ATLANTA (WUPA) -- A local entertainer is sharing her personal struggles with mental health and using her platform to inspire others.
Local music artist and actress Jennifer Akabue, known as Ja'Daku, says she was born to perform.
"I love singing. I've always loved to do musical theater. In 2008, I was in my first off-Broadway show," she said.
She's been on a Dreamgirls Tokyo tour, Hairspray tours, and commercials; and she has performed with some of the top stars in the business, all while working as a talent coach. However, offstage, she faced a hidden battle: mental illness.
"In 2015, I found out that I had walking pneumonia for three months, and they found a large hole in my right lung, 13% of it missing," Akabue said. "I was in despair. I was depressed. I was suicidal. I started writing music in that time, and that helped me cope."
Her lyrics contain affirmations and words of encouragement to help anyone who needs them.
"Come as you are, flaws and all," and "you're accepted, not rejected" are some of the lyrics in her song, "As You Are."
"I had a lot of pain that I never resolved, and that's why I continued to start singing my own music," she said.
Jennifer is not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder during their lifetime, and 1 in 5 will experience a mental illness in a given year, ranging from mild depression and anxiety to more serious conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
"I believe that I am a voice for the voiceless, for the misfits, the ones that are broken," said Akabue.
She's hoping her words will help remove the stigma behind mental illness and let people know it's ok to get help.
"You were created for something, so because you were thought of and created, you are worthy," she said.
If you're experiencing mental health stress or if you're concerned about others facing a crisis, you can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988.
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