Eminem’s Recovery snub at the Grammy’s – did mental health get “rapped” again?

OK, so I download few rap songs. My playlist includes Bach, classic rock, alternative whatever, the Boston Pops and jazz. I am a middle aged Caucasian woman and a therapist. I probably don’t object to some of Eminem’s lyrics because I can’t hear them all. But as a mental health advocate, my antenna is always up when it comes to the stigma associated with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Stigma, the toxic social soil which fertilizes shame, delays outreach to life-saving treatment and prolongs suffering even after health returns.

So, there I was on Grammy night rooting for Marshall Mathers III, whose compelling close up of addiction hell has brought inspiration and hope to many. After all, Recovery’s brilliant lyrics, raw honesty, transformative hope, powerful music and shattering delivery did more than crash servers around the world with instant sales. Recovery gathered audiences of fans from new demographics because addiction, depression and recovery affect millions of lives every year.

Pregnant and new moms aren’t excluded from the addicted. Over a third of mothers who are drinking or drugging when they become pregnant… do not stop. This leads to increased risk of ante and postnatal depression as well as many other life-threatening dangers for the mother, fetus and neonate. And of course, incredible shame if even the life inside you can’t motivate you to face your demons.

“And the Grammy for best album of the year goes to…..” well, it wasn’t Eminem.

I wasn’t alone in my expectations or disappointment. That Recovery WAS the best selling album of 2010 is not debated. There could be many reasons Mathers didn’t get the top prize. Perhaps anonymous Grammy judges didn’t really listen to Recovery or understand the urgency of its message to millions.

Perhaps Shady’s refusal to bow to the Grammy gods played a part, but he’s not the first to eschew convention and win. Perhaps rap… which is a musical revival of the medieval Goliard Poets who told it like it was….still hasn’t found a mainstream base. Or maybe Recovery’s story was just a little too raw, a little too “xxx” a little too close to the guilt we feel when we just can’t do it for our family or ourselves, when we face forces more powerful than our will can fight.

Recovery’s tunes may not be the hit of kareokee night. Not the kind of tunes you sing unless you have suffered the devastation of addiction or depression. But if you have, songs like “Going through changes” illuminate the dark journey, making a difficult moment more bearable and offering hope that transformative change is possible.

Did stigma play a role in the top honor going to a more conventional “safe” band? Can we stomach mental health or addiction’s horrors only when titrated through the whitewash of reality shows which offer pat interventions? Do we forgive only the fallen celebrities who wink at the judge, receive suspended or brief sentences or hold up taping of prime time shows?

Eminem’s Recovery album offers a stark behind the scenes first person account of the devastation, terrors and back-to-square-one rebuilding of self that true recovery from mental illness requires. Long after we’ve all forgotten who won what at the 2010 Grammy’s, Recovery’s historic social and musical achievements will continue to guide and inspire those who have to face this dark journey alone.

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