Rebbie Jackson Headlines the "Pick Up the Phone" Tour

2/16/2011, 11:39 p.m.
Rebbie Jackson. /Courtesy photo.  

Singer Calls Attention to Suicide, Bi-Polar Disorder

When your last name is Jackson, as in the musical dynasty Jackson family, it's not unusual to be asked to headline any concert. But for Rebbie Jackson, the eldest of the singing Jackson family, her involvement with the "Pick Up The Phone" Tour, which comes to the Ellington Theatre in Northwest on Fri., Feb. 25, is much more personal.

The tour, which showcases artists to bring heightened awareness about depression, suicide and the stigma of mental illness to the public, was created through a partnership between several organizations--the Kristen Brooks Hope Center, 1-800-SUICIDE and 1-800-PPD-MOMS (for mothers suffering post-partum depression) among others.

For Jackson, the tour reflects the struggles she and her daughter Yashi experienced and conquered. Jackson said that suicide is prevalent among people diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

"For one thing, my daughter is bi-polar and Pick Up the Phone deals with people who are bi-polar and also suicidal, so it was something I was interested in," Jackson, 60, said.

"The problem with this situation is that there is such a stigma with that. But like any other kind of sickness, it has to be treated. People with high blood pressure or heart problems have to take medication in order to function properly. It's the same thing with people who are bi-polar. If you take your medication, it can be adjusted. But if you don't you run into severe problems," she said.

Fortunately, Yashi, who is now 33, was able to learn about her disease and decided to help others who are suffering from the same affliction. She has penned a book of poetry about living with bi-polar disorder.

But others are not so lucky.

Reese Butler, who founded the Pick Up the Phone organization, which encourages people with mental illness to reach out and get help, lost his wife, who was bi-polar to suicide in 1998.

"This is an education," Jackson said, "I am the spokesperson for the tour and my daughter is actually involved in it also as she is the one who has experienced bi-polar disorder."

The "Pick Up the Phone" Tour is the first musical tour aimed at suicide prevention in history -- now in its second year. The suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE has taken more than 5 million calls and saved more than 10,000 people who had previously planned to take their own lives. Additionally, 1-800-PPD-MOMS is the nation's only peer-to-peer hotline for mothers suffering from post-partum depression and hosts the world's largest commercial free blog, Postsecret.com.

Rebbie Jackson first performed in the early 70s in the Jackson Family shows in Las Vegas, and later went on to have her own solo career. She debuted with her album "Centipede" in 1984. The title track, produced, written and arranged, and featuring backup vocals by Michael Jackson, reached No. 4 on the Black

Singles Chart and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

She went on to record "Reaction" in 1986 and "R.U. Tuff Enuff" in 1988. After a 10-year break from music, when she raised her three children, Jackson signed with Michael's MJJ Music in 1997 and released "Yours Faithfully" in 1998. It featured a remixed version of "Centipede" featuring a rap by her son Austin and "Fly
Away," which was written and co-produced by Michael, who also served as co-executive producer for the album.

Rebbie Jackson has been performing her music around the world, while also tending to her family, ever since.

She addressed the death of her brother, Michael, noting that "when a person passes, it is very difficult. It is not easy at all. You have to focus on the positive.

After he passed, I didn't want to have anything to do with the music for a while. I couldn't listen to his music," she said.

"Everywhere I went, wherever I was, you were hearing him. It made it so hard. But I really believe that in the future we all have a hope of resurrection. One day in the future I will see him again, and focusing on that is what has gotten me by."

For tickets to the Pick Up the Phone Tour, which starts in Washington and travels to Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh among other cities on its year-long tour, visit www.putp.org.