For many years, the subject matter of mental health was brushed under the rug and never spoken about. It was taboo to talk about mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, etc., especially among African Americans.
Luckily, we live in an era where celebrities have broken down these barriers and encouraged the wider society to talk about mental health issues by openly discussing their own mental health issues.
Willow Smith has undoubtedly blazed the trail in advocating for mental wellness. She has made minding about the well-being of our minds and hearts cool. She is renowned for advocating for mental health and empowerment, especially among women from minority communities.
She has done this by sharing her struggles with her followers, encouraging an open discussion on the issue.
Post "Whip My Hair" Anxiety
In a 2022 episode of Red Table Talk (her family’s Facebook Watch talk show), Willow opened up about the anxiety she experienced in the years after the release of the smashing hit song "Whip My Hair."
Discussing her anxiety in her childhood, she said, "Recently, we had a talk, and she was like, 'I never knew that I actually experienced anxiety.' " She added, "And she was pushing it down for so many years like she had no idea. So, I had to forgive her a little bit for being like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah… I get it, but it's really not that bad.'"
Talking about her anxiety on The YUNGBLUD Podcast, Willow said, "I felt extremely unsafe in my music career in the past and that feeling of insecurity or unsafety, like I didn't feel protected, which went really deep."
"I had like a flashback of being like ten or nine and having like an anxiety attack on set and basically feeling like everyone around me was like, 'You're just a brat. Why aren't you grateful?' " she shared.
Willow has also been open about her self-harm experience, which she first shared with the audience of Red Table Talk.
Explaining her experience to People magazine, she said, "It was like a kind of lull; I was just listening to a lot of dark music. It was just so crazy, and I was just plunged into this black hole, and I was, like, cutting myself. Totally lost my sanity for a moment there."
Willow, however, ended the habit abruptly after realizing that it was "psychotic."
She also used her ordeal as a learning experience for other teens. Even though her mother, Jada Smith, offered to edit her confession of self-harm, she elected to keep it in the episode to inspire others to overcome self-harm.
"I know so many girls who struggle with this, and I'm like, 'I can't take it out.' At a certain point, I don't want to take it out. Because I feel like people are gonna be like, 'Wow, I feel that. If she's going through that and she got over that, I can do the same thing.'"
And it worked, as many of her followers reached out to her in gratitude for empowering them to overcome the same ordeal. She noted, "Looking back, it makes me feel even stronger because so many people DMed me or talked to me and were like, 'That really helped me.'"
The Anxiety Album
She also made an entire album that explores anxiety. Willow and her boyfriend, Tyler Cole, formed the group The Anxiety. The group produced a self-titled album that explored the eight stages of anxiety. In support of the album, the group created a performance art where they spent 24 hours in a glass cage, going through the stages of anxiety — paranoia, rage, sadness, numbness, euphoria, intense interest, compassion, and finally, acceptance. The performance element enhanced awareness about anxiety.
Willow not only spreads the message of the importance of mental health, but she also supports institutions that cater to mental health. She has donated to institutions such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America. Such donations have helped facilitate experts in disseminating mental health care.