“I didn’t feel any shame seeking help,” JoJo says of managing her depression through therapy and antidepressants

By Jeff Nelson
Updated April 29, 2020 08:15 AM

JoJo is opening up about her mental health and her family’s struggle with addiction.

In the new issue of PEOPLE, the singer reveals she was diagnosed with clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, 10 years ago and that she’s been going to therapy and taking antidepressants since she was 18.

“Because there is a history of mental health issues in my family, I didn’t feel any shame seeking help,” says the singer, whose mental health journey influenced her new album, Good to Know, out Friday. “Those of us who have a predisposition toward depression or a chemical imbalance — sometimes we just need a little help.”

For more on JoJo, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

JoJo and her mom Diana
Doug Krantz

Born Joanna Levesque to dad Joel and Mom Diana, JoJo rose to fame at the age of 13 with her No. 1 hit single “Leave (Get Out).” Publicly she was enjoying pop stardom and all that came with it, and two albums, a string of hit singles (“Baby, It’s You,” “Too Little Too Late”) and several roles in family movies (RV, Aquamarine) followed.

“I was living my dream,” she recalls.

Behind the scenes, though, she spiraled into dark emotions as she watched her father struggle with opioid addiction. Then her career came to a halt in 2009 when she could no longer release music because of a dispute over her contract with her record label. So JoJo turned to alcohol to cope.

“I was feeling overwhelmed and found myself wanting to get out of my mind because I was so scared and so sad,” says JoJo, who began drinking to the point of blackouts at 18.

Doug Krantz

“At the end of the day I am a product of a family with substance-abuse issues,” she says, adding she knew it was time for a change two years later. “When I woke up and didn’t know how I got home, I was like, ‘This is not okay.'”

After being diagnosed with depression, JoJo began to manage her mental health through therapy and medication, as well as exercise, yoga and journaling.

Doug Krantz

“I looked at what I could control as opposed to what was out of my control,” she says. “What was out of my control was I never knew what I was going to get from my father, if he was going to OD again; if my record label was going to let me out of my deal, or if I was ever going to legally be able to own my own voice again.”

After a years-long legal battle with her former label, JoJo reclaimed her voice in 2013 when she reached a settlement. The triumph was dulled by tragedy two years later when her father died of complications from his addiction. JoJo honored him on her 2016 LP Mad Love, her first album in a decade. And she vows not to succumb to the same demons that killed him.

JoJo with dad Joel in a family photo

“When I was younger, my dad came to pick me up from my mom’s place. He was slurring his words, and I was scared to get in the car with him,” she recalls. “He was like, ‘Just you wait. Addiction is like Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping iron in your backyard just waiting for you.’ I remember telling him, ‘I don’t accept that as my fate. I don’t accept that just because this is in my DNA that this has to be my future.’ I’ll never forget that.”

JoJo doesn’t abstain from drinking today, but, “my relationship with alcohol is different now,” she says. “I don’t drink to escape.” And as she continues to manage her mental health, JoJo is in a happier, healthier place — which she sings about on songs like “Proud” off her new album Good to Know.

“I’m really excited for 30, because I hear it gets better,” she says. “My 20s were just about seeking approval. Now if I approve of myself, that’s all I need. That confidence really reverberates. It’s very powerful.”

As part of the Let’s Talk About It initiative, PEOPLE is partnering with the Crisis Text Line, which offers free, 24/7 support from trained crisis counselors. If you or someone you know needs help, text STRENGTH to 741741. For help with mental illness or substance abuse, you can also call SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).