The late legendary Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s hit album, Shuffering and Shmiling was released in 1977. Funnily enough, as the legendary musician’s 80th posthumous birthday was celebrated this year, it seems rather interesting that this 41-year-old song still resonates in the lives of many till date, especially people in his line of trade; musicians and celebrities.
It may seem ironic, however, that behind the glamour and the larger-than-life world of these individuals on the television screen and in the social media, in reality, depression shrouds them like a cloak as some of them carry a heavy heart everywhere they go. So even though they bring smiles to the faces of others, it sometimes doesn’t reflect their own mood.
For instance, Owen G is a celebrated and well-loved comedian, whose star shines so bright that his mere presence could elicit a giggle at a funeral. The comedian is so good at his craft that all he needs to do sometimes was to step on a stage, which is enough to evoke laughter from the audience – even without saying a word.
Sadly, it is all a façade as whenever he is all alone with his shadow, it is a sorrowful monologue embedded with loneliness and depression.
However, Owen G is not alone in that dreadful lane. From recent revelations from Nigerian celebrities, it is obvious that it is really lonely at the top as a number of A-list artistes have come out to state that at some point in their lives, they have battled with depression.
Owen G, during a chat with Saturday PUNCH, revealed that sometime last year, though he made other people laugh, he was in a state of depression.
“Although comedians are thought to be the happiest people in the world, we are also human beings. When I was depressed, I had to find a way to snap out of that mental state of mind even though it was hard for me.
“For years, I had taken different pills and drugs just to calm me down. I had taken antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, and there were times that I was given drugs that would knock me out and make me sleep.
“But when I woke up after a while, I would be back to the reality of things. However, none of the drugs was as powerful as self-rediscovery and prayers,” he said.
Luckily, the ace humour merchant was able to snap out of his state of depression but that was not the case for the late legendary comedian and actor, Robbie Williams who spent the best part of his life making people laugh but behind closed doors, he was battling with acute depression.
It is sad that the actor who brought a smile to so many homes around the world couldn’t bring a smile to his own face as he took his own life in 2014 by hanging himself in his home in California. After his death, medical reports confirmed that he was battling Parkinson’s disease and dementia but multiple sources and close friends further confirmed that the actor was depressed.
One thing is certain and it is that Marilyn Monroe left this world way too soon at the age of 36. The original ‘bombshell girl’ was the poster child for beauty magazines and campaigns, and a people’s idol. However, her affair with the 35th American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy and everything that the fame and affair brought to her life was too much for the famous actress to withstand. In the end, she took a high dose of barbiturates and put an end to the suffering. Till date, many reports reveal that she lost the battle to depression by taking her own life.
Also, when Grammy-nominated Swedish DJ and producer Avicii passed away at 28 in April 2018, it was a case of suicide induced by depression. According to the disc jockey’s family, Avicii ended his life because ‘he could no longer go on’.
Their statement read, “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace. Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight. Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed. The person you were and your music will keep your memory alive.”
In a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the World Bank, which collected a nationally representative sample via a new round of the General Household Survey Panel conducted in 2015-2016 but published in 2018, at least one in five Nigerian respondents has depressive symptoms while about 22 per cent of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression.
Also, based on a report released by the World Health Organisation in March 2018, globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide as well as a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
But for sheer luck, Nigerian pop star, Tiwa Savage could have lost her estranged spouse, Tee Billz, to suicide which was borne out of depression in 2016.
In a series of posts which had since been deleted, Tee Billz ranted about how his estranged wife, whom he reportedly helped when she was relatively unknown, seemed to have neglected him as her husband after stardom. Tee Billz, who doubled as Tiwa Savage’s manager, later claimed that his Instagram account was hacked. However, it should be recalled that reports which made the rounds stated that he was rescued by singers Banky W and Peter Okoye formerly of P-Square when he contemplated suicide as he was on the verge of jumping off the Third Mainland Bridge.
Just last month, popular singer, Harrysong, also posted what seemed to be a suicide note via his Instagram handle due to some issues he was facing. Although the singer was doing well with hit songs under his belt, it seemed his achievement failed to keep depression at bay as he wrote on his Instagram page, “Don’t cry (when) I die, celebrate, put up a kingmaker concert, empower more youths… I have lived… I have done my bit, carry on in grace…” TEKERO I LOVE YOU ALL.#altersoldier (sic).”
However, when Saturday PUNCH reached out to his manager, Desmond Chima Ike, he admitted that the singer was depressed and also praised him for voicing out on time.
“Anything could lead to depression. Even when you are experiencing positivity in your life; if you have so many things you are trying to deal with alone, as small as they might seem, they could lead to depression.
“In recent times, Harry has been dealing with some personal matters. We noticed that he hasn’t been the usual Harry and that his energy level was depreciating. We asked him what was wrong but he said that we should not bother because he was trying to deal with it alone. This man is someone who is doing well in his career; he is one of the busiest artistes at the moment.
“When he made this post, he had played at about three shows in two days. We were not in Lagos when he made that post. We went for a show in Rivers, Bayelsa and Benin City, Edo State. It was when I was making arrangements for our hotel reservation that he made the post,” Ike said.
He used the opportunity to commend the Reggae Blues singer for speaking out because it could have led to his death. He said, “What we need to be glad about is the fact that he spoke out. In this part of the world, men are perceived to be very strong species who should not cry when things are going wrong.
“The fact remains that it takes a strong person to speak out when they are going through emotional stress, especially if he is a male. It was very heroic of him to speak out because now we know, it is no longer something he can deal with alone and we have sought help.
“Now we have got him the needed help. If he had not spoken out, it might have led to something negative and people would make remarks that he could have spoken out. It was very heroic of him to seek help when it was needed.”
In the same vein, popular singer and beat maker, Samklef, famed for producing some of Wizkid’s hit songs, also admitted recently that he suffered from depression but not to the extent of wanting to take his life.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, he said, “Entertainers are human beings too and we also go through tough times. When the issue of Harrysong came up, I understood his plight because I had also been in a similar situation. It has to do with my upbringing. I lost my father at a very early age and I didn’t grow up with my parents. Imagine an 11-year-old boy, who had to struggle for everything in life, but he was eventually able to turn all the negativity into something positive.
“That is my story and it still affects me till date because I’m very emotional. Till now, I don’t like playing games because I would feel very bad if I lose. I always like to win. I have never considered suicide though. I have been through worse things and I always survived. At the age of 14, I was on the streets of Lagos Island living alone.
“I realise that everything I’m going through is a phase. There are times that one would feel that things are not working out and that happens to everybody. Once something is not working out for me, I move on to the next thing.”
It is apparent that the rich also cry as other top celebrities have on several occasions revealed that they had battled depression in their lives.
For instance, Ko ma roll singer, Mo Cheddah, revealed via Instagram live on June 9, 2018, that she battled with depression for four years.
For the producer of the blockbuster movies like ‘Alakada’, ‘Alakada Reloaded’ and ‘The Ghost and the Tout’; Toyin Abraham, in an interview with an online portal, described how depression clung on to her like a leech in 2017, but she had to find a way to overcome it.
In the case of the ace actress, Halima Abubakar, she revealed that she was depressed for seven months over a failed relationship. According to the actress, after her relationship collapsed, she didn’t handle it well, thereby leading to her having sleepless nights and constant migraine. She also revealed that at some point, she couldn’t sleep for about two weeks. The depression got so bad that she had to be hospitalised.
Tonto Dikeh is also another celebrity who has come out to reveal that she has suffered from depression. According to the actress, she was faced with depression in 2013 but was able to overcome it. She further revealed that because she was a strong person, she was able to fight it and move on with her life.
Dikeh went ahead to set up a foundation to help those suffering from the silent killer.
In a chat with Saturday PUNCH, star actress, Damilola Adegbite, lauded her colleagues who had opened up that they were depressed at some point in their lives. She noted that their revelation could save the lives of the people who looked up to them but might also be suffering from depression.
Adegbite said, “Let us not forget that the celebrities are human beings. Everybody at some point in their life had had moments when things were up and down. Whatever it is; it could have to do with finance or family issues, so I do not think it is peculiar to celebrities.
“It is just a good thing that we are coming out to admit it and hopefully, it would make people comfortable to know that it is not a disease and that it is part of human nature.
“I think it is very laudable that celebrities are coming out to say they feel depressed. I think it is very helpful for them to share their stories because a lot of people look up to us and it would help them feel like they know us more instead of just seeing us on the television. If you can touch one or two lives sharing your personal experiences knowing that it would touch some lives, it is okay.”
Several factors have been attributed to suggest that depression may be common among celebrities.
For instance, the crooner of Maga Don Pay, Kelly Hansome, through his Instagram page, opined that depression is common among celebrities because of their ‘fake lifestyle’.
“Depression among celebrities is a long-term effect of not being oneself; living a fake life. Depression among artistes is becoming rampant. It is the repercussion of living a fake and unsustainable life. Stay true to yourself,” he noted.
Music executive and media player, Kenny Ogungbe, is the founder of Kennis Music and has been in the music business for over 25 years. In a chat with Saturday PUNCH, he identified fake lifestyle and lack of investments as topping the reason why some artistes were suffering from depression.
“They tend to get depressed because initially, they would make huge amounts of money and record hit songs but later in life, that stops. The show promoters would stop calling them for shows and they would not make the kind of money that they used to make.
“This could make them start worrying too much and it could degenerate to depression and other kinds of mental disorder. Also, celebrities live fake lifestyle because they want to ‘belong.’ There are celebrities who wear other people’s jewellery or fake ones just to ‘belong.’ Some borrow money, clothes and cars from people just to enhance their popularity and this would never die in the industry. They do it to package themselves because they believe it would help them. Once they cannot get these things at the level they want it, they start thinking negatively and that would start to get them depressed,” he said.
Fondly referred to as Baba Keke, Ogungbe noted that it was easy to identify an artiste going through depression.
“I have not had an artiste under my label suffering from depression but I have seen other celebrities going through this phase. Although nobody has ever discussed their mental state with me, I can tell if they are depressed by sheer seeing what they are going through.
“It is always obvious when they stop making hit songs, especially if the singer was a hitmaker in the past with great songs. If you look at them, you would know that something is wrong. It happens to them this way because they did not invest their money.
“If you look at their faces, you would see wrinkles and from their looks, it would be so obvious that they are troubled. From the way they keep their hair and their carriage, you would know that they are not well mentally,” he said.
The Kennis Music boss stated that the sad part of the development was that most artistes preferred to drown themselves in alcohol or take to the use of Indian hemp instead of seeking professional help.
“Some of these artistes tend to get ‘high’ when they are disturbed. Imagine if a person is not 100 per cent fine but then adds the use of Indian hemp to his issue; it would escalate the problem. The fact that they use illicit drugs and alcohol to ‘wash’ away their sorrows would not help them; instead, it would harm them the more.
“It would not help their mental state because once the effect of the substance wears off, they would be hit with the reality of life and they could sink deeper into depression. Sadly, some of them cannot control it and that is how they have mental disorder,” he said.
Ogungbe, however, urged artistes to learn to save for the rainy day, saying, “In this business, money would not come forever.”
He continued, “When you make a hit song, it would bring you shows and endorsements. Sadly, when they have this money, they think things would remain that way forever, but it is not so. They have to learn how to manage their money and resources.
“Celebrities should learn to invest the money they make so that when things get dry, they would have something to fall back on.
“If you do not have enough money to sustain you during your dry season, it would affect you negatively and to bounce back would be hard. Also, I advise that anyone who is facing depression should visit a psychologist or any other professional expert.”
Lanre Olusola and Oyinkan Alabi are professionals who are known to have helped some celebrities out of depression. In separate chats with Saturday PUNCH, they both emphasised that their opinions are based on research and no particular patients of theirs.
In his case, Olusola stated some reasons why celebrities seem to get depressed. He said, “For celebrities, life can be unfair and tough. The standards that they have to adhere to are sometimes unrealistic. Why can ordinary people make mistakes and get away with it but if a celebrity does he or she is crucified? Some of the challenges celebrities face is that they have to bear a lot of societal pressure. Their lives are constantly under scrutiny, hence no privacy. Being a celebrity means that people always treat you differently and especially as if you’re not from this planet.
“Many celebrities have relationships and marital problems because other people get involved and influence them, so a lot of them get separated and eventually divorced. A lot of them are daily dealing with a lot of stress and often depend on drugs and alcohol intake to manage all those stresses. Because people see them as successful, most have to keep up the perception through luxurious living that they may not be able to afford at that time. Most times, their cash flow does not match their lifestyles. Another issue is that when their careers end and the flow of money or their contracts ends, people immediately forget them. This and a lot more like losing their fame, not making as much as or being as successful as some of their contemporaries make them more prone to depression.”
He further mentioned some symptoms that could reveal when a person is battling depression. “When celebrities who are naturally confident and hopeful begin to feel hopeless, when they don’t feel passionate about their craft anymore, when they don’t want to be seen, or seem to care about how they look, when they begin to increasingly feel fatigued and tired, when they begin to lose sleep, stamina, a desire and drive for success, they should begin to seek help before it deteriorates to full-blown anxiety. These manifest physiologically as nervousness, restlessness, panic attacks, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, increased or heavy sweating, physical tremors or muscle twitching, regular chronic pain, trouble thinking or staying focused,” he said.
Olushola further advised that if anyone experienced these symptoms, the best to do is to, “get professional help early.”
Also, Alabi who has worked for over 15 years in various capacities as an ordained pastor, life coach, therapist and emotional intelligence practitioner stated that success has much strength and if one is not observant, it could pull a person down.
According to the therapist, extreme success could be so lonely and empty. While speaking on the causes of depression among celebrities, she further said, “Usually, observers forget that popular figures and celebrities are human beings. You have to be a human being first before you can become a celebrity. We also live in a world I call the ‘dual world’ that is, the online and offline world; so observers are on the lookout trying to ensure that what you display, depict and reveal online is their perception of you in reality. Just in case it is different from who you truly are, there would be a classic conflict. An example would be someone who is naturally introverted and shy but turns into a celebrity or a popular figure. The world expects that when you step out, you would take pictures with all of them as often as they request. They expect that you do not repeat your outfit. They expect a certain code of conduct if you are a celebrity. So, they get depressed, unhappy and sad basically because there is a conflict between who they really are and who people think they are.”
The life coach identified some stage of depression, saying, “I usually mention some stages of depression based on my studies and observation as a pastor and therapist. One of the symptoms is it usually starts from a level of cluelessness. When it looks like there is no optimism anymore and the person is just clueless about life, the person begins to ask questions like, who am I? what am I doing here? Questions they cannot answer. So the first stage would be cluelessness; not knowing what to do or where to go to. They are not sure where else to reach out to. The second stage for me is helplessness or hopelessness. At this stage, you have no passion to live and you are tired. After helplessness sets in; the person moves to a level that I call mild depression and the chronic stage is where people go for diagnosis and the medical practitioners set in. The last stage is the suicidal thought.”
Alabi said that even though a person can be chronically depressed and suicidal, it is still quite easy to snap out of it and she gave some tips. “The interesting thing is that you can move from a suicidal state into a state of happiness and it is very simple. There is a formula that I learnt from my role model, Anthony Robins and it is quite simple. The formula is about the law of happiness and the law of unhappiness. The law of happiness states that when your condition matches your blueprint, you become happy. This simply means that when your present condition matches your desire, you would be happy. An example would be, if you are unmarried at 35 years old and you planned on getting married at 30, you would be unhappy. So when your life condition does not match your blueprint, you would be unhappy. When a young man planned that at 35 years old, he would be married with kids and a house but at that age, he is still submitting his CV despite having a Master’s degree, he would be unhappy. If he has to rely on friends and parents for handouts just to live and he cannot attend social functions because his friends seem more successful than he is, there is a tendency that he would become depressed and even suicidal.
“To alter our state from unhappiness to happiness, three things have to be done. You have to change your strategy, look at your life condition and look at what to adjust in it. Change the things that you can control. There are some things we need to adjust in our blueprint to empower and refresh the person for the next level. The second step is to change your story. If you consistently speak disempowering stories within yourself, the truth is that life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent of your interpretation of what happens to you. That is what I call intrinsic motivation. If you are intrinsically motivated, you need to pay attention to the stories you tell yourself. Life is internal. Also, you need to change your state which has to do with physiology. Sometimes our blueprint is what we planned while we were teenagers. For instance, a girl would say she wants to marry a tall, dark and handsome guy. Let your blueprint align with your life condition because the moment there is a misalignment, you would ultimately become unhappy,” she said.
A clinical psychologist, Dr Ehi Oamen, while speaking with some journalists on depression recently advised sufferers of depression to seek help from psychotherapists, saying psychotherapy without the usual drugs quickens recovery by 90 per cent.
“In depression and depressive illnesses and other mood-affecting disorders, doctors are quick in using tablets, antidepressants. It is very important these days that a lot of drugs that are used in treating the patient and other mood affecting disorders, all these drugs have their side effects, so by lessening the dose of these drugs and going on psychotherapy helps the patient,” he said.