You may know the name Juice WRLD, but many do not know the real Jarad Anthony Higgins — the man behind some of the chart-topping hits like “Lucid Dreams,” “Lean Wit Me,” and “Legends.” Despite the catchy beats and his unique, raspy voice, the lyrics gave us a clearer look at the challenges he faced in a life cut way too short.
This year, we are recognizing Black History Month and its “Black Health and Wellness” theme in a way that will hopefully draw attention to not only important figures in the African American community, but also some of the health challenges they faced, and how we can all learn and lead from those experiences.
Juice WRLD grew up in Chicago’s south suburbs, but unfortunately at the age of three, his father suddenly left the future artist, his mom and older brother to fend for themselves. Despite this initial emotional setback, the Homewood-Flossmoor graduate excelled in music as his mother encouraged his interest in piano and he developed a wide-ranging appreciation for rap, hip-hop and rock and roll.
Though considered a legend by many, his meteoric rise to fame was greatly hampered by an early addiction to alcohol, opioids and “lean” ––a dangerous mix of prescribed or cough and cold medicine. The lyrics to his songs often highlighted his struggles.
In “Lucid Dreams,” one of his more recognizable mainstream songs that samples Sting’s classic “Shape of My Heart,” one can hear the conflict of his emotions as he sings, “Easier said than done / I thought you were the one / Listening to my heart instead of my head,” later explaining that he often didn’t trust his head or his heart, indicating that he sometimes couldn’t tell the difference between the two. In “Legends,” he seems to eerily predict his early death as he lamented, “Last time, it was the drugs he was lacing / All legends fall in the making / Sorry truth, dying youth, demon youth.” He goes on to also talk about the need to carry a weapon because “that’s the world we live in now.”
Juice WRLD’s struggle and ultimate death in December 2019 reminds us that even the successful, famous figures we see on social media, on TV, and in our daily lives struggle with anxiety and depression, loneliness, and even addiction. As unfortunate as his avoidable death was, it helps to shed some light on the need for additional support and awareness.
Here at Children’s Home and Aid, we and our committed partners walk alongside young people. We look at a young person’s entire situation and circumstances when providing services like coaching, therapy, skill-building, and emotional management. Like Juice WRLD, many of our participants have endured the loss of a parent (Juice WRLD’s estranged father died in 2019) and deal with incredible pressures to thrive. Specifically, African American children are dealing with many barriers that are often unjust and systemically broken. In one article, Juice was quoted as saying, “Anxiety is something I feel a lot of people neglect, which is completely and utterly wrong. And me speaking from an African American man, I know that stuff is neglected in our community…that’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is. And that needs to change.”
We honor Jarad’s vulnerability and willingness to share his experiences using his platform. By openly addressing mental health––and its stigmas––he has made it easier for other young people to relate and recognize when they need help––an important part of the conversation this month surrounding health and wellness.
We also recognize his mother, Carmella Wallace (ms_carm_1118) and his loving girlfriend, Ally Lotti (@allylotti) who have kept his legacy alive and continue to advocate for mental health and wellness today. With his music still streaming to millions of people around the world today, we acknowledge Juice WRLD’s pain as well as his legacy.
“Addiction knows no boundaries, and its impact goes beyond the person fighting it…We know that Jarad’s legacy of love, joy, and emotional honesty will live on.”
Carmella Wallace, mother of Juice WRLD
If you or a young person you know needs support in these difficult times, the team at Children’s Home and Aid is here to provide support. You can check out our counseling services and other family and youth programs that we offer. Or if you feel like you need to talk to someone right now, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.