Grammy Award-winning artist Mandisa is opening up about her struggles with mental health and her journey toward healing to both break the stigma surrounding the issue and encourage others that they, too, can have hope.
Several years ago, the Christian artist found herself struggling with depression and anxiety after one of her closest friends, Kisha, lost her battle with breast cancer. The grief was so great, she recalled, that she almost took her own life.
“I isolated myself, I didn’t want to talk about it, and I battled with the shame of feeling like I didn't have enough faith or that God was displeased with me,” the 45-year-old recording artist told The Christian Post.
In her darkest moments, Mandisa turned to the Scriptures and, for the first time in her life, realized that some of the Old Testament’s greatest heroes, from Elijah to King David, struggled with similar feelings.
“As I kept reading the Bible, I realized a lot of these people we read about wrestled with similar things,” she said. “Look at Elijah, who one minute is calling down fire from heavens and defeating the prophets of Baal, and then the next moment sitting by a tree and asking God to let him die. And then I think about David, who is very honest throughout the Psalms about the pain he felt internally, and he was someone God called a man after His own heart.”
The artist said that Psalm 13:1-6 particularly struck her. The passage reads, in part: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, you don't often see that kind of honesty,’” she said. “But as the verses go on at the end, you see a turn where David decides to trust in God’s unfailing love despite what he’s going through. I started to see that it was his honesty and pouring his heart out to God that made him see the goodness of God.”
“I think,” she added, “it really has less to do with depression and anxiety and more to do with, ‘Are you bringing it to Him? Is it something you're talking to God about?’ Because for me, I feel His pleasure when I do so as opposed to just stuffing it down and acting like I don't feel it. He knows I feel it, and when I bring it to Him, that opens the door to my healing in ways that I've never experienced before.”
Through counseling, community and diving deeper into her relationship with God, Mandisa began to find healing. The singer stressed the importance of community when struggling with mental illness, contending that “whatever you’re struggling with really does lose its power when it comes out.”
“I'm a big fan of counseling, and I think it's also important that you have people in your life, be it family, friends, people at church, whoever it is, to be able to talk to these things,” she emphasized. “I don't want to see any more headlines of people committing suicide, and that's what happens when it stays in our minds when we don't want to talk about it. You start believing the lies and before you know it, it's over. And I think the way to counteract that is to bring it out to talk to people about it.”
Now, she’s opening up about her journey in her latest book,Out of the Dark: My Journey Through The Shadows To Find God’s Joy. Writing the book was both cathartic and difficult, Mandisa said, but she feels that sharing her story is what God is calling her to do.
“I need to be really careful at this moment because it's bringing up some things that are not comfortable, but I know it's going to encourage and help people,” she said. “It’s difficult talking about some of the things that I would prefer to keep hidden, but I think in the end, ultimately it's going to be helpful for me because it's coming out of the dark and I am bringing it into the light. It's not easy, but I do think it's going to be worth it.”
The “Overcomer” singer emphasized that for her, healing is still a “journey,” adding, “I don't want people to think that I have just overcome and I'm victorious, now I'm great. This is very much a journey that I'm still on today. But I believe that healing comes from walking in hand in hand with God."
Mandisa's book is a follow-up to her 2016 album, also titled Out of the Dark, that addressed her battle with depression. Though it was “scary” being so vulnerable, the artist said she was blown away by the number of people who shared how her music has encouraged them in their own struggles with mental illness.
“So many people shared what a relief it was to hear that they weren't the only ones,” she recalled. “I realized we don't really talk about this a lot in Christendom. It's just not something we address very much, and so I just wanted to continue telling my story in the hopes that it would encourage other people who have battles with mental illness the way that I do.”
Mandisa said she’s encouraged by how far the Church has come when dealing with mental illness but believes there’s still a long way to go.
A 2019 Lifeway Research survey found that nearly half of pastors (49%) “rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group settings about acute mental illness.” Additionally, close to one in four individuals surveyed indicated they had either “stopped attending church, had not found a church to attend or had changed churches based on the church’s response to mental health issues.”
Mandisa encouraged ministry leaders, pastors and parents to share their own stories to encourage the next generation. Across America, approximately 4.4 million children have been diagnosed with anxiety and another 1.9 million have been diagnosed with depression.
“The younger generations, they're looking for authenticity, and so sharing your story, talking to people, letting others know about some of the struggles that maybe you face, I think that will breed similar thing in others,” she said.
She also encouraged pastors and ministry leaders to be careful about the language they use when addressing the issue. The artist explained that while it’s good to say “we’ll pray about it,” it’s also important to take tangible steps.
“Prayer is so important and a huge part of my journey, and so is counseling and community,” she said. “I think we need to use language, not as a bat, but speaking the truth in love and compassion. If it's not something that you wrestle with yourself, to be able to point them to professionals who know how to deal with these sort of things."
Today, Mandisa often explores the topic of mental health on her “Out of the Dark” podcast and how to navigate it from a Christian perspective with licensed therapist Laura Williams. And in conjunction with the book release, she will debut a new single, “Out of the Dark (Petey Martin Remix),” the first track from the forthcoming Overcomer: The Remixes EP, scheduled to release April 29.
Four new remixes will be featured on the EP, including “Out of the Dark,” “Overcomer,” “Comeback Kid” and “Bleed The Same."
As she looks to the future, Mandisa says that Psalm 40:2 is her testimony: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
“My hope for this book is that many will hear what God has done, that they will be amazed and they will put their trust in Him,” she said. “I don't just want people to read my story to be a voyeur and, ‘Look at what Mandisa has been through,’ but I really hope that it encourages people to say, ‘Man, if she went through that, and God is bringing her out of it, He will do the same for me.'”
She added, “I hope that it will encourage people to put their trust in Him even if they're walking through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org