Jhené Aiko Sees Daughter Namiko ‘Going Through the Same Things’ She Did as a Teen: ‘It’s a Journey’
Jhené Aiko Jhené Aiko
When Jhené Aiko realized her music not only helped her cope through her own mental health struggles but also those of her fans, she felt the urge to do more.
As mental health awareness month comes to a close, the “Sativa” singer spoke to PEOPLE about being named an ambassador for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services — and how she’s using her music to spread the word.
“As I traveled around and toured, and got to speak to a lot of people and they would share with me their personal stories and share with me how my music has helped them,” Aiko, 34, says. “And having honest conversations with the people that listen to my music, it’s like we’re helping each other.”
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Reflecting on her own mental health journey, the R&B singer (whose full name is Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo) says music was always her way of coping — even before she realized it could be for others too.
“Since the time I could write really, I’ve been dealing with my emotions through writing. That was always my way of getting through difficult things. Even when I was in elementary school, if I was really angry or really anxious about something, I would write about it.”
Jhené Aiko/Instagram Jhené Aiko and Daughter Namiko
Then, in 2008, Aiko gave birth to her 13-year-old daughter Namiko, whom she shares with her ex-boyfriend, singer O’Ryan.
“I had a child at 20 and definitely dealt with some postpartum depression and then two years after she was born, my brother passed and I definitely dealt with depression and self-medicating. At that same time, I was dealing with the typical early 20s blues of just dealing with relationships. And so on top of everything else, I was starting to get very busy and popular.”
She continued, “I started gaining success, so I put out my mixtape and I started getting really busy, performing and touring. And so along with that, came a bunch of other pressures and I was still dealing with, ‘I have a young daughter, I lost my brother,’ trying to numb those feelings of, ‘He’s not here to see me live my dream.’ I was really depressed and just self-medicating and drinking and trying to cope with that.”
Aiko was later diagnosed with anxiety and turned to different forms of healing like therapy and reading books by Buddhist monks — though it wasn’t until her daughter started getting older that she realized she wasn’t only doing it for herself, but for Namiko, too.
“I wasn’t applying it as much as I did when s— really hit the fan. And it was really important for me to actually practice these things where I saw it hit the fan,” the “Bed Peace” singer says. “I was physically feeling unhealthy and just seeing my energy level change for my daughter who is now 13.”
“As she gets older, it becomes even more important for me to be well. I see her going through a lot of the same things I went through when I was her age and I let her know, it’s taken me 34 years to really learn certain techniques when I’m feeling anxious or angry. And yeah, it’s a journey. I feel like we’re all on a mental health journey because we all have our physical health, but our well-being is so important. It’s just as important, and they go hand in hand really.”
And even though it’s not always easy, Aiko says she still makes it a priority to lead by example.
“I still say it, I still have those long conversations with her and try to teach her little techniques like, ‘OK, you seem frustrated — this is what helps me’ or ‘Maybe what about if you listen to music that’s not screamo.’ Sometimes she likes to listen to very hard metal type of stuff.”
She continued, “I’m like, maybe when you’re angry, music affects how you feel. I think she hears me, but in the moment, she has to be a teenager about it. Just because as a teenager, you’re required to be a rebel. She’s going to hear me one day, so I’m going to keep saying it and also lead by example because I’m still learning and there’s still things that I can be better at.”
Jhené Aiko Jhené Aiko
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This is when she realized her role as an ambassador could not have come at a more perfect time.
“As I get older and just more aware, more present, I feel like I’m learning more and more. And with my music even, I’m incorporating sound healing into the music, because I know that I got into sound healing just from personal use,” the “While We’re Young” singer says. “Once I started to feel like, OK, maybe certain things are not helping, they’re just numbing. I started to really dive into the things I had been reading about; meditation, breathwork, sound healing. And then I just realized at a certain point, that part of why I make music is to help people get through their journey.”
She adds, “This ambassadorship is something that is just motivating me to dive even deeper into that, because I feel like music is a powerful medicine and sound is a powerful medicine. We can really use it to our benefit and not just to entertain or to distract or escape. We can actually use it and still have fun while we’re doing it.”