Inspirational interview with Rapper Smiiffy Artist
Name: Josh ‘Smiiffy’ Smith
Occupation: Rapper & Mental Health Speaker/Advocate
Hi Josh, can I call you Josh? I really appreciate you taking the time to answer some of my questions.
Thank you for taking time to think of getting me involved and sending me questions! I’m highly grateful, course you can call me Josh!
You are only 21 years old and you are already achieving amazing things! Would you mind telling us about your journey with mental health?
Thank you, Gladly. Around 6 years ago I had asked school for counselling sessions due to constantly feeling down and seeing/hearing things that didn't actually exist. During an exam for my GCSE I asked to use the toilet as I was feeling sick due to feeling anxious, I was called stupid which lead me to hear things that didn't exist I had flipped a table and stood up to a teacher which was never what I’d usually do. I was taken for an emergency appointment and nothing came from it. Years later I’m still really in the same position on very high doses of useless medication! This must've been very difficult for you and I'm sorry to hear that you feel in the same position.
How did you come to work with Respect Yourself Charity?
Claire from Respect Yourself had asked me to call her, I did so and was invited to perform at Respect Yourselfs Event for their App Launch, I had the agonising 6 hour journey to Norwich! It all paid off though people really enjoyed what we did and Claire and the rest of the team enjoyed having me they put me and two friends up, fed us and made us so welcome, since then we have frequent contact and all the time were discussing new ideas to push the charity and myself forward as well as helping number one, YOU GUYS.
Reducing suicide rates is particularly important to you, do you mind telling us about your work in this area and what lead you to be so passionate about it?
I’ve become more and more passionate as I’ve had numerous suicide attempts the most recent being around 5 weeks ago I was admitted to hospital to have 14 stitches through deep self harm which was never my intention. February the 8th of 2015 I tried to take my life from a bridge and was saved by a passing stranger. I would never wish it on anybody. Nights I stay up late targeting suicidal people on social media and messaging them in order to keep them strong and to know I’m here to support. I’ve never been so passionate to help people in my life it’s incredible! You have been extremely honest here Josh, I would never wish this on anybody, including yourself.
You've been Rapping since the age of 14 at what age did you realise that you were suffering with your own mental health issues?
Personally I felt my self going down hill the closest people to me at the time (my mum and friend) could see how down hill I was going and they offered support to me after I self harmed on my arms deep, I was around 15/16. Being a teenager already comes with its own challenges, this must have been even tougher for you.
What have been your biggest challenges in life so far and how have you overcome/are you overcoming them?
My biggest challenge so far is trying to educate people on mental health and remove the stigma, I’m slowly overcoming them with the help of the supporters who have my back constantly, the supporters have made me and shaped me into a better person. I find this interesting, the fact that you have stated your challenge is educating other people rather than the personal experiences that you have faced yourself.
We hear musicians expressing all kinds of emotion through their music, but rarely mental health issues? What made you decide to express your own experiences with mental health through rapping?
At first this was a selfish decision to release my anger and upset through my mental health issues and illness, I saw numerous messages on different social media talking about how different and helpful I was and I took it upon myself to do mainly mental health and help so many more people!
You’re an iTunes top 40 artist! how does this make you feel? I don’t really feel any different from normal, it’s an achievement but it’s my supporters who should feel proud they brought the music and helped me push forward. I’m more proud of my supporters rather than my achievements and everything I owe solely to them and those who believed in me.
Did you always want to be a Rapper? Do you think you would have considered another career?
Mums always said if music fails what would I like to be, I’d still like to go into schools musically and help people so much. Music has become my element it’s a huge part of my life now. In regards to more careers or different I couldn't see myself doing anything other than music!
Where does your inspiration come from? My inspiration comes from my struggles and the support from others! I could never have succeeded without the incredible people standing next to me constantly. I don’t believe I’m better than anybody else and I don’t ever intend to make people feel that way. Everybody who has followed my journey is in the same position I am.
What do you think of rappers such as Eminem whom publically has his own battles?
I think it’s quite brave due to the ‘trolls’ online but this is where you need to pretend it doesn’t offend you it’s not easy to ‘brush it off.’ Eminem, Machine Gun Kelly & Professor Green are all 3 that I heavily follow in rap due to the stories and such a strong willingness to help others. Demi Lovato is my favourite singer regarding mental health she’s absolutely brave!
Music reaches a lot of people all around the world, would you like to see the future of the music industry change with regards to mental health issues? I would absolutely love to see more people speak out about mental health it would be incredible! However if you look at other situations more ‘celebs’ are coming out about sexuality, gender issues and more so slowly I think we can break the barriers.
Your twitter page is always so supportive to others, where do you get your support from? I get my support from performing usually for free or giving everything I earn to charities in need. I absolutely worship everybody on my social media so many supporting people, obviously you get the odd hateful comment but in general everybody's heroic on my pages! This is very admirable Josh.
What do your family think of your music? Honestly? When I first started I was that bad I think I lacked support from family heavily, my dad’s always been supporting me and I’m so grateful we’ve discovered such an incredible bond from it as he was a DJ. I told Mum I was on BBC and she was very sceptical she turned the radio on and was astounded! Family actually think I have potential now and although not everybody in the family supports rap or my music in general I always get good comments!
Do you ever feel burdened by other people’s troubles? I NEVER ever feel burdened by others I like how they can trust me and open up so well to me, I feel honoured they feel they have me, like I said through hearing my music people listen to my troubles so it’s only right I’m helpful and return that!
How do you wind down from being around such a serious and often sad topic so frequently? I don’t think I ever do, I’ve been abroad twice in a year and I still find myself working, I certainly enjoy my job now though, people are really good to me and helpful when I feel low over social media, I use it as what I like to call ‘A Diary Of A Depressive.’ I would always advise people to take time for themselves.
You visit schools to talk about mental health, do you think that awareness in young people is important? I do and I enjoy it, I do talks for celebrities and everyone now! I definitely think the younger people are the upcoming generation that we need to get them while they are young and facing so many struggles. There is not enough help out there, the government could definitely save money by teaching mental health it’ll make people more aware of the options instead of people thrown around by many companies. Children ARE our future.
Could more be done in schools to address mental health issues? What would you like to see them do? I’d like to see the subject taught in some sort of health lesson, mental health talks, more support and empathy from teachers.
Mental health seems to be being addressed more seriously nowadays with the government planning to increase funding in these areas. What would you like to see them do? I’d like to see them give a person one main worker instead of several workers, I find myself repeating everything I say to numerous people and going in circles it becomes almost pointless and upsetting bringing up the issues over again and again.
Why do you think it has taken so long for mental health issues to be recognised? there is far too much stigma if you see someone with violent mood swings most people presume they are ‘bi-polar’ you see somebody shouting due to PTSD and they’re ‘Crazy’ you can’t win whatever you do which makes me more passionate.
Why do you think that there is such a stigma attached to mental health issues? Too many people avoid the subject, I think if we talk more about how we feel it’ll change a lot and give more people some hope.
Why is it important to you that you help and inspire others? I’m glad I inspire people of all ages because they can pass something onto friends for example you can either like my music or hate it, regardless if you share it somebody else might be helped through it. There is always a positive I guess. I do not doubt that you are an inspiration to many.
What would you say to anyone who thinks that they are suffering with a mental health illness of any kind? Feel free to contact me and ill do all I can to point you in the right direction however not always the best idea! Do find a GP you can trust or a friend you can open up to. I agree that telling someone is the first step to getting help, it is always unfortunately the most difficult step for many to take.
We know that you have not let your issues stop you from perusing your gaols. What advice would you give to people about perusing their dreams and ambitions? Don’t give in, when I first started music I was quite literally terrible! 6 years on I’m winning awards you could do exactly the same, you’ll never get anything perfected over night, please don’t ever stop what your doing. I'm sure you weren't terrible!
What is your ultimate goal with regards to your work and awareness of suicide rates/mental health? What’s next for you? My goal is to continue performing, raising awareness and funds for vital charities in need, Lowering the suicide rates too, I want people to know I care and I love them regardless of anything.
I thank you for your time and your honesty in this interview Smiiffy and I wish you luck with your future projects.