G Herbo cares. In August, the 25-year-old Chicago rapper launched Swervin’ Through Stress with Audiomack to help connect the Black community with necessary mental health services. The initiative included a text line, an abundance of mental health support resources, and a place for people to donate to the cause and help the most vulnerable within the community. A longstanding champion of mental health discussions and being open about his own struggles, Herb uses his platform to give back at every turn.
On the final day of Suicide Prevention Month, G Herbo and I speak about his new initiative, connecting with fans, and the little things we can do to take care of our mental health every day. Always gracious, the key takeaway from my talk with Herb is to always put your mental health first and look inwards to battle the outside world.
You launched your Swervin’ Through Stress initiative with Audiomack to help connect mental health services to kids in the Black community. Why was that important to you?
It was important for me because it’s bigger than the initiative and what it represents. It’s a way to help the youth, digging through their situations. Swervin’ Through Stress is about understanding a lot of these kids [are] suffering through mental illnesses they don’t know, at such a young age, where they don’t have the knowledge to be able to help themselves. They need help, and there’s no one to lend a helping hand. You don’t know what the extra 16 hours of their life is. A school day is only eight hours. The other 16 hours, a lot of these kids are up against some of the [harshest] situations. That takes a toll and plays a big part in your mental state.
Swervin’ Through Stress is me digging to the root of the problem, and helping these kids, and [giving] them resources because you don’t know what someone’s going through until you reflect on their situations. Where I come from, we’ve been taught to fend for ourselves, and no one helps you. Opening up and being vulnerable, people will use it against you. I just wanna change the cycle to show we’re trying to help. I went through a lot, and I didn’t have nobody to talk to, because I didn’t think there was anyone to talk to. I was wrong.
On the Swervin’ Through Stress website, it says, “We aim to increase access and utilization of mental health services amongst young Black adults and de-stigmatize cultural narratives about therapy among Black people.” How have you been battling stigma?
Battling stigma is experience. A lot of times, people overcome stigma that’s been placed upon us as Black men growing up in America, by experiencing life and understanding it’s all about what you put into yourself and your life. I had extreme conditions I had to overcome. I’ve been through a lot of trauma in my life, and I’ve seen people who had it worse overcome their trauma.
It is a stigma that’s been placed upon a Black man where we can’t process our feelings, or we can’t afford error. There’s no room for mistakes, and that’s not fair. It’s about speaking up on [stigma].
A lot of people look at celebrities like we are different, some kind of superhumans, and speaking on it might help someone understand we go through the same stuff. It might help a regular person take the steps to help themselves.
To any of your fans who may be struggling, what would you say to support them?
Just believe and stay focused. Life is no coincidence. Everything you’re going through is for a greater destiny. I say this to my fans, my family, and myself. God gives his toughest battles to the strongest soldiers. Everything I went through, I always overcame it, and that’s because I embraced it. I leaned into my fears because it bettered me for my next obstacle. Life never stops getting harder, but life never stops getting greater.
What would you say to someone who knows they need help but isn’t sure of where to start?
You gotta look deep into yourself. “What did I do? Who did I allow to control me or my emotions?” That’s how I get through it when I don’t know where to start. You start by bettering yourself, and then everything else falls into place. You gotta take accountability for your life. You’re in control of it.
What are the little things people can do every day to take care of their mental health?
Just doing something you like. Me, I smoke marijuana, and it helps with my anxiety. I was prescribed a medical card for my PTSD. But find something you like to do. Working out, playing basketball, talking to someone. You have to let things out. You cannot bottle things up. It’s therapeutic to let go and feel, and have emotions.
You’ve been outspoken about the importance of taking care of your mental health for the majority of your career. Does it ever get tiring to cover that emotional ground?
I wouldn’t say [tiring], but it does get overwhelming, just with me having the responsibility and taking on a role in this subject. I’m an artist at the end of the day. I’m not a full-time mental health advocate. I still wanna have fun with my music. I still wanna touch on other subjects. I don’t wanna be boxed in or labeled, but it’s an important role I take on 100 percent.
It’s important for me to help people. I don’t feel like I need [to advocate] for me. It’s not for me; I’m doing this for everyone else. I don’t feel like I have to do this. I’m only doing this for people I wanna help, people who have been through what I’ve been through, and don’t know what the next step is to make their situation better.
What tells you Swervin’ Through Stress and your championing being open about mental health is a success?
When I started off, I was only gon’ put 150 kids through therapy. When I launched it, I had 1,000 people sign up. That alone, I knew people wanted it, needed it, and were eager to be a part of it. I have people who wanna help these kids from a therapy and mental wellness standpoint. So we gotta take it serious and do the work that needs to be done.
Photos by Haley Scott.