Earlier this week, rapper, T-Hood, posted a video of actress, Maia Campbell, pumping his gas and saying she wanted some crack. In the video, Campbell is clearly missing a tooth and is barely dressed in a bra and spandex shorts.
It wasn’t long before the video went viral. Right now, a search of ‘Maia Campbell’ on YouTube yields more than 800 results for videos posted this week.
If you’re not familiar with who Maia Campbell is, she played the role of Nicole on the 90’s show, South Central. She also appeared on Iyanla Vanzant’s show, Fix My Life back in 2012, detailing her battle with bipolar disorder.
LL Cool J, who was Campbell’s co-star on another 90’s show, In the House, attempted to get in contact with the actress through Instagram writing, “If anyone has a contact on Maia pls let me know… ” In response to the video posted by T-Hood, LL also took to Twitter: “Instead of pulling out your phone and filming someone who’s obviously having trouble. Maybe lend a helping hand? A kind word?”
As Campbell revealed in Fix My Life, she stopped taking her medication for bipolar disorder, which eventually led to her losing custody of her daughter, Elizabeth Elisha Gutierrez. Campbell has been in rehab before for drug addiction, but has relapsed multiple times.
Rapper T-Hood, who also filmed Campbell denying help from LL, has received a mountain of backlash on social media. Many people felt that he was exploiting Campbell’s mental illness for views and was wrong to film her in the state that she was in.
T-Hood responded to the criticism in a video stating that he’s known Campbell from “the block for years” and that she is not suffering from an illness, but that “… this b***h is just high as f**k”. He even went as far to say that if she was white, like “Hilary Duff”, and not black, viewers would care less.
Instead of using Campbell’s life as a source of entertainment, it should be a call to action in the black community. Not another community issue that gets twisted into a race issue and deflects our focus away from opening our hearts to those who obviously need support. The worst that can happen is someone be considered a “lost cause” because they are struggling to deal with the stress of losing their mother, their daughter, and their career while also battling a mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people with bipolar disorder may use drugs to help “control their moods or treat their symptoms”. However, this will only make their illness worse, potentially leading to “more frequent relapses”, thus creating a cycle of mood swings, drug addiction, rehab, erratic behavior, and relapse.
The constant re-posting of this video sheds light not only on the MIS-education of folks on mental illnesses, but also to the stigma around black mental health and its intersection with drug addiction.
If you don’t remember, crack was brought into black and brown communities – after white people fled for the suburbs – and was followed by the mass incarceration of black and brown men and women. The crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s is still haunting us in 2017 and unfortunately, its victims are faced with hurt and criticism when they really just need help.
This is an inter-generational issue and like so many other problems that plague the black community, has been normalized and transformed into a topic of comedy, i.e., the term “crackhead” and movies like Friday.
With the normalization and mockery of such issues also comes denial, from both the sufferer and the observer.
T-Hood initially denied that Campbell had a mental illness until social media dragged him after which he had a change of mind, apologized to social media, and offered to take her to rehab if LL Cool J did not reach out to him.
Social media is obviously not the space – nor safe – for individuals with mental illness to seek help. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter, when used outside of private messaging, can put victims of media exploitation, like Campbell, in a vulnerable position, compromising their willingness to seek help or be helped. When a community lacks the knowledge and skills necessary to have a real discourse around mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, its members perpetuation of stigma associated with mental health.
Campbell’s own response to LL Cool J’s offer to help can be seen as an extension of stigma around black mental health from being solely external to the individual, to existing within that person. She makes it clear in another video filmed by T-Hood that she does not actually want to connect with LL. Although there is truth in LL’s statement that “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want your help,” it does not mean that the community should give up on people like Maia Campbell.
It is unfortunate that there are so many people out there in the world like Campbell who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and have a co-existing mental health condition. To expand your knowledge on mental illness, here are some articles from the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses’ website: