Charlamagne The God has had his share of controversy from rape accusations to those condemning his ignorance of Afro-Latino culture, but if there’s one thing he’s been completely honest and passionate about it’s how mental health is treated in the Black community. The Breakfast Club radio show host recently released his second book, Shook Ones. Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me and has shared on several occasions how much of a difference therapy has made in his life. Now, the host whose real name is Lenard McKelvey will sit down in a TV special with Dr. Jessica Clemons, aka “Dr. Jess,” for an unprecedented conversation about mental health in the Black community.
An official press release for the special states exactly what fans should expect from the conversation:
“In a rare moment of vulnerability and honesty, nothing is off limits during this in-depth exploration with Dr. Jess, breaking down barriers and revealing the true persona behind one of media’s most prominent voices.”
The host opened up to Billboard recently about his first steps to seeking professional help:
“The first step was going to therapy.”
“I had plenty of friends who dealt with anxiety and borderline depression that were on medication, but I didn’t think I needed any of that, so I figured I’d find someone to talk to. A lot of times, when you’re the go-to person, you got to ask yourself, who does the go-to person talk to? Sometimes you need to seek a professional opinion. God was telling me to go talk to someone.”
HelloBeautiful touched base with the author to ask how the special came to fruition. He shares initially he thought to just stream the event on social media, but VH1’s Chris McCarthy inspired him to do something bigger:
“I was keeping a journal of just my experiences in therapy.”
“I was writing down things that historically gave me anxiety, things that give me anxiety now, getting to the source of my PTSD, trauma from things that happened when I was young. So it just turned into this whole book about mental health and being mentally healthy.”
“I was gonna do live therapy just to show people what it was all about, because I feel like the best way to eradicate any type of stigma is just to show people, ‘Hey, I do it,’ that’s how you normalize it.”
He shares he was introduced to Dr. Jess by a mutual friend:
“I just thinks she’s an incredible spirit, she’s out here doing God’s work. She does therapy on her Instagram live every weekend and I just thought that the world needs to see and hear more of her.”
Last month Charlamagne announced that he originally intended to have a live discussion with rapper Kanye West who has also been very candid about his own mental health issues. He ultimately decided to cancel the event out of fear that the rapper’s latest antics within politics would distract from the type of conversation he wanted to have:
“Normalizing being mentally healthy is a conversation that I really wanted to have with Kanye because he’s been so vocal about his own mental health struggles.”
“Unfortunately I think to have that conversation with him right now would not be productive and a total distraction from the point of the convo which is to eradicate the stigma of mental health especially in the black community.”
As problematic as the radio host can be at times, in many ways he is a great example of the need for mental health support to be normalized within the Black community, particularly for men of color. Personally, much of what I’ve witnessed be a barrier between the medical community and men of color is fear and the association of asking for help with weakness. I’m curious to see what kind of conversation might be started from the event.
“In Session: Live With Dr. Jess” airs on VH1 Monday, November 12 at at 10PM ET/PT.