Depression and Hip-Hop: Are They Related?

Images of strength have dominated Hip-Hop since its inception in the early 1970’s. MC’s often professed superiority over other MC’s with lyrical wizardry and dominance on the microphone. Weakness was not an option, especially outward signs of weakness. However, when it comes to saving your life or the life of someone you love, we have to admit that Hip-Hop artist and those who love Hip-Hop are at risk for one of the most common medical problems seen in the doctor’s office: Depression. Not that Hip-Hop itself has any direct relationship to this disease, but you must realize that no one is exempt and we must all be aware of the signs and symptoms of this treatable disease.

The untimely death of Hip-Hop DJ/producer David “Disco D” Shayman is only a testament to this issue. I never met Disco D and I don’t know all the circumstances surrounding his death, but one thing I can tell you is that depression, left untreated, can lead to loss days of work, destruction of families, and in its worse form: suicide.

The old saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem is very true. Once a person commits suicide, the opportunity to resolve issues and make amends is gone. Disco D will be missed, and I’m sure he would want those who loved his music to learn more about this problem. So, let’s define depression, its signs and symptoms, and options for treatment.

Depression or a depressive disorder is a disease that affects the entire body. It is by no means a sign of weakness, and does not have to be prompted by the death of a loved one, divorce or losing your job - although these situations can be a factor. Depression is an extreme form of sadness that a person cannot pull himself out of or resolve easily without help.

There are several types of depression including major depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder. We will focus on major depression. Symptoms of major depression include problems sleeping (insomnia or oversleeping), loss of interest in things one normally does, feelings of guilt, decreased energy, decreased concentration, changes in appetite (not eating at all or overeating), decreased sex drive and thoughts of suicide. If you have a family history of depression, this also increases your risk of getting the disease. These symptoms usually have to be present consistently for more than two weeks.

In general, women experience depression about twice as often as men, however, men with depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. There are also studies that show there may be an increased risk of heart disease in both men and women who are depressed.

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment must begin immediately! There are medical problems that can cause depression, such as thyroid disorders and viral infections, but once they are ruled out, the usual course of treatment includes consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist, medications, and group or one-on-one therapy. Do not let depression take you out of the game. If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the above signs or symptoms, seek help right away! It could very well save your life.

It’s “Tha Hip Hop Doc”, they call me H2D. Come on now and let’s get Hip Hop Healthy!

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Dr. Rani Whitfield is a board certified Family Practice and Sports Medicine Physician who lives in Baton Rouge, LA. He is affectionately known as “Tha Hip Hop Doc” as he uses music and medicine to educate young people on health issues.