While you were making fun of Michelle Williams for no reason at all, the singer and former Destiny’s Child member—often the brunt of frivolous jokes during the group’s heyday—was struggling with depression.
“I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time, suffering with depression,” the 37-year-old singer, who says she’s been dealing with depression since age 13, shared while co-hosting CBS’ The Talk on Wednesday. “When I disclosed it to our manager [Mathew Knowles] at the time, bless his heart, he was like, ‘You all just signed a multi-million dollar deal. You’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?’”
Which got Michelle thinking: What if she was just tired? But after eventually becoming suicidal, she realized what she was experiencing was something more serious.
“I think at the age of 25, had I had a name to what I was feeling at the time, I would have disclosed that ‘I’ve been suffering from depression,’” she continued. She later thanked CBS for providing a safe space and platform for her to spread awareness.
Michelle’s coming forward is important. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 26.8 percent of Black people ages 12 and up experience symptoms of depression, versus 21.5 percent of whites. Data also shows that women are more likely to be depressed than men. But equally important to know is that depression is often written off as something else. In fact, because depression can look different from person to person, some people may not even realize they’re depressed at all.
“We often assume that a person who’s depressed is really sad, and yet depression doesn’t have to include sadness,” clinical psychologist Seth J. Gillihan writes for Psychology Today. “Many individuals with depression feel more numb than sad, or may have lost interest in things they used to enjoy without having an obvious shift in their emotional state. It can also be easy to attribute depression symptoms to other factors, since depression is one of several possible explanations.”
It just goes to show that you never know what someone is going through. The figurative veil separating celebrities from regular-degulars often makes it easy to poke fun at their expense. #PoorMichelle may have given folks a chuckle back when when “Say My Name” was dominating the charts, but it’s time to ask ourselves where we should draw the line.