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Commercial Music Has Opened the Gates of Discussion for Mental Health Issues – and It’s About Time

If you tune in to a mainstream radio station like Capital FM, Shawn Mendes can be heard explaining that when he falls into moments of anxiety, “it’s like the walls are caving in”. I’m sure that within that same hour of listening to that same radio station, you’ll hear Ariana Grande explaining that “some days, things just take way too much of [her] energy”. Both artists have gained huge commercial success by opening up about their personal struggles with anxiety, and in turn have given people all over the world a sense of hope – that they’re not going through it alone.

Anxiety and depression are co-morbid (have very similar symptoms), so even though depression is not directly addressed in these songs, the lyrics make for that same feeling of being understood. Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid created a raw and gritty story with ‘1-800-273-8255’ last year which led us through a journey of feeling suicidal which transformed into a desire to live – something that many sufferers of depression can relate to.

The fact that these artists are using their influence to develop a deeper understanding of the illnesses that were once overlooked as ‘a phase’ is incredible. If you had scanned through the Top 40 charts in 2009, songs would have predominantly been about love, sex and partying – but now, mainstream music is really being put forward as something that the demons inside people can relate to, not just for the personas that we carry on the outside.

Commercial artists realistically have the most power within the music industry, particularly to the younger generation, and it seems to have taken a long old time for that power to be used for positive social change – not just to narrate the standard break-up that everyone goes through. Depression and anxiety may only recently be hitting the ‘big time’ – and many people believe they have become glamorised in that sense – but it gives us hope that in time, all mental constrains will have their moment to be talked about without judgement. More so, it teaches the next generation that they can be free to talk about their own adversities.

As stigmas surrounding mental illness are decreasing day by day, now is the time to embrace who you are – regardless of what’s going on in your head. Your mental issues do not define you, but the way you tackle them will help to carve you into the person you wish to be. Be open, be honest and do not give up. It’s okay not to be okay, you are not alone.


Words by Sophie Barnden