The biggest misconception in the African-American community is that people are always supposed to think positive and not feel, Charlamagne Tha God said during an appearance at Claflin University.
The author and radio and television personality joined the Mental Health and Hip-Hop Forum April 3. The event was held as part of Claflin’s 10th annual CALA-Bash (Claflin's Arts & Letters Annual Bash), which concludes Sunday.
“We try to dismiss every emotion if it’s not a positive one, if it’s not happiness,” Charlamagne said of African Americans. “That’s not the way life is. I’m human sometimes. I’m going to feel this way or that way.”
“Therapy taught me to allow yourself to feel,” said Charlamagne, who has used his media platform to speak on a personal battle with mental health issues.
Dr. Arlecia Simmons, assistant professor of mass communication, and Dr. Napoleon Wells, assistant professor of psychology and a clinical psychologist, joined Charlamagne in discussing how the conversation about mental health has changed.
Simmons asked Charlamagne to explain how he processes and handles his journey through mental health.
"I think I've been what you call crazy," Charlamagne said. “For me, I have an insane sense of anxiety. I would always try to figure out why do I always feel this way, like I’m having a heart attack. Why do I think the worst in situations? I believe in the law of attraction, so I believe that your thoughts become things.
“Anything that you want to happen in your life, you should just think about it. And the things you don’t want to happen, you shouldn’t think about at all. But what about when you can’t stop thinking about the worst?” he said.
Simmons asked Wells how to deal with such anxiety.
"I think the very first thing I will say to our community of students in general is part of what brother Charlamagne said, you're not crazy," Wells said.
“You’re black and have been raised in this society and you have experienced a certain amount of trauma. If it hasn’t been visited on you directly, you can take the issue of the death of Nippsy Hussle.”
Hussle was an American rapper shot and killed this past Sunday in Los Angeles at age 33. He was respected by the hip-hop community and locally in L.A.
“You are in fact bombarded with images. People are showing his death to you repeatedly,” Wells said. That is secondary trauma, she said.
“Even if you haven’t been exposed directly, if you see it enough or hear word of it enough, you can be impacted by it, those nightmares becoming a part of the experience.”
Wells gave students three steps for overcoming feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Step 1: Ground yourself
- Step 2: Take a deep breath
- Step 3: Meditate
Senior psychology major Reginald Crews asked Charlamagne about coping mechanisms he uses.
“I know this is going to sound cliché … I feel like self-love, especially because I don’t think people realize that your first, last and best love will always be self-love,” Charlamagne said.
“You have to look in the mirror every day and love the person that’s looking back at you. You have to go to sleep at night loving the person you’ve been throughout the day,” he said.
“Love is the most important element, the most important coping mechanism. That’s why I’m stressing people every day constantly tell people you love them, you appreciate them.
“Stop walking by your brother or sister and not saying nothing. We from the South. We love people.
After making his closing statement, Charlamagne had everyone stand up and hug his or her neighbor -- ending the mental health form with love.