others struggling with mental health concerns (while also working through his own obstacles).

SLANG was born in Southall, a suburb in West London. The producer recalls being inundated with negative thoughts and grief but not understanding the cause of his emotions.

“My thing with depression and anxiety is that I didn’t know what it was. It was in me, you know? I was just like, like, ‘what is this that I’m feeling? Why do I feel like this?,” he tells Uproxx’s Dara Safvatnia.

SLANG felt alone, but his plight is not uncommon, though it’s not often spoken about. One in eight men is diagnosed with a psychological condition such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

“When [SLANG] first came, he was very suicidal, extremely depressed, unable to focus or concentrate on anything else apart from the negative, spiraling thoughts,” says hypnotherapist Malminder Gill.

For Slang, music serves two purposes: First, it’s therapeutic, allowing him to express his feelings through art; Second, it allows him to connect with other sufferers of mental illness who may feel ashamed or are unable to access treatment. He’s particularly passionate about connecting with teens and young adults, especially because recent stats suggest that youth who suffer from depression are not getting treated, even after diagnosis. A recent study of 1,000 teens revealed that 36 percent received no treatment after diagnosis, 68 percent received no further assessment, and 19 percent did not receive any follow-up care.

The solution? More open communication about mental illness. It’s the best way to reduce and (hopefully) end the stigma that surrounds psychological disorders. “Talk to somebody,” Gill, SLANG’s hypnotherapist urges. “That’s what SLANG’s music is doing. It’s allowing the person to talk to somebody else through music.”The music star also encourages those suffering from symptoms like his be more open and honest with themselves.

“It’s totally okay to not be okay,” he says. But he also believes there’s good reason for hoping. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel. If you can’t change certain things, you shouldn’t punish yourself.”