Watching Katt Williams’ breakdown in Oakland recently was yet another reminder of how prevelent AND ignored mental illness is in the Black community. Katt went from a lucrative hosting gig for the BET Hip Hop awards towards a downward spiral ever since with public breakdowns, arrests and more. It appears some people have fun testing him while he’s on stage. Some would say, he’s not mentally ill, he’s on drugs but for a person to be on drugs is a sign of mental illness because they can’t cope under everyday circumstances and whichever way we put it, there is no question he’s dealing with some kind of demons in his life. Katt’s struggles are not very different than many black comedians before him like Richard Pryor. It’s a well known fact in Hollywood circles that most of the great comedians have dark secrets and traumatic upbringings. Success is a temporary fix but it can also be the final straw. How do you tell someone with hundreds of thousands of dollars they need help? You can’t especially when most of the people around them including family are always there with their hand out. Who can they trust?
I have a friend who is a celebrity. He’s a singer who always tells me about the interesting dichotomy of celebrity-hood. He says, “People expect some sort of payback or the consider you in their debt if they buy your music. This means I’m supposed to always be nice to them even when they are not nice to me and stop and sign autographs no matter what I am doing?” he went on to say.. “They don’t buy my music to support me, they buy my music because they like it!” One must ask why Katt Williams is still being booked for concerts in his condition? Moreover, the fact that people know he’s struggling with some kind of issues right now why are people paying to see him? Because they want to hear great comedy. If they knew he was going to come out on stage and have a breakdown, would they pay for that? Probably not. So the question remains, where can Katt get help? It’s obviously not from fans, friends, family or even his children at this point… the only person he has to help him IS him and that has to be a herculean task when he is the one with the problem.
Just about every black person that I know has someone in their family who suffers from some form of mental illness be it addiction, depression, anxiety you name it and some manage well with medication but it must be hard when you are a celebrity and people expect you to be funny when there isn’t much in your personal life to laugh at. We wish Katt Williams well and hope that he gets help before it’s too late.