Queer Eye Co-host Karamo Brown Tackles Mental Health Stigma in Black and LGBTQI+ Communities

Fans of the remix of 1990s Queer Eye know Karamo Brown for the loving, no-nonsense life coaching he provides to guests about self-care and relationships. But recently, Brown has publicly come out with his own lived experience of recovery from trauma, depression, anxiety, substance use and suicidal thoughts. In an excerpt from his memoir published earlier this year, Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope, Brown writes:

“I’m on Queer Eye because I have learned how to manage conflict, both internally and externally. I have had many ups and some major downs that have almost broken me at points — but ultimately, they have made me the man I am. I wasn’t always on this path. My journey has included identity confusion, physical and emotional abuse, addiction, violence, and a suicide attempt.”

Brown has been increasingly open about his own struggles, including his experience as a suicide attempt survivor. In 2018, he posted a heartfelt video on Instagram, where he discussed an attempt to take his own life during one of his lowest moments. “I just felt like life could not get any better, everything that was happening to me was never going to change, and I tried to take my own life,” Brown says. “If it wasn’t for my best friends Raymond and Tre calling the ambulance, getting me off that couch, I probably would not be here today.” 

On October 23, Brown appeared on a “town hall” style special with CBS This Morning, filmed with a live audience, called “Stop the Stigma: A Conversation about Mental Health,” to discuss his own story and his efforts to combat mental health stigma among queer communities and communities of color. 

During the live event, Brown related stories of how the stigma has played out in his own life. He shared how media representations of mental health as a “white issue” impacted his ability to ask for help: “Because watching television I saw only rich white girls going to rehab and getting support. It’s what I thought – anyone who looked like me, I never saw them seeking mental health support or talking about their mental health.”

He also talked about how damaging it is when loved ones dismiss mental health concerns with “pray it away” messages. He told CBS The Morning: “My mother and father were just like, ‘Pray it away. Pray. You know, God will help you.’ And I do believe there’s a space for prayer, but I also believe that there’s also a space for finding help right here. But what do you do when you can’t find the help?”

As an openly queer man of color, Brown also spoke of his personal mission to support LGBTQI+ youth who are at higher risk of suicide: “For me it was important to make sure that I reach back out to LGBTQI youth. I worked in social services for many years, helping those youth to understand there is a place and there is support for them. That they don’t have to live in this dark cloud every day, that they can get help.”

Part of Karamo’s daily wellness process is to set emotional goals each day, just like one would set daily fitness or career goals: “If there’s things happening where I don’t see myself being happy, I try to find support from other people or I try to figure out what I can do within myself, what education I can get,” he told CBS This Morning.

Speaking with CBS News last month, Brown says if he could give his younger self one piece of advice around mental health, “it would be to treat my mental health the same way I treated my physical health.”

For further exploration:

If you or someone you know is considering self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.