Even while performing alongside Beyoncé, selling millions of records and touring around the world, singer Michelle Williams couldn’t shake depression.
The former Destiny’s Child singer told about 200 people at a mental health program at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Saturday that her depression started in the seventh grade and went undetected until adulthood.
“There was intense sadnesses, I wanted to sleep a lot and isolate myself. I had anxiety and I wasn’t able to focus,” she told the audience. “There’s nothing wrong with going and getting the help that you need.”
She said she leaned on her faith as her career rocketed from background singer to joining the female supergroup that achieved international success.
“I believe in the power of prayer and everything that praying can do,” she said.
When Williams asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had suffered from mental illness, nearly everyone did.
The Association of Mental Health and Wellness, based in Ronkonkoma, and the Mental Health Association of Nassau County sponsored the program, “Change Your Mind, Change Your Life,” as part of national Mental Health Awareness Week.
“It hits close to home,” said Babylon Town resident Olivia Afanador, 31.
She said her 14-year-old son has been diagnosed with having mood swings and that many of her friends suffer from depression.
There are many forms of mental illness, officials said, but the program’s purpose was to shine a light on mental health.
“Mental health is plaguing different sections of society and it isn’t discussed as much as it should. It’s a very important topic. It’s a bigger problem than what is being addressed,” said Ken-Patrick Johnson, who attended the program.
Rocky Point resident Colleen Merlo, who used to work in the mental health field, also attended.
“There’s so much stigmatization that prevents people from getting help,” she said. If a famous singer like Williams can be affected by depression, anyone can, she added.
Williams, who hired a therapist when she was in her 30s, said people with mental health issues shouldn’t be afraid to seek professional help.
“I didn’t know how to explain how I was feeling,” said Williams, 37. “That anger can turn to bitterness.”
Destiny’s Child’s hits include “Survivor,” “Soldier” and “Lose My Breath.” The group released its last album in 2004, after which Williams released three solo albums.