Lil Wayne is getting candid about his history of mental health challenges – including a suicide attempt when he was 12 years old – in hope of helping others.
The five-time Grammy-winning rapper, born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., spoke to author and TV host Emmanuel Acho on his “Uncomfortable Conversations” interview series posted Sunday, in which he opened up about wanting to inspire others to take mental health seriously and speak up when they need help.
“(I’m) hoping I can help anyone else out there who’s dealing with mental health problems by… being vulnerable,” said Wayne, 38. “To me, I look at it by being brave and stepping up.”
In 2018, the rapper shared for the first time to Billboard that the gunshot wound he had always referred to as an accident was from a suicide attempt. He told Acho that he first realized around age 10 that he was struggling internally, particularly when he was told he couldn’t rap – threatening his favorite creative outlet.
“I was willing to die for it,” Wayne said. The moment he realized he was dealing with a real issue was “once my thoughts got radical and got to where you’ve got to stop yourself and stop and pause and say, ‘What did you just think again?’ Even if you’ve cried yourself to sleep with that thought on your mind and wake up the next day and be like, ‘I cannot believe I was thinking like that.’ ”
At 12, Wayne panicked after learning his mother knew he had been skipping class, and worried she would tell him he wasn’t allowed to rap anymore. His thoughts were “everywhere,” he recalled. He knew his mother kept a gun in her bedroom and called the police before pulling the trigger.
When officers showed up, Wayne was badly injured and bleeding, but had managed to scoot himself toward the front door. But after getting inside, several of the officers raced past him, announcing they had found drugs and the gun before checking to see if the young boy was OK.
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“It took a guy named Uncle Bob. And he ran up there, when he got to the top of the steps and saw me there, he refused to even step over me,” Wayne said. “One of them yelled like, ‘I got the drugs.’ And that’s when he went crazy. He was like, ‘I don’t give a (expletive) about no drugs. Do you not see the baby on the ground?’
Wayne recalled the officer berating the others before he picked him up and said “You’re not going to die on me” as he took the boy to the hospital. Years later, the successful rapper reunited with the officer, who told him: “I don’t want nothing, I just want to say I’m happy to see that I saved a life that mattered.”
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As Lil Wayne rose to fame in his late teens and early 20s, his mental health issues didn’t suddenly go away, he detailed to Acho. Once the cheers and applause at his shows came to an end each night, he found himself alone and wondering if, “when it’s all over,” anyone would care about him independent from the work he had created.
Years later, Wayne doesn’t partake in therapy, but prays twice daily. He can now say he’s in a better place and “so happy,” thanks to being able to do what he loves.
“That’s to be productive and put some music out and help some people put music out,” he said. “That’s what I love. Simple cliche: That’s what I was born to be.”
What can be learned from his experiences? Wayne said he struggled to voice his feelings, especially being raised by a parent who didn’t even “speak that language” of getting vulnerable about mental health.
“You have no one to vent to, no one to get this out to,” he said. “You can’t bring it to your friends at school – you’re still trying to be cool to them. You’re not trying to let them know you’ve got something going on at home.”
To those who may know someone struggling with their mental health, Wayne wants them to know that “it’s real.”
“There is no bar to measure how real. It’s real,” he said. “It’s so real that if someone even has the guts, the heart, the bravery, whatever to at least admit that they have something going on up there that they’re not sure about, it’s so real that we should only react in the realest way possible.”
If you or someone you know may be struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text “HOME” to 741741.