In the last two years, DMX has had to cancel tour plans to treat his drug addiction. These abrupt cancellations followed a near-death experience in 2016; DMX suffered a drug overdose and stopped breathing and having a pulse. Fortunately, a medic administered Narcan, an emergency anti-opioid capable of saving lives by reversing opioid overdoses, and he was discharged from the hospital only two days later.
DMX has lived a painful life. He survived horrific childhood abuse by his unstable mother, poverty, incarceration and street violence in New York before finding success as a rapper. After becoming a grammy-nominated artist, DMX continued to have stints behind bars and make headlines for his controversial behaviors. This month DMX, who must submit to random drug testing as a condition of his probation, decided to preemptively check himself into rehab after recognizing an increased temptation to use drugs.
DMX is one of millions of Black people not receiving necessary treatment for mental health conditions. Within a given year, approximately 60% of Americans living with a mental health condition do not receive treatment. For instance, those living with bipolar disorder are especially at risk for being untreated because of the low rate of service use. Unsurprisingly, people of color are overrepresented among those without treatment. For instance, Black people living with bipolar disorder have additional barriers to treatment such as cultural stigma and a distrust of psychiatric care given America's lengthy history of exploiting Black patients.
DMX's experiences shed light on the systemic neglect of Black people battling opioid addiction. The opioid epidemic has been depicted as a public health problem devastating white communities. Yet, the reality is that the fatal overdose rate for Black people rose by 130 percent between 2014 and 2017. When it comes to Black people, punishment has been endorsed over rehabilitation by city officials. Additionally, draconian laws surrounding drugs tend to favor sentencing dealers over preventive measures or rehabilitation for drug users. Ultimately, the disproportional economic and social hardships Black communities face in America set the stage for a cruel cycle: dealers sell drugs to make a living, indigent users resort to crime to support their addiction, the police supplements America's mass incarceration through arrests of both populations, and then untreated addicts and unemployable convicts go back to the streets.
DMX's mental health needs have been overshadowed by the press's coverage of his public image. He is a Black man with an extensive criminal history, a crack addict, and the father of many children by different women. Less talked about, however, is that DMX is a survivor, a deacon, a mental health advocate and an example of how the mental health and legal system continue to fail Black people. Like DMX, many Black people living with mental health conditions do not receive treatment until they have been incarcerated. What if DMX had received counseling or was placed on a medication regimen following a proper diagnosis as an adolescent? DMX is fighting for his life. His lifelong battle reminds us of the comprehensive efforts that must be made to prioritize the mental health of Black boys and men.
Article Written by: Priscilla María, Mental Health Advocate and Writer