1 in 5 Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, the most common being depression and anxiety. If that’s not scary enough, six people die every day in Australia from suicide with another 30 attempting. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 25-44 and the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. Mental illness is serious business and for some reason, unfortunately, there’s still this stigma attached to the idea that we can’t talk about it publically or that it’s not really that big a deal. This isn’t true and for the majority of us, talking about it or sharing conversations on the subject matter is a great way to get the ball rolling for most of us to be able to speak up about how we’re not ok… we promise (pun intended) 😉
Thankfully there are musicians who are more than willing to stand up and speak to us about their own battles (via their music) and tell us it’s going to be ok, it will get better and for some of us, we can find momentary relief through their songs.
These songs give us something to relate to when your life is going through a rough patch, but trust us, it ALWAYS gets better and there are plenty of avenues for you to get the help you need to keep going:
(Lifeline 13 11 14 // Beyond Blue 1300 224 363 // Headspace 1800 650 890 – for ages 12-25)
Or find your closest Suicide Prevention/Crisis Support Organisation on Google
Slowly but surely, we’re all making a positive change with the way we look at mental health awareness and in honour of World Mental Health Day today, we’ve rounded up our thoughts on the Top 50 Songs About Mental Health to give you a soundtrack which we hope will help you begin to get your life back on track again and raise awareness for such an important topic that’s becoming more socially acceptable to address in a public space/forum…
#50 – Metallica – ‘Frantic’
A track which was inspired by/focused on the band’s past battles with addiction with frontman James Hetfield‘s alcohol abuse being a main focal point. The song tells the story about someone who is about to die as they reflect on their wasted days due to substance abuse.
#49 – KoЯn – ‘Thoughtless’
Based upon the Columbine High School shooting, the song tells the story through the eye of the shooters. Frontman Jonathan Davis stated: “It’s a song about people who are constantly ridiculed and the damage it can cause…” according to SongFacts
#48 – Make Them Suffer – ‘Blood Moon’
The song’s theme is about schizophrenia as frontman Sean Harmanis explained: “…our protagonist is suffering from mental illness (probably to do with shell-shock and alcohol abuse). The lyrics of this song go back and forth between depressed and destructive, as if there were two devils dancing on either side of the protagonist’s shoulder, until it’s revealed at the end of the song in the lyrics that he has schizophrenia.”
#47 – Enter Shikari – ‘An Ode To Lost Jigsaw Pieces’
From their latest album The Spark, according to frontman Rou Reynolds, this one is about the feeling of grief and the emotions we are faced with after suffering the loss of someone close to us, in this particular story, Rou’s grandmother, who was the inspiration behind some of the lyrics, he told us during an interview.
#46 – Pennywise – ‘Bro Hymn (Tribute)’
The original version was a dedication for the late Jason Thirsk‘s three friends Carlos Canton, Tim Colvin, and Tom Nichols, who died before the song was recorded. Pennywise re-recorded the song as a tribute for their former bandmate who took his own life in 1996.
#45 – The Smith Street Band – ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’
Deals with the emotional aftermath of a breakup where the protagonist overcomes suicidal thoughts and pleads for their ex to take them back after they fucked up.
#44 – The Fray – ‘How To Save A Life’
Frontman Isaac Slade was working at a summer camp where he was teamed up with a troubled teenager with various problems, but there wasn’t a manual for how to help him. That’s where the idea and concept of the song came about.
#43 – Ivy – ‘The Best Thing’
The story of a girl who relapses after recovering from self-harm
#42 – Pink Floyd – ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
A tribute for former member Syd Barrett (Shine on You crazy Diamond) whose mental illness and drug abuse lead to him being kicked out of the band shortly after they first started out.
#41 – Gang Of Youths – ‘Magnolia’
Dave Leaupepe wrote the song about his experiences during a suicidal bender he had back in 2014, which resulted after his marriage was breaking down according to an interview with Rolling Stone Australia.
#40 – The Who – ‘Behind Blue Eyes’
Peter Townshend has said the song was written to show “How lonely it is to be powerful.” Isolation and alienation play a big part in this absolute classic. Many new age music fans will recognise it as the song Limp Bizkit covered for the 2003 psychological thriller Gothika starring Halle Berry.
#39 – The Amity Affliction – ‘All Fucked Up’
It’s no secret frontman Joel Birch writes a lot about struggles with his own demons and mental health issues and this song, in particular, was about his alcohol addiction and the suicidal thoughts that came from abusing the substance.
#38 – Good Charlotte – ‘Hold On’
The band’s anti-suicide song they wrote after various fans got in contact with them, telling them about their issues and how they thought about suicide. The music video was made in collaboration with a suicide prevention organisation and featured fans and family members of fans who had taken their own lives.
#37 – Hole – ‘Miss World’
The Courtney Love fronted band wrote this one following the departure of ex members Jill Emery and Caroline Rue and it’s themes deal with self-image and substance abuse.
#36 – P.O.D. – ‘Youth of the Nation’
Following the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre, P.O.D. were asked by students (who attended the school at the time) to perform and help them raise awareness for the issue (which unbelievably is still an issue to this day). Frontman Sonny Sandoval told us during an interview, because of that, the band had a connection to the school and what happened.
Not long after, the band were in studio recording their album Satellite, when another high school shooting took place close by, stating: “We were rehearsing and writing literally two blocks away from when it happened here in our own hometown of San Diego”. That incident became the inspiration for their hard-hitting track ‘Youth of the Nation‘ which not only deals with other themes like suicide, but also serves as a “come-together’ anthem for their young fans.
#35 – Radiohead – ‘Creep’
The song deals with self-doubt and self-image issues
#34 – Tears For Fears – ‘Mad World’
The story deals with the protagonist’s feelings of depression and alienation and how suicidal thoughts plague him, with the lyrics in the chorus “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”.
#33 – Nirvana – ‘Pennyroyal Tea’
During an interview with Impact back in 1993 Kurt Cobain explained the song was about someone “who’s beyond depressed; they’re in their death bed, pretty much” and that the title comes from a debunked myth that Pennyroyal tea was a “herbal abortive”. He also mentioned that the reference to Leonard Cohen in the song came from his way of dealing with his own depression, stating: “That was my therapy, when I was depressed and sick. I’d… listen to Leonard Cohen, which would actually make it worse”
#32 – Harvey Danger – ‘Flagpole Sitta’
Addresses how crazy society is through the eyes of a cultural observer as well as dealing with mental health issues/topics like schizophrenia and paranoia.
#31 – Soundgarden – ‘Fell on Black Days’
The late and great Chris Cornell wrote this song during a battle with depression he had in his teenage years, revealing during in an interview with Artist Direct it was “about waking up and realizing you’re in a dark period of your life.”
#30 – Parkway Drive – ‘Wishing Wells’
The song’s main focus is dealing with the feelings and emotions associated with grief and anger following loss, all the while searching for something/someone to blame.
#29 – AFI – ‘I Hope You Suffer’
Heartbreak isn’t easy. The emotions, sad and angry thoughts that follow plague your mind until you can finally get over it. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes weeks or years, and sometimes never. But frontman Davey Havok has a way of really showing you what it’s like to go through a rough breakup and the aftermath of feelings which consume you.
#28 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Under The Bridge’
It’s no secret this song was written about frontman Anthony Kiedis‘ battle with heroin addiction which he openly talks about in his biography Scar Tissue, which is an ESSENTIAL READ for anyone who loves music.
#27 – Soul Asylum – ‘Runaway Train’
A song written about depression, heightened by the choices in life he had to make. For the music video, frontman Dave Pirner was inspired by missing children stories (in particular 12-year-old Polly Klaas who went missing in 1993) and wanted to do his part to help, so throughout the video, images of children who had disappeared at the time were shown. The video was also edited for places outside of the United States to include images of local children who had gone missing.
After the song peaked on the US charts, the Klaas case drew widespread media attention nationwide, however, unfortunately, it was later revealed Polly Klaas was abducted and murdered.
#26 – Beartooth – ‘Disease’
Frontman Caleb Shomo is another new age musician who isn’t afraid to show his scars and tell others about his struggles with depression and anxiety through his lyrics. Each album has been about his battles and how he’s tried to overcome them, through to the band’s latest album Disease where he comes to term with his mental illness always being with him. ‘Disease‘ is about his depression and suicidal thoughts taking over and how he puts on a brave face, denying its existence to others which is evident in the lyrics “If I fall again, will it be the end? I know it’s wrong, you think I’m strong but I just pretend”
#25 – Bring Me The Horizon – ‘Drown’
‘Drown‘ is a call for help when you’re drowning in your life’s struggles. The chorus is about questioning who can be there for you when the weight of the world gets too much.
“Who will fix me now? Dive in when I’m down? Save me from myself, Don’t let me drown”
#24 – Pale Waves – ‘Noises’
During an interview last year wit DIYMag the band revealed this song was about having “very low self-esteem and analysing yourself too much…” It was also stated by frontman Heather Baron-Gracie “I can’t wait until people who are a bit insecure about stuff can hear that song, because I feel like they’ll feel better after it. That they’ll know that other people feel that way.”
#23 – Papa Roach – ‘Help’
Pretty straightforward with this one, frontman Jacoby Shaddix wrote the song about reaching out to someone when you’re struggling to maintain your own mental health. Shaddix is another musician who has become quite open with sharing stories about how he overcame his own battles with drug/alcohol/substance abuse and sex addiction early on in his career.
Not too long ago, Jacoby co-hosted our ‘Discussion About Mental Health‘ podcast where he spoke about the different ways to overcome and address mental health, indicating he turned to religion to get himself back on track. Whilst some remedies may work better for others, its how you take that first step to recovery that really helps.
#22 – Slipknot – ‘Duality’
The song talks about self-harm when someone is forced to make an impossible decision that they don’t want to make. Frontman Corey Taylor elaborated more revealing: “You get to that point in everyday life when you have to make a decision that you may not want to, but you’re kind of pushed into that position”. Taken from the band’s third album Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses at a time when Corey went sober following years of alcohol abuse.
#21 – ‘System of a Down – ‘Lonely Day’
The lyrics indicate (once again) it was a song written about loneliness and grief after losing a loved one (relative or partner). “Such a lonely day, And it’s mine. It’s a day I’m glad I survived”. The song also scored the band a Grammy Nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance, but they lost out to Wolfmother‘s ‘Woman‘.
#20 – Jack Off Jill – ‘Strawberry Gashes’
The song is about a girl who is dealing with drug abuse, depression and self-harm. The term “Strawberry Gashes” refer self-mutilation by cutting.
#19 – Jimmy Eat World – ‘The Middle’
Despite the more positive feel and vibe throughout the track, this one was actually written after the band were dropped from Capitol Records and has themes of loneliness and not fitting in, in the lyrics. “Don’t write yourself off yet” and being “left out or looked down on” refers to the feeling of self-doubt and not giving up when others turn their back on you.
It also serves as an encouraging pat on the back to be yourself and embrace your differences when comparing yourself to others.
#18 – Foster The People – ‘Pumped Up Kicks’
Another song that misleads its listeners with an upbeat and funky feel throughout, however, the lyrical content tells the story of an isolated, troubled youth named Robert, who suffers from homicidal thoughts and plots to shoot his peers with a gun he found in his father’s closet.
When asked about what inspired the song, frontman Mark Foster revealed it was primarily about high school shootings as a whole and the fact it was still an issue, stating:
“I kind of wrote the song to bring awareness to the issue. That sort of thing keeps happening more and more in our country; it’s kind of turning into an epidemic. To me the epidemic isn’t gun violence; the epidemic is lack of family, lack of love, and isolation – kids who don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to talk to and that’s what makes them snap.”
#17 – Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Today’
When the idea was first conceived, Smashing Pumpkins has just wrapped up a 14-month tour (their longest tour before that was 20 days) and frontman Billy Corgan was in a really bad place mentally. At the time, he revealed: “I was completely obsessed with killing myself, it became my primary preoccupation. Out of the depths of this despair, I bottomed out and it literally came down to a simple decision: Either kill yourself or get used to it, work, live, and be happy. So I wrote this song….as you can see I chose another kind of death which is rock and roll”
Fast forward to today, Corgan now refers to it as a survival song and talks about it being a soundtrack for perseverance and pushing through those hard days that you face.
#16 – La Dispute – ‘Edward Benz, 27 Times’
The song tells the story of a man (Edward Benz) whose son suffers from schizophrenia and lives in a house he purchased for him. After Ed’s wife heads to the pharmacy to refill their son’s medication, she returns to find the door locks and nobody answering.
Edward opens the door and is attacked by his son who was standing in the dark, stabbing and killing him. The number 27 illudes to the number of times he was stabbed.
#15 – Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – ‘Devil Inside Me’
This one deals with the struggling battle of inner-demons/negative thoughts and how they make you remember all the bad parts of your life. The demons are anxiety and depression.
#14 – The Offspring – ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’
An absolute ripper of a song which was conceived after frontman Dexter Holland took a trip back to the neighbourhood he grew up in (Garden Grove, Orange County, California) and found out what happened to some of the old acquaintances he had there, some of which had done nothing with their lives, another committed suicide, one died of a drug overdose, and other dropped out of school after falling pregnant.
During a time when pop music was dominating and trying to tell us everything was going to be okay, realists The Offspring showed us all what American life was really like in some of the rough areas.
#13 – Garbage – ‘Bleed Like Me’
This song focuses on some of the troubles that faced teenagers, particularly girls who wanted others to notice the pain they were going through. In an interview with ABC Australia, Butch Vig said: “whether in the form of actual self injury (scars, cutting) or other types of harmful behavior. It addresses many forms of behavior including actual cutting, anorexia, alcohol abuse and gender role confusion.”
Regardless of someone’s gender, colour, sexual orientation, religion or moral values, we are all the same. In this case, we all bleed the same.
#12 – Sum 41 – ‘War’
Frontman Deryck Whibley had a very VERY public breakdown following his divorce from Avril Lavigne and fans may remember he went on a downward spiral after contracting pneumonia at Soundwave Festival 2011 in Brisbane which resulted in his hospitalisation in Sydney. From there, it got worse after he suffered from a collapsed liver and kidney following years of alcohol abuse.
Fast forward to 2016 and he, alongside his Sum 41 bandmates (including original guitarist Dave Baksh) released the album 13 Voices and this song was his story about his struggles with alcohol abuse and how he overcame it. The lyrics also serve as a promise he made with himself to always stay on the straight and narrow.
#11. Rise Against – Make It Stop (September’s Children)
During a time when LGBT teenagers were taking their lives due to excessive abuse and ridicule, one band stood up with a powerful message, begging and pleading for bullies to stop. That band was Rise Against and this was their song.
It gained international headlines upon first release and features a hauntingly scary slow part towards the end of the song where frontman Tim McIlrath reads the names of teens who committed suicide because they were bullied about their sexuality with the youngest being 13 years old.
#10 – Marilyn Manson – ‘Coma White’
A pill to make you numb / A pill to make you dumb / A pill to make you anybody else / But all the drugs in this world / Won’t save her from herself
This song is apparently about Manson’s drug abuse problem and the numbness he felt during his relationship with Rose McGowan but the lyrical content can be interpreted in different ways. “There’s something cold and blank behind her smile” can describe someone with depression. Just because you’re smiling doesn’t mean you’re happy. For me (Kim) the chorus describes how I felt on antidepressants, they didn’t help at all.
#9 – Green Day – ‘Basketcase’
Ever had anxiety or a panic attack? Billie Joe Armstrong has. He wrote this before he was diagnosed and thought he was going crazy.
I am one of those / Melodramatic fools / Neurotic to the bone / No doubt about it
#8 – My Chemical Romance – ‘Headfirst Into Halos’
For a song about depression and contemplating suicide, it’s incredibly upbeat.
I can’t begin to let you know just what I’m feeling / And now the red ones make me fly and the blue ones help me fall / And I think I’ll blow my brains against the ceiling.
#7 – Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’
I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel / I focus on the pain / The only thing that’s real / The needle tears a hole / The old familiar sting / Try to kill it all away / But I remember everything
I know this song is originally performed by Nine Inch Nails in 1994 but I think most can agree that Cash’s version recorded in 2002 really punches you in the guts. The song references self-harm, regret, depression and losing friends.
“I was uneasy about putting it on the album because that song felt like I was saying I needed help. I wouldn’t admit that to myself but when I wrote it I felt like I was sitting in a pile of rubble and there was a hint of regret and remorse. Hurt was the first inclination for me that I could use a hand here.” – Trent Reznor
#6 – blink-182 – ‘Adam’s Song’
I never thought I’d die alone / Another six months I’ll be unknown.
The inspiration for this song was a mixture of a magazine article Mark Hoppus read about a teenager that killed himself and left a note for his family and the loneliness of being on tour with his band and being the only one with nobody waiting for him when they got home. “It’s about me being depressed and lonely out on tour, and not really having anything to come home to.” The couplet “I couldn’t wait til I got home/To pass the time in my room alone” originally ended “to get off the plane alone.”
#5 – Paramore – ‘Fake Happy’
Oh please don’t ask me how I’ve been / Don’t make me play pretend
Hayley Williams has been dealing with depression over the last few years and talked about it with the release of their album After Laughter last year –
“For the first time in my life, there wasn’t a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel. I thought, I just wish everything would stop. It wasn’t in the sense of, I’m going to take my life. It was just hopelessness. Like, What’s the point? I don’t think I understood how dangerous hopelessness is. Everything hurts.”
#4 – Pearl Jam – ‘Jeremy’
The inspiration for this song came from the story of a high school student named Jeremy who shot himself in front of his English class in 1991. The second half of the song is about a kid frontman Eddie Vedder bullied in high school. Pearl Jam brought attention to bullying, depression, suicide and gun violence with one song and yet 26 years later America still hasn’t learned it’s lesson.
#3 – Gallows – ‘Misery’
There is nothing left for me / I want to kill myself just for relief
Frank Carter has been open about his battle with depression over the years and wrote this song while fighting the urge to kill himself. This song is blunt AF and there’s something strangely comforting about him yelling the lyrics at you. For someone dealing with this right now, the irony isn’t lost on me that this is my go to song to feel better about life.
#2 – Linkin Park – ‘Papercut’
I don’t know what stressed me first / Or how the pressure was fed / But I know just what it feels like / To have a voice in the back of my head
Honestly, you could put any Linkin Park song here: ‘Numb‘, ‘Crawling‘, ‘Somewhere I Belong‘, ‘Easier To Run‘ and probably every song on that last album (One More Light) that I still can’t bring myself to listen too.
#1 – R.E.M. – ‘Everybody Hurts’
If you’re on your own in this life / The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much of this life / To hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes / Everybody cries
I’m finishing off this list with R.E.M.’s anti-suicide anthem. Michael Stipe wrote this after his sister, a teacher, knew a kid who tried to kill himself. “He wanted that particular song to reach teenagers and not be misunderstood. You don’t want something that needs a math degree to go through when you’re trying to reach a 17-year-old and say, ‘It’s ok, things are tough but they get better.’” – Peter Buck
Listening to music and escaping from yourself is a momentary solution when you’re not in the right headspace. While the musician/band’s art has a calming effect that can occupy your mind for as long as you need, there are plenty of avenues we can’t stress seeking out if you or someone you know needs help with maintaining a healthy well-being.
If you are dealing with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts and have nobody to talk too, please visit your GP/Doctor or ring a hotline. Click Here to find an extensive list of Suicide Crisis Hotlines and find the one for your local area/country. There is always someone around willing to help.
In Australia, through your GP you can get subsidised sessions with a psychologist so you can pay as little as $25 thanks to Medicare. Some places will offer cheap rates if you have a health care card as well.
Created by Kim Anderson (@stwwphoto)
Once again please call any of the following hotlines in Australia if you need help:
Lifeline 13 11 14 or Online
Beyond Blue 1300 224 363 or Online
Headspace 1800 650 890 (for ages 12-25) or Online
Mental Health Week
October 7th to 13th 2018