‘I didn’t want to have a breakdown’



Stock photos by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU via Getty Jewel

Jewel is opening up about why prioritize your mental health: while living in his car as a teenager and after bursting onto the music scene, it has helped keep her the “happy, whole human” she is today.

“My goal when I moved [of my house] at 15 it was learning a new emotional language,” Jewel tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.

“I knew that as much as I had a genetic heritage that could predispose me to diabetes or heart disease, I could tell that I had an emotional heritage and could predispose me to cycles of addiction and abuse,” he reveals.

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When Jewel went from living alone in a cabin in Alaska at age 15 to living in his car in California until discovered at a young age, the singer always focused on her mental health.

“When they discovered me, it’s funny, I almost didn’t sign my record deal because I was very aware that if you take someone with my emotional background, and God forbid, I become famous…”, recalls the 48-year-old singer. .

“That’s all the movies you’ve ever seen of every single celebrity. In this job, we lose more people to addictions, overdoses, suicides, nervous breakdowns, and I didn’t want to be a statistic. So, I made a deal that I would sign that contract while my number one job would still be to learn how to be a complete and happy human being,” he tells PEOPLE.

Jewel on prioritizing mental health over fame

Jewel on prioritizing mental health over fame

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty jewel and her son kase

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He kept true to his promise, taking two years off at the height of his career to avoid a mental breakdown and because he “needed time to psychologically adjust to the level of fame” he had achieved. Jewel also took the last seven years to focus on being a good mother to her 11-year-old son, Kasewhom she shares with her ex-husband Ty Murray.

The singer-songwriter says she prioritized her mental health then, and still does now, because she’s seen too many successful people commit suicide and knew she wanted to stay alive.

“What’s the point of a race if you want to jump off a building or take your own life?” she asks. “What’s the point of fame? What’s the point of likes if you’re not happy and if you don’t like yourself?”

RELATED: Jewel talks about being a working mom and passing on her creativity to her son (he makes bath bombs!)

In part due to her own experiences as a teenager, Jewel has worked alongside the Inspiring Children Foundation for nearly 20 years, helping at-risk youth gain access to mental health tools.

For the holidays this year, your foundation is organizing the #ChallengeNotAlone to raise awareness and funds to make mental health resources more available to those who need them, and to make people feel less alone during the holidays.

“We really wanted to launch this campaign around the holidays to remind people that they’re not alone,” Jewel tells PEOPLE. “It’s not enough just to raise awareness. We have to offer solutions to people and that’s my favorite part of the #ChallengeNotAloneit’s that they can see resources that are free, that are available, and that have been proven to work.”

RELATED VIDEO: Jewel ‘determined to heal’ and reconcile after her father got sober and ‘did amazing inner work’

The #NotAloneChallenge features social media posts and auction items from celebrities and athletes, including billie eilish, Andrea Bocelli, Kelly Clarkson, kris jenner, big frankie, Mayim Bialik, hunter hayes, melissa rivers and more.

The passionate mental health advocate continues to sing as well. He recently released a new album, Free womanthat’s an embodiment of who she is today.

“When I finally felt the moment to make this album, I really wanted it to reflect who I was now at 48,” Jewel reveals. “And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the first time I’ve had to write an album from scratch, which was shocking.”

His new album is out now.

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