Lil Wayne is opening up about his mental health struggles.
As the topic is at the forefront, the rapper (real name: Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) appeared on Uncomfortable Conversations with Emmanuel Acho to discuss his troubles as a boy, which led to a suicide attempt at age 12.
The "Lollipop" singer, 38, said he's "hoping I can help anyone else out there who's dealing with mental health problems" by "being vulnerable" and "brave" and sharing his journey.
He said at age 10 is when he started to struggle with his mental health, including suicidal thoughts. At the time, he was growing up in New Orleans with his single mom, Jacida Carter, who he said was ruling with a tough hand, and he had an absent father. At 12, he acted on those thoughts.
While early in his career, he had said he got the scar on his chest by playing with a gun, he has since said it was a suicide attempt. He explained in the interview that the incident stemmed from feeling like his dreams — of being a rapper, his only real creative outlet — were being squashed.
"I couldn't have what I wanted, what I dreamed of, what I desired, and that was to rap," he said was his feeling at the time. "I was willing to die for it."
It was because he had gotten into big trouble at home. He had half-days as the school year winded up, but didn't tell his mother, so he could be out of the house all day. His aunt found out and warned him he was in trouble, saying his mom would be furious and would no longer allow him to rap.
With his "thoughts everywhere" — as he fought "loneliness" and felt he had "no one to vent to" — he decided: "'I'm going to show you,'" meaning his mom.
He called the police, then went to where she kept her gun. He took it out and shot himself in the chest, just missing his heart.
"How I knew I had a mental health problem [is] I pulled the trigger," said the singer, whose 2015 song "London Roads" includes the lyrics: "Ms. Cita/ I remember goin' in your gun drawer/ Puttin' it to my chest and missin' my heart by centimeters/ Oh Lord."
He went into shock and woke up to banging on the door — it was the police responding to his call. "That's what woke me up," he said. He was able to push him across the room, his own blood helping his body slide on the wood floor, and police broke down the door. At first, officers were searching the home, he said, finding drugs and a gun before someone named "Uncle Bob" — who he said was actually the sheriff in charge — came in and said the officers should be helping the bleeding child on the floor "with a hole in his chest," not raiding the place.
Wayne recalled being put in a squad car and being raced to the hospital because waiting for an ambulance would take too long. He remembered the sheriff telling him over and over, "You're not going to die on me."
He talked about later meeting with that sheriff, who told him, "I'm happy to see that I saved a life that mattered."
Wayne said his cry for help came from not feeling he could speak and be heard at home. His mom was very tough, parenting for two. As a result, he didn't feel he could express himself or speak up about what was troubling him, especially when it came to emotions and his emotional health. His suicide attempt changed that.
"What I never said was: The mom that I knew before that day ... I have never met or seen or heard that lady again in my life," he said. "So I didn't die that day, but somebody was gone. She's never been that way [again]," having her eyes opened to her son's troubles and starting to support him. "Changed life for her, [me] and our whole family."
Wayne said even as he shot to stardom, he's struggled with feelings of loneliness and fears of inadequacy. However, he has never had suicidal feelings since that day. He credits prayer with helping him when he struggles with his emotions and says being able to perform, create and help people make him happiest.
He ended by sharing what he wishes people knew about mental health.
"What I wish they knew is that it's real," he said. "That it's real. There is no bar to measure how real. It's real."
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.