In recent years, the taboo of mental illness has started to lose its grip on society. A large factor in this is the increase in public discussion of the affliction that affects a vast swathe of the population; in music, television, books and films we now see creators tackling and discussing the topic head-on, and this can only be help fellow sufferers who feel like they are alone or have something to hide. A recent study about depression in musicians found that they are almost three times as likely to suffer from some kind of mental illness than the general public. Therefore it is understandable that they have become beacons for speaking out about this issue in songs, interviews and on social media. Here are 9 artists who have spoken out about their mental health issues in recent years.
One of the biggest artists in history has, on the surface, got it all, but in an interview with Vanity Fair last year Adele admitted that she has suffered depression on and off since she was 10 when her grandfather died, and had a bout of postpartum depression after the birth of her child. “I’m very available to depression. I can slip in and out of it quite easily,” she admitted, making the larger-than-life personality seem just like you and me.
Although reticent to do interviews, and not often talking about his mental health when he does, Jesse Lacey has always made depression into one of the main themes on Brand New’s albums, and this year’s Science Fiction was the most acute treatise on it yet. Repeated images of drowning, of feeling paralysed by doubt, of feeling responsible for the feelings of millions, are all found throughout the album. “But I guess that’s just depression/ No use in fighting it now,” he sings on ‘Can’t Get It Out’, and while it might be a moment of defeat, the frankness of the admission is a comfort to people everywhere who have similar feelings.
The Boss has been a bastion of hope and toil for generations of blue collar workers, who have been so dedicated to their daily grind that maybe they’ve never stopped to think about whether they’re depressed, and they probably certainly never expected their hero Bruce Springsteen to admit to being a sufferer. But in more in-depth conversations recently, with the likes of Marc Maron on WTF podcast, with Vanity Fair and even in his own book. He describes his experience as “a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track”; trust The Boss to come up with a robust and poetic way of describing his mental health.
Pop star Demi Lovato was diagnosed as bipolar in 2011, but rather than hiding it away it has become something that she is eager to bring into the light and discuss in interviews. She stated this most matter-of-factly in her candid interview with American Way Magazine, where she said “The more you talk about mental illness, the less of a taboo it becomes… As a pop star, I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve got bipolar disorder’ — it’s nothing that anyone can be ashamed of.”
Halsey has been on a meteoric rise these last few years, on the back of a string of successful songs and videos, but it all could have never been, had she been successful in her suicide attempt at the age of 17. The singer came out with a full admission of her family’s history of bipolar disorder and her own suffering with the condition in an interview with Elle, and she went even further in an interview with Teen Vogue, discussing her attempted suicide. She may not want to necessarily be a role model, but she has taken up the mantle and is doing plenty of great work for shining light on these dark feelings that people suffer from.
Kesha’s struggles with abuse under the hand of producer Dr. Luke have come to light recently and have shocked many, but she’s come through it, once again proving her toughness. As someone who has openly admitted to dealing with depression, these harrowing acts must have taken an even greater toll. She told Billboard that in the past “finding the strength to come forward about those things is not easy. But maybe, by telling my story, I can help someone else going through tough times.” That is exactly what she has done, returning this year stronger than ever, releasing a new album Rainbow, which acts like a beacon to all those who are suffering, saying that there is a light at the other end.
Kid Cudi always seemed like a goofy, relaxed, easy going guy with not a care in the world, so it was a shock to everyone when he posted a confessional on Facebook about dealing with “depression and suicidal urges” last year. The post outlined the mental struggle he’d been under, with him admitting “My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it.” The result was that we all started to understand much more about the man behind the mask, but also that it opened up the gates for more admissions of self-doubt and anxiety in a field of music that is often known for braggadocio.
Much of Los Campesinos! output has been about breakups and the ephemeral low that comes in the wake of a broken heart, but as the group have aged they have started to look at depression as a more long-lasting issue. This was the fuel for their fifth album from this year, Sick Scenes, in which Gareth Campesinos found many ways to express his frustration and downbeaten psyche. This clarified itself most completely on ‘5 Flucloxacillin’ where he lists prescription medications he’s used to try and right himself, before admitting “31 and depression is a young man’s game.” When asked about the importance of talking about mental health in music in an interview with The 405, Gareth said “I think that’s great because perhaps younger people who are feeling the same, if they see somebody whose music they like or a sports star they admire talking about it then they’ll feel like if they want to they can talk about it as well, and it may well lead to them seeking help. And that’s a positive thing.”
The iconic former One Direction singer is loved by millions all over the world, but even this can’t keep anxiety and depression at bay when the wolves come to hunt. After cancelling a London show last minute, Zayn felt he owed people an explanation, taking to social media to state: “My anxiety that has haunted me throughout the last few months around live performances has gotten the better of me… With the magnitude of the event, I have suffered the worst anxiety of my career.” Zayn has also written more about his struggles with anxiety in his book, which will hopefully be read by many young fans, and will instil in them an understanding that mental health is something natural and that it is important to discuss it openly.