In the past few years, there has been a heightened awareness of mental health issues within the music industry, with artists ranging from Kid Cudi to Modern Baseball using their music as a platform to openly discuss their battles with depression and anxiety. Even though there’s no shortage of songs that allow listeners to find lyrics that describe their pain, it’s sometimes rare to find ones that not only discuss mental health, but also show how the songwriters themselves manage to cope with it. Now more than ever, it’s important to practice self-love and recognize self-worth in dealing with the current political climate. So, here are 10 songs about coping with mental illness that will hopefully offer listeners reassurance through such struggles.
Modern Baseball has been very vocal about the importance of mental health awareness, but “Just Another Face” is especially poignant. The last track off Holy Ghost takes a positive spin, which serves as reminder to fans who are struggling to remain strong and offers reassurance that they are not alone. In this song, co-frontman Brendan Lukens acknowledges his own experiences. Sometimes, he describes himself as a “waste of space,” wondering how he reached the point of feeling so down. But the positive reminder in this song comes friend channeling the voices of his family and friends, as Lukens sings, “If it’s all the same, it’s time to confront this face to face / I’ll be with you the whole way / It’ll take time, that’s fact.”
Many fans and artists have credited this Rilo Kiley song as a song that perfectly describes their struggles with depression. When you listen to it, it’s easy to see why it resonates with so many listeners. Jenny Lewis describes in detail how she lacks enough energy to get up from bed, wanting to go back to when she wasn’t dealing with severe depression and was able to enjoy the things she loves. As she shares the struggle of instability in experiencing high and low points with depression, she ends the song in a positive note, assuring both the listener and herself that they’ll “fight and make it through,” experiencing the happiness they missed once again.
It’s been two years since pop punk band Chumped broke up, but “Something About Lemons” remains a song that fans remember fondly. Frontwoman Anika Pyle frustratingly sings about being resentful of her life and feeling trapped, asking herself if there is a way out of her issues. Despite growing weary of not being able to follow her dreams, she decides to make the best out of the situation: “Don’t let them shame you my dear / For trying to make lemonade / From shit they deal you every day / You need some change this year / Go make decisions for yourself / Instead of everybody else.” Like the aforementioned track, it’s as much public service announcement as self-motivation.
In interviews, Sorority Noise frontman Cameron Boucher described “Using” as their first song about depression that ends on a positive note. During their shows, he often introduces the song by opening up about suffering from manic depression and suicidal tendencies, but ultimately finding hope. Boucher reminds fans that if they’re dealing similar struggles, their lives have value and they are loved. The song itself touches on Boucher’s own substance abuse as a form of attempting to cope with depression, but also offers alternatives. The focus on health and self-love empowers listeners to use “Using” as a mantra for recovery: “I stopped wishing I was dead / Learned to love myself before anyone else / Become more than just a burden / I know I’m more than worthy of your time.”
Rivers Cuomo wrote Weezer’s controversial-yet beloved album Pinkerton while recovering from leg surgery during his time in college at Harvard. His surgical procedures lasted for more than a year, during which he couldn’t walk without a cane and experienced intense physical and emotional pain. In “The Good Life,” he opens up about living in isolation during his recovery feeling “bitter and alone” while his friends are able to enjoy their lives. In defiance towards his situation, he decides that it’s time to end the self-pity and not wanting to be an “old man anymore.”
Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock has alluded to dealing with depression over the course of the band’s career. “Gravity Rides Everything” is not necessarily about suffering from depression, but rather tackling life’s challenges and keeping a positive outlook even when things don’t seem to be getting better. The song is sonically soothing, and even more so as Brock reminds listeners, “it all will fall, fall right into place.”
From Illinois to Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens’ music is often deeply emotional. Even though The Age of Adz is often considered to be his most upbeat record, it carries the same sorrow expressed in his other work, if in different ways. In particular, The Age of Adz captures Stevens’ battle against a viral infection that affected his nervous system, which exacerbated his depression. “I Want to Be Well” mirrors the relationship between both mental health and physical health, and the song increases tempo as Stevens vigorously repeats, “I’m not fucking around (well, I want to be well, I want to be) / I’m not, I’m not, I’m not fucking around (well, I want to be well, I want to be).”
Throughout his prolific career, Jeff Rosenstock has mastered the use of pairing upbeat songs with lyrics that carry a deeper meaning—often expressing his own struggles with grief, depression, and anxiety. After his first band, Arrogant Sons of Bitches, broke up in 2004, Rosenstock formed Bomb the Music Industry!, in which his lyrics became more personal. In the song “Syke! Life is Awesome!” off the group’s mini-album To Leave of Die in Long Island, Rosenstock uses a danceable, upbeat tune to detail how many of the obstacles that have triggered his depression over the years often led to great things in his life.
Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino has been an advocate for mental health awareness since the beginning of her career. Pairing lyrics that openly talk about those issues with poppy beats shows that discussing it doesn’t always have to be melancholic. In “Feeling Okay,” Cosentino uses the song as a form of reminding herself of the importance of self-love and self-care. She recognizes that there are some habits she has to leave behind and owns up to her own ability the change those things in her life that are detrimental to her mental health.
Colleen Green never shies away from owning up to her imperfections in her ever-so-relatable songs and in “Things That Are Bad for Me Pt. I,” she follows the same theme of following her own advice as Best Coast’s “Feeling Okay.” Green acknowledges that she hasn’t been making the best choices and decides to stop falling into the habit of being addicted to both substances and toxic people who affect her mental health and happiness. The song is paired with its second part, one where her she cannot stop herself from making those mistakes due to anxiety. Even though the second part represents the negative side of it, she ultimately realizes in both that her mental health will improve when she makes those changes.