Richard Smallwood is best known for timeless songs such as “Total Praise;” “Center of My Joy;” and “I Love the Lord”. The eight-time Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and pianist continue to enjoy widespread popularity and influence all over the globe. Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Kelly Price, Gerald Levert, American Idol’s Ruben Studdard, and a who’s who of the gospel world have recorded his songs. Even the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has recently recorded a Richard Smallwood tune, “Faithful,” on her latest CD.
Notwithstanding, even though he has the money, fame, and a long list of hits that have garnered him countless accolades. Richard Smallwood has been plagued with a major depressive disorder, depression.
“I cannot remember when it all started. But as a child, I had multiple anxiety attacks after being physically abused by my stepfather.” This, Smallwood said when asked about the moment he knew he was showing signs of depression. He further went on to say this: “ What is ironic is that I had a friend who was going through depression and I did everything in my will to help him get better. It is during this time that I realized that I was experiencing all the symptoms. Oh lord! looking back, I think I suffered from depression for most of my life.”
As it turns out, a lifestyle of money and fame does not automatically shield one from mental illness, and in some cases, it even exacerbates the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety that contribute to depression.
According to Vasilis K. Pozios, a Detroit psychiatrist, celebrities aren’t immune to depression and other mental health concerns. She also posited that nearly 17 percent of Americans will suffer from major depression at some time in their life.
So when did the gospel music giant decided that it was time to take a stand?
“I decided that enough was enough and really started to fight. I knew that I needed to seek professional help after being in denial for several years. My Pastor, church family, close friends, and specialists contributed to the healing process.”
By speaking out about his illnesses without shame, Smallwood has shown that not only had he survived, but he is determined to make mental illness a normal topic of conversation for anyone suffering — famous or otherwise.
But why are people still afraid to admit that they are suffering from this disorder?
Virginia Fields, president, and CEO and event coordinator for the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS had this to say: “People suffering from the disorder are afraid of being stigmatized. they don’t want people to look at them differently or respond to them differently.” She added, “In my area of work, cases of depression are similar to those living with HIV who refuses to be tested because they really don’t want to know. This is why our organization is very pleased to be having Richard Smallwood to share his journey and how he overcame and perform at the Gospel Extravaganza to help others.”
On Thursday, the National Black Leadership Commission on Aids, Inc (NBLCA) will host a Gospel Extravaganza concert at Harlem’s historic Aaron Davis Hall at the City College Center for the Arts. The event will feature a stellar line-up of leading voices in Gospel including Richard Smallwood and JJ Hairston and Youthful Praise. There will also be recognized dedicated community and corporate leaders with NBLCA’s “Choose Life” Awards. NBLCA’s Gospel Extravaganza will benefit the organization’s extensive programs and services for communities of color living with and impacted by HIV/AIDS and other health disparities.
Honorees scheduled to receive NBLCA’s “Choose Life” Awards include Doug Wirth, president, and CEO of Amida Care and Convent Avenue Baptist Church – Healing Hope Ministry.
Click here for tickets and more information.
See you there!