Music is not often linked to mental illness or depression. When focusing on genres such as hip-hop, rap, and pop, these topics are even less touched upon. However, there are artists who talk in-depth about mental illness. These artists provide an outlet for people to express themselves, making people feel less alone and isolated. Fans even attribute certain songs as their reasons for choosing to live.
Those who are famous are often placed on a pedestal, viewed as being immune to common, everyday struggles. This is a false belief, however, evidenced by celebrities like Kurt Cobain, MC Capital Steez, and Chester Bennington from Linkin Park—all of whom have fallen victim to suicide.
Recently, rap artist Logic released a song titled “1-800-273-8255,” which deals with suicidal thoughts. Eventually, the song develops a sense of livelihood by changing the chorus from “I don’t wanna be alive…I just wanna die today” to “I want you to be alive… You don’t gotta die today.” According to a CNN report, suicide hotlines have seen an increase of 50% more calls since the VMA performance of this song.
Similarly, artist Kid Cudi has been very vocal about his struggle with mental illnesses. During his career, he has addressed and shared this inner turmoil. He is also attributed as a source of inspiration for many artists—Kanye West once called him the “most influential artist of the past 10 years.” Comedian Pete Davidson and fellow rapper Travis Scott have gone as far as saying that Kid Cudi’s music is the sole factor they are still alive. Kid Cudi recently checked into rehab for depression and suicidal urges; he made a statement on Facebook that expressed:
“My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I can’t make new friends because of it. I don’t trust anyone because of it and I’m tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling.”
The artist has since told fans that he is now in a better place and continuously urges fans to seek help if they need it.
Many artists who suffer from mental illnesses have spoken about self-medicating. In Lil Uzi Vert’s hit song, “XO Tour Life,” the artist talks to Xanax, a prescription drug known for treating panic attacks and anxiety issues, as if it were a person, and pleads for it to “take the pain away.” In the same song, the rapper also speaks about suicidal thoughts. Recently, emo rap artist Lil Peep tragically passed away due to a presumed Xanax overdose. Lil Peep was extremely open about his battle with mental illness and substance abuse, stating that the reason he made music was to help others also suffering from the same difficulties. It is currently unclear whether this death was accidental. As a result of not seeking professional help, these artists perpetuated their substance abuse, illustrating the importance of reaching out.
The stresses of modern universities have prompted many students to seek help, but statistics show that in an average university about 40% of students do not seek help, despite a majority of public universities offering free mental help. Though the seeking of treatment in students has increased in the past years, a large percentage of students who need help often fail to look for it. In the UC system alone, the first decade of this millennia sadly saw many suicides throughout the diverse UC campuses. In April of this year, a UCSD student went on Reddit and asked users whether or not they should commit suicide.
Although mental illnesses are often stigmatized and looked down upon, they are extremely common and prevalent in society, especially in university settings. According to the CAPS pamphlet on Suicide Prevention, ”A significant minority of students (10-15%) have suicidal thoughts at some point during their college careers.” Despite this statistic, mental illnesses are often left medically untreated, and the victim is left to find solutions alone. Music is often a place of refuge for sufferers of mental illnesses, as it articulates inner turmoil and makes victims feel less alone. The arts, especially music, exist as a channel through which one can express their emotions freely, without any boundaries.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental issues or considering suicide, please reach out to any of these organizations. In a life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: CALL 775-784-8090 OR TEXT “ANSWER” to 839-863
California Youth Crisis Line: 800-843-5200
San Diego Access and Crisis Line: (888) 724-7240
UCSD CAPS Crisis Line: 858-534-3755
Helen Castellon is a staff writer of the Arts and Entertainment section for The Triton.