May is Mental Health Awareness month. Our mental health should be looked after just as we do our physical health, it affects our daily lives and all our relationships, our work, our academics, etc. There is a lot of stigma surrounding the care of our mental health, but in recent years, we are beginning to have a conversation about it. And musicians, too, are doing their part with it.
They, too, undergo their own struggles and fight their own battles with mental illnesses. Music is an art that we all consume and love so much. Some artists use music as a medium to speak up, talk about, open up and express themselves about their inner battles with mental illness. We’ve compiled a list of popular songs that are about mental health.
1800-273-8255 – Logic feat. Alessia Cara, Khalid
Released in 2017, rapper Logic’s song ‘1800-273-8255’ is sung from the perspective of someone who wants to commit suicide. The title of the song is actually the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the song follows the person who calls this hotline. Logic said that he wanted to create a song that would have a noticeable impact on others.
“Fans that I met randomly, they’ve said things like, ‘Your music has saved my life. You’ve saved my life.’ And I was always like, ‘Aw, so nice of you. Thanks.’ And I give them a hug and s— but in my mind, I’m like, ‘What the f—?’ And they’re really serious,” Logic said in an interview with Genius.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘Man I wasn’t even trying to save nobody’s life.’ And then it hit me, the power that I have as an artist with a voice,” he continued, according to Insider. “I wasn’t even trying to save your life. Now, what can happen if I actually did?”
And the rapper did make an impact as on the day of the song’s release, the hotline received the second-highest daily call volume ever with over 4,573 calls, according to Billboard. Logic, Khalid, and Alessia Cara even performed their powerful hit at MTV VMA’s. There, they appeared alongside survivors of attempted suicide. As per Billboard, the day after this performance, the hotline received more than 5,000 calls.
Save Myself – Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran, who is known for hit and chart-topping love songs like ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Perfect’, offered a powerful song about self-care in 2017 called ‘Save Me’. Sometimes, we can get so consumed by the needs of others, making others happy and fulfilling their wants and needs that we forget about looking after ourselves and our mental health. There are times when we need to put ourselves first and save ourselves, after all, we too, need saving. The song also talks about addiction with a hard-hitting chorus –
“Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels
I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills
And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf
So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself.”
The singer revealed that he’s “had bouts of everything” from depression to anxiety, before sharing that the lowest point in his mental health actually came at a high point of his career in 2015,” as per Entertainment Tonight.
“It was down to bad diet, drinking and then not seeing sunlight at all… and I wasn’t exercising. Exercise, I think, is a really f**king important thing to keep people happy,” he said. “I was touring and I would stay up and drink all night and then… the buses would park underneath the arenas and I’d sleep on the bus all day and then wake up and then come outdo the show, drink, get back on the bus. I didn’t see sunlight for, like, maybe like four months.”
You May Also Like: Round Up: Top Pop + Hip Hop Artists of 2021
“It’s all fun and games at the start, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll and it’s fun, and then it starts getting just sad,” the ‘Shape of You’ singer continued. “So I think that’s probably the lowest that I’ve been and I kind of ballooned in weight and I just wasn’t healthy.”
During that time, Sheeran also struggled with panic attacks while in public places. These include “the tube, planes, supermarkets, anywhere where there are lots of people.” “It’s a weird paranoia in me that’s assuming that everyone’s gonna be horrible when usually people are nice,” he explained.
According to Entertainment Tonight, Ed Sheeran’s “unhealthy lifestyle was made worse given the fact that he has a “very, very addictive personality,” and thus struggles with moderation.” Speaking about it, Sheeran said: “I think with addiction it’s very hard to moderate, but moderation is the key, I think.”
Rose-Colored Boy – Paramore
Paramore’s single ‘Rose-Colored Boy’, off their 2017 acclaimed album ‘After Laughter’, deals with overcoming the stigma that surrounds depression and anxiety.
After their performance of the track on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ the band took to Twitter to explain how the lyrics to the song were written as a call for people to be more open about their mental health saying: “‘Rose-Colored Boy’ is a song about feeling pressured to look at the world with blind optimism when you actually feel very hopeless about the world and your part in it,” they wrote. “There is so much social pressure to be (or appear to be) “happy” that we can actually feel shame when we aren’t.
“Adding shame to sadness is a pretty toxic cocktail. It’s hard enough to deal with sadness, depression, or any type of anxiety without the added societal expectations,” the band explained. “It’s important AND more healing to meet people where they’re at – EMPATHY – than to try and paint everything rosy.”
Paramore added: “We hope that somewhere out there, staring into a screen, someone was made to feel less alone by the ideas in ‘Rose-Colored Boy’.”
Along with ‘Rose-Colored Boy’, ‘After Laughter‘ features ‘Fake Happy’, ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘Hard Times’ – songs that also delve into the theme of mental health.
In My Blood – Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes opened up about his battle with anxiety in his guitar-driven single with smooth tones and dramatic drums, saying, “It was kind of something that hit me within the last year. Before that, growing up, I was a pretty calm kid, super steady.”
“I knew people who had suffered from anxiety and found it kind of hard to understand, but then when it hits you, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what is this? This is crazy’,” Mendes told Beats 1’s Zane Lowe. “That song is complete truth and the best thing about it is, it’s not all down. The whole reason I wrote this song was to be like, in the end, ‘It’s not in my blood to do that.’”
Skyscraper – Demi Lovato
An inspirational anthem of resilience, Demi Lovato’s hit song ‘Skyscraper’ reflects their triumph over her struggles with bulimia, addiction, and mental illness with a message of triumph over adversity. The singer struggled with their battle with bulimia, self-harming, and substance abuse, and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The singer, though, did more than sing to extend their help as they established the Lovato Treatment Scholarship Program in 2013, which helps those who cannot afford mental healthcare treatment meet the costs. This was after the star’s father, who also struggled with mental illness, lost his battle with cancer. Lovato has also a public health campaign, called Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health. This is in partnership with five other mental health organizations.
Anxiety – Julia Michaels with Selena Gomez
Julia Michaels and Selena Gomez’s 2019 song ‘Anxiety’ gives listeners an honest look into what it is like living with anxiety. It is about how mental illness affects our daily lives, relationships, and friendships. It makes us overthink every little thing.
Heavy – Linkin’ Park feat. Kiiara
Linkin’ Park’s frontman Chester Bennington has had a lifelong struggle with his mental health and died of suicide in 2017. The singer said, “My whole life, I’ve just felt a little off,” in a conversation with Music Choice.
“I find myself getting into these patterns of behavior or thought – especially when I’m stuck up here [in my head]; I like to say that ‘this is like a bad neighborhood, and I should not go walking alone.’” (Bennington suffered molestation as a young boy, and struggled with addiction, on and off, throughout his life, as per Rolling Stone)
“Most of my problems are problems that I cause myself,” he continued in the interview. “That’s what that song [“Heavy”] is about – that time when you consciously look at that. Once you acknowledge what it is, you can separate yourself from it and do something about it, as opposed to just being in it.”
breathin – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande confirmed that ‘breathin’ was about her struggle with anxiety. She opened up to a fan on Twitter about it, saying how bad things got after surviving the May 2017 bombing in Manchester, England.
“I felt like i was floating for like 3 months last year & not in a nice way,” Grande explained. The singer revealed that the track ‘Get Well Soon’ was also inspired by her anxiety. “like I was outside my body? was v scary and i couldn’t breathe well. so it’s ab that. & lots of voices in my head singing. I hope it comforts ppl who hear it pls.”