Women’s music brunch lifts veil on mental health in entertainment industry

The Atlanta Voice

Women in Music (WIM) Atlanta hosted a member only ‘Brunch With a Purpose’ event on March 23rd at The Gathering Spot.

​The brunch featured a conversation with Shanti Das, founder and executive director of Silence the Shame. In addition, Das is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, marketing consultant and an entertainment executive that highlighted the impact of mental health in correlation with the music industry.

​Facilitator of the conversation was Vice Chair of Events for WIM Atlanta Dina Marto,who also serves as an independent music executive, A&R coordinator, counselor, product manager, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

Attendees included various WIM members comprised of artists, songwriters, publicist, and more. Silence the Shame staffers along and board members of the WIM Atlanta chapter were present.

Das began her career in the music industry while attending Syracuse University. She worked as an urban promotions assistant at Capital Records for two consecutive summers, and interned in the sales department at Sony Music Atlanta. After graduating from Syracuse in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications, Das was hired as National Director of Promotions by LaFace Records.

From 2000 to 2009, Das elevated her way through the industry. She served as Vice President of Urban Marketing for Columbia Records, Sr. Vice President of Urban Marketing for Sony Urban Music, and Executive Vice President of Urban Marketing and Artist Development for Universal Motown. Though she successfully assisted several music legends such as Outkast, Donell Jones, Goodie Mob, TLC, Prince, and more, Das felt compelled to pursue a career outside of the music industry. Das quit her job at Motown to move back to Atlanta in 2009, in order to take care of her mother as she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I would come to work everyday miserable. I was just angry all the time,” Das said as she explained the events leading up to her departure from Motown. “I was at the highest point of my career working at Motown as Executive Vice President, I was making almost half a million dollars a year, and then I quit, walking away from it all. I could have easily stayed and fought the good fight to possibly become president of a label, but that wasn’t in the cards for me. I felt something moving my spirit.”

“2015 was dark for me. I was a high functioning person with clinical depression, and didn’t know it. I couldn’t recognize it. I went through financial hardships. I almost lost my home twice, and I started withdrawing from family members. One night in September of 2015, I counted up all the pills in medicine cabinet. I was ready to kill myself. I thought that I was done with living, and that the work that I had done was enough. I thought that since my dad did it, it was okay for me to do it.”

“I got out the house, and ended up running into a good friend of mine. I know that was God putting her in my pathway. She encouraged me to call my sister and talk to her. I called the national suicide prevention hotline, and also text my pastor. My pastor told, ‘I’ll pray with you, but you’ve got to go to the doctor. You’ve got to get some help.’ So I called my healthcare physician on Monday morning, and he encouraged me to call a psychiatrist. I got on antidepressants and started going to therapy,” shared Das.

During a 2015 radio interview with Ryan Cameron, Das openly discussed mental health awareness in 2015, Das said, “People have to be open, honest, and brave to start sharing their stories. Maybe they should just silence the shame.”

​Das launched Silence the Shame in 2017 as a result of her personal battle with depression over the years, as well as encountering her love ones suffer from mental health disorders. Silence the Shame serves as foundation to eradicate the stigma, and normalize conversation relating to mental health and wellness. Public figures such as Jeezy, Big Sean, Toni Braxton, Estelle, Chloe x Halle, and more have supported the Silence the Shame movement.

​“Over my 25 year career, I never really knew how to handle my stress and depression. When I was 7 months old my dad took his own life, but I’m okay with it today. I’m 48 years old and I’m finally at peace with my father’s suicide. My ego came into play. My sister told me, ‘You need to go to therapy. You still haven’t come to terms with dad’s suicide.’ I told her, ‘Nah I don’t need therapy.’ I thought that since I was doing marketing for Outkast, Prince, and all these folks, that I didn’t need any professional help. Working in the industry made me feel like I was invincible. Like I didn’t need any help what so ever,” confessed Das.  

​Marto also shared her experience having been the former assistant to the late Shakir Stewart when he took his own life in 2008. 

“When Shakir committed suicide and I was his assistant at the time a lot of people asked, ‘Wow why did he do it?’ As if he just woke up one day and just decided to end it. I think what people don’t understand is that when you’re thinking from a healthy mind, you don’t understand what somebody from an unhealthy mind is feeling or going through. It’s not that they want to do that they just want the pain and suffering to stop. They don’t feel like at that moment they have another way out.”

​Das invited a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Ayanna Abrams, to provide additional insight about creatives battling with mental illnesses.

​“Most of the link in connected between bipolar disorder and psychosis. These are the disorders that tend to socially help creativity because you can set longer hours. Particularly with bipolar disorder you might experience this euphoria or mania phase when you just go and go. You’re getting the music out, getting the lyrics out, and perform at all hours. In a lot of ways you’re doing this for other people. The more you’re in that performative space, the less connected you are to yourself.”

​“A lot of creatives also use their art as a self-care and expressive technique. They think, ‘I don’t have to check in with me personally because I get to be this person.’ They completely clock out on what’s going on in their relationships and families. They become less declined to care of themselves because they think everything is fine. People are used to seeing them a certain way so they feel like everything has to be fine, because they have to keep performing,” explained Dr. Abrams.

​Das further mentioned that the substance abuse epidemic encompassing the entertainment industry is ultimately due to creatives suffering from mental health issues.

​Forms of healthy alternative coping mechanisms shared by Das included: write a “not to do” list, go for a walk, take a nap, meditation, yoga, follow a healthy daily diet, engage in art activity, go dancing, and more. She also mentioned that every other Saturday Silence the Shame administers a free ‘Self-care Saturdays’ event in Atlanta.

​During the closing remarks, Das guaranteed future collaborations with WIM Atlanta. WIM Atlanta also gifted Das with a year membership to their organization, and donation to Silence the Shame. ​Additional information about Silence the Shame can be found on all major social media platforms at “@silencetheshame,” as well as their website, silencetheshame.com.

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