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Music on Mental Health

Posted January 21, 2019

Tags: artself-care

"The first time I heard this song, I was stunned. For once, I was listening to how I felt. For once, I heard someone sing about mental health issues..."


We've asked our Board, clubs, and community members about books and movies that bring something to the conversation on mental health. But what about music?

Music is able to connect with listeners in a unique and profound way. It's there for when we need to relax, when we need a therapeutic cry, when we need to dance or hit the treadmill at the gym, when we need to feel less alone, and when we need to feel inspired. With artists such as Logic and Lady Gaga opening up about their mental health in their music, it seems like it's becoming more and more popular to share one's vulnerability with audiences–to tell the world that it's okay to not be okay. 

Check out picks from the Green Ribbon Club team and family and listen alongside our Spotify playlist.


"Brave" by Sara Bareilles

"This song gives me the inspiration to keep fighting against my bad thoughts and my mental illness. It reminds me that people are in my lane, supporting me, and encouraging me to stand up in the face of adversity."


“You Say” by Lauren Daigle

"Her words exemplify how in the face of the awfulness that is depression, I can turn to my support system and believe in what they’re telling me."

–Nikki Daurio, GRC Chief Executive Officer


"Orange" by Clay

" 'Orange' has an incredible way of making me feel understood while simultaneously identifying ways that I didn’t even know I felt while in this current political and social climate. This song makes me feel okay and validated for thinking the way I do and how everything in the outside world affects my mental health. Plus her voice is just SO perfect and soothing. Literal genius manifested in a soulful masterpiece."



"Dream Police" by Cheap Trick

"I'm not sure if this was intended to be a mental health song, but it seems like it to me. It describes the frustrations, anger, sadness, and sometimes hopelessness of the negative voices inside your head. At night, when your thoughts are racing with crippling self-doubt or dark thoughts. I feel like they especially capture how difficult it is to escape those thoughts, especially when all you want to do is sleep."



East of Eli

"East of Eli is not just a concert, it's an experience! The first show I went to really helped me and kept me calm. I told them all about my mental health and that I have Aspergers. Honestly the safest spaces ever. The second show I got to share it with great friends. I also made a good friend at the concert, which was super awesome. They have become one of my closest friends."

–Abbie, GRC Community Member


"I got a chance to go to one of the East of Eli shows in New York. I don't like large crowds at concerts, and this was a perfect intimate show. Only about 75 fans sitting on the floor listening to some amazing music. Can't wait to see another show."

–Jean, GRC Community Member


"I met some amazing people at the shows I've gone to. It's a family environment and an escape from the crazy world. East of Eli lyrics are meaningful."

–Teri, GRC Community Member


"Errors" by K.I.D

"The first time I heard this song, I was stunned. For once, I was listening to how I felt. For once, I heard someone sing about mental health issues. For once, I heard a woman contemplating how to recover and knowing her medication wasn't working. I felt understood. Not only was it nice to just listen to this catchy song, but I also think it helps in Stopping The Stigma. I feel as though once you can sing about it, you can talk about it normally."



Taylor Swift

"There isn't one song that stands out to me in terms of being inspirational for mental health (rather, there are a lot out there, it's hard to choose just one). I feel like the great thing about music is that it can be a very individualized experience. For me, Taylor Swift has been my favorite singer for as long as I can remember. Whenever I was going through a rough time or feeling especially depressed, I would play her songs and that would provide some sort of comfort to me. Not everyone is going to have the same reaction listening to her songs, but I'm sure we all have that one artist, album, or song that makes us a little happier."

–Megan Habel, GRC Chief Operating Officer


"Come Back to Earth" by Mac Miller

"For me, this song is about the dilemma faced by someone who knows they have a problem, but are unable to make the next steps to solve that problem. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced myself and it’s a great song."


"Float On" by Danny Brown

"This song sticks out from the rest of his album ‘Old’ because of its genuine conversation with the listener about the pressure and pain the artist is combating making the album. It helped me out greatly in college."

–Brian McInerney, Director of Logisitics


"Self Care" by Mac Miller

"Miller was open about his mental health and his substance abuse. His lyrics connected to many of those who are struggling with their mental health. He was one of the front runners of normalizing the talk about mental health by expressing what he went through in his music."

–Alexis D'Epagnier, Chief Administrative Officer


"Ribs" by Lorde 

"This song nails the feelings of loss/confusion that often come with adolescence, and points to some of the fears that go along with growing up."


"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" by Elton John 

"I think there are many interpretations to this song, but a significant one has to do with people hiding their struggles behind a disguise. I think this plays a huge role in circles where mental health is still stigmatized."

–Sharon Kadosh, GRC Contributing Writer


"Last Hope" by Paramore

"This song is about continuing to let life happen and managing to find that tiny bit of light even when you’re going through hard times, no matter how hard and painful it may be. Standout lyric: 'It’s just a spark, but it’s enough to keep me going.'"


"Voices" by Against The Current

"This song’s about what it feels like to battle those negative voices that creep into the back of your mind, causing self-doubt and making you feel stuck in your thoughts. Standout lyric: 'When will the voices in my head just stop and let me rest?'"


"Neon Gravestones" by Twenty-one Pilots

"The message behind this song is an important and powerful one, as it strongly advocates against the glamorization of suicide and suggests we should celebrate those who choose to live instead. Standout lyric: 'Just pleading that 'it' does not get glorified/Maybe we swap out what it is that we hold so high.'"


After Laughter by Paramore 

"The album After Laughter’s title comes from that jarring moment the second you’re done laughing–when the smile falls from your face and you snap back to reality. The entire album is rooted in themes related to struggling with mental health. From the synth-driven, anxiety-fueled opening lines of the album’s opener 'Hard Times' ('All that I want is to wake up fine/To tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die') to the deceptively upbeat 'Rose-Colored Boy', which juxtaposes depression with the metaphor of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, and 'Fake Happy', which is about putting on a smile and convincing the world (and yourself) that it’s genuine, the lyrics of After Laughter address mental health in a way that’s raw and relatable. Standout lyric: 'I know that you’re afraid to let all the dark escape you/But we could let the light illuminate these hopeless places' – Idle Worship, song."

–Hayley, GRC Community Member


"Glorious" by Macklemore

"It’s about coming through something difficult and having a new life perspective and working toward that."



"Landslide" by Oh Wonder

"This song is about having a support system when times are rough."



"Shake It Out" by Florence and the Machine 

" 'Shake It Out' talks about how there’s light after darkness."



"Finish Line / Drown" by Chance the Rapper

"This song talks about making it to the finish line and never drowning no matter how deep the water may seem. Listeners are told to keep moving forward despite any hardships that they may be facing."



"Breathin" by Ariana Grande

"This song’s literally about how it feels to live inside your head with anxiety - knowing what you’re feeling isn’t actually happening, but it’s real to you in that moment all the same. It shows that even when you feel out of control and detached from yourself, by consciously grounding yourself in the present and breathing you can make it through. Standout line: 'Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’...”

–Hayley, GRC Community Member


"A spindle, a darkness, a fever, a necklace" by Bright Eyes

"I often say that Bright Eyes is the band that got me through high school. I say this because the singer/lyricist Connor Oberst writes about his experiences with mental illness with such raw honesty that it helped me understand my own mental illness. To me, this song perfectly captures the long, windy darkness that depression can feel like. But the end of the song assures the listener that they are not meant to be destroyed and that the sun will rise again."


"Nothing Gets Crossed Out" by Bright Eyes

"This song focuses more on anxiety and how the mind keeps spiraling around intrusive thoughts and feelings. I really relate to the lyric 'I keep making these to-do lists but nothing gets crossed out,' because a recurring root of my depression/anxiety is the feeling of being unproductive or unfulfilled. The ending line gives the listener hope to just trust in yourself that good things will come: 'Guess I'll just keep moving Someday maybe I'll get to where I'm going .'"


"Change" by Lana Del Rey

"I think this song is a powerful reminder to everyone that change is perhaps the only constant of our existence. Whether you want to find change in yourself, or see a change in the world, believing in ourselves as human beings will bring forth change."


"Ride Into the Sun" by The Velvet Underground

"This is a beautiful song about how loneliness and depression is something experienced by many people, even those strangers in your city. You're not alone. Definitely listen to this song if you're living in a big city because it helped me feel less alone when living in New York."

–Will D'Epagnier, GRC Editor-in-Chief


"Reborn" by Kids See Ghosts

"As soon as the debut album from Kids See Ghosts was released, 'Reborn', really caught my attention. The song features both artists describing their own personal issues and battles with mental health. Kanye's line ('I was off the meds, I was called insane / What a awesome thing, engulfed in shame') in particular stuck with me as something that gave me a glimpse into his personal feelings battling bipolar disorder. Kid Cudi's line ('At times, wonder my purpose/
Easy then to feel worthless /But, peace is somethin' that starts with me'
) really speaks to overcoming depression, as he recognizes that peace can be achieved through self-reflection. Beyond the depth of the lyrics within the verses, the chorus is also heavenly and Cudi humming throughout is beautiful."


"Underwater" by Rufus Du Sol

" 'Underwater' was one of the singles to Rufus Du Sol's new album Solace. I believe this song represents being lost, or 'stuck underwater.' As someone who often deals with anxiety, I often consider it as having a similar feeling to drowning. The vocalist repeats in the chorus ('Help me out, before I drown/ Save me now, before I give up') which appear to cries for help, perhaps from his lover as alluded to earlier in the song."


"Lift Me from the Ground" by San Holo

"This is a euphoric and triumphant single by San Holo on his debut LP, album1. The song features a catchy bass line and lyrics that speak about a relationship where one individual has their spirits lifted when their friend and/or significant other is present. I believe this song speaks to friendship and relationships as being a major part to an individual's happiness. Everyone has certain relationships where another's presence can make a world of difference."

–Arman Fijany, GRC Chief Policy Officer


From these recommendations, we hope you found some songs that you can add to your music library, songs that will help you feel more understood and hopeful. Don't forget, music is a form of self-care.


(photo: Concert by Nona Wank is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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