Songs about Depression/Mental Illness

Beautiful by Christina Aguilera – This is one of the more popular songs about depression/low self-esteem and bullying. Christina Aguilera’s dark and heavy vocals add weight to the song, with a tinge of sadness. “Words can’t bring you down/Don’t you bring me down today” tells us that words can’t hurt us. However, hurtful or negative words might become etched in our memory forever, ambushing us when we least expect it.

Trigger Warning!Depression, psychosis, suicide, hallucinations, war reference, horror movie, anorexia, self-harm




Sad/melancholic/angsty songs:

  1. Unwell by Matchbox 20 – “But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell/I know right now you can’t tell/But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see/A different side of me/I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired/I know right now you don’t care/But soon enough you’re gonna think of me/And how I used to be, me/”(Matchbox 20, 2003). This beautiful refrain from the song speaks volumes about how it is like to be misunderstood as a mentally unwell person. The song has also made some subtle references to psychosis, with lyrics like “All day staring at the ceiling/Making friends with shadows on my wall/All night hearing voices telling me/That I should get some sleep”. If you have suffered from psychosis, you will find the song quite relatable. Psychosis is no fun, it’s like a bad acid trip which goes on and on. The singer’s steely gaze coupled with his angst-ridden voice conveys the emotions of someone who has been suffering from sleepless nights due to psychosis. The changing visuals and strange things appearing in the music video makes the video more appealing to watch, as it shows the visual hallucinations that psychosis sufferers may have.
  2. I Remember by Tristam – This electronically produced trance song sounds like any ordinary chart topper. But it has a deeper meaning behind the deep bass and the robotic vocals. With lyrics like “I remember/You would say/It’s all okay/It’ll be alright/Every night/I could hear it/I remember”,”And I remember it goes on and on and on”, “I could hear it/In the wind/That melody/That they would play/Every single day/To remind us/It was over”, this song resembles a wartime song, where guards and soldiers would turn on the music at full blast, and the music goes on and on and on. It could also signify depression, where the depression goes on and on, and there is a voice inside the person’s head telling him it’s going to be okay. “To remind us/It was over” could mean that the person had caught the bus already, or taken his own life, or he managed to recover from depression.
  3. Hello by Evanescence – This haunting ballad sounds like a horror movie, especially with the sound effects for the first part of the song. Amy Lee’s light and ethereal sounding voice make the song sounds even creepier. Her voice crescendos and soars at the bridge of the song, adding emotion and depth to the song.  The lyrics “Has no one told you she’s not breathing?/Hello I’m your mind giving you someone to talk to” sounds like someone has passed away, and she may be experiencing hallucinations. “Don’t try to fix me I’m not broken” signifies that the person may be suffering from grief, or may be entering a depressive and vulnerable stage in her life where she refuses to acknowledge her depression and becomes mired in her sorrow.
  4. Bring Me to Life by Evanescence – At the beginning of the song, Amy Lee’s voice sounds sorrowful and devastating, and her voice increases in urgency as she approaches the chorus of the song. It sounds like someone who has been consumed by depression and or depersonalisation disorder, where she does not recognise who she is anymore. “(Wake me up)/Wake me up inside/(I can’t wake up)/Wake me up inside/(Save me)/Call my name and save me from the dark/(Wake me up)/Bid my blood to run/(I can’t wake up)/Before I come undone(Save me)/Save me from the nothing I’ve become”. The lyrics are very ominous and very depressing, and her high pitched voice emphasizes the suffering the protagonist goes through. It is quite evocative too.
  5. Given Up by Linkin Park – Linkin Park songs are usually nu-metal, or alternative rock songs. Linkin Park seems to have ventured into heavy metal territory, with the heavy angsty guitar riffs and the sound of a chainsaw. With Chester Bennington’s voice sounding rough and ragged, it adds emphasis to how angry the singer felt when he sang the song. Chester Bennington shouts “I have given up/I am sick of feeling/Is there nothing you can say/Take this all away/I am suffocating” is reminiscent of someone who is suffering from a lot of emotional turmoil, or someone who is having an emotional outburst. It is definitely one of Linkin Park’s heavier songs on the record. It might take some getting used to, especially if you are not a fan of scream music. “What the fuck is wrong with me?”, implies that the person is questioning himself, and doubting himself. It is quite an intense song for me, as it captures all my emotions when I feel very frustrated and I start lashing out emotionally.

Happier/uplifting/empowering songs:

  1. Fight Song by Rachel Platten – Rachael’s Platten’s light, lithing vocals are an absolute joy to listen to. It instills a sense of hope in weary and despondent listeners.  It sounds very optimistic, and a bit sad at the same time, but it definitely sounds very hopeful. It also shows that the protagonist is trying to fight her struggles with depression/stress/anxiety, and she is not going to succumb to her obstacles, as nothing is going to stand in her way. It sounds so magical and beautiful when she belts out the lyrics “This is my fight song/Take back my life song/Prove I’m alright song/My power’s turned on/Starting right now I’ll be strong/I’ll play my fight song/And I don’t really care if nobody else believes/’Cause I still got a lot of fight left in me”. Her vocals soar above the music, light and husky yet powerful. It is very poignant and it will stir the deepest of emotions inside you, and you get positive reinforcement and reminders that you are a warrior with your own battles to fight. Definitely a chart topping anthem that you must listen to. It’s perfect for those days where you need some inspiration and some encouragement.
  2. Secrets by Mary Lambert – Brutally honest,heart-wrenchingg, and funny all at once. Mary Lambert unabashedly raps out her “secrets” in the first paragraph of the song, with lyrics like “I’ve got bi-polar disorder/My shit’s not in order/I’m overweight/I’m always late/I’ve got too many things to say/I rock mom jeans, cat earrings/Extrapolate my feelings/My family is dysfunctional/But we have a good time killing each other”. ” They tell us from the time we’re young/To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves/Inside ourselves/I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else/Well I’m over it”, declares a change from her past, which depicts her “real self”, being honest and authentic, and not wearing a mask all the time. We all know of people who wear masks, pretending to be happy, pretending to be someone else, and at the end of the day, it gets tired too to fake it, and their façade slips. There is a transition in the song, where Mary Lambert becomes more optimistic and happier as opposed to the first part of the song where she sounds a bit more gloomy (pre-chorus). This is one really empowering song.
  3. Who you are by Jessie J – I heard this song when I was waiting for a play at SP to start. I asked them if they had a playlist but they said the playlist was online. Initially, she self-reflects and blames herself for being so hard on herself. It sounds like an acoustic song. The loud and powerful ballad tells you that “it’s okay not to be okay.” This song is really underrated, as its not one of her top hits, but its a good song nevertheless. It also empowers you to follow your heart and dreams, and not care about what other people think. “Just be true to who you are”. It is a really lovely song as it captures the beauty of Jessie J’s elastic vocals. Jessie J is no stranger to bullying and adversity, as she has suffered from a heart condition, and she has been ostracised by her classmates before. It really struck a chord in my heart, and I believe it will touch your heart too. This song really helps to affirm my self-worth when I am feeling very depressed.
  4. Scars to You’re Beautiful by Alessia Cara – When I heard this song on the radio, I was immediately enchanted by Alessia Cara’s smooth and sultry vocals. It sounds like a song about someone suffering from anorexia and self-harm “No scars to your beautiful/We are stars we are beautiful”. “She has dreams to be an envy, so she’s starving/You know” Cover-girls eat nothing.”/She says,/”Beauty is pain and there’s beauty in everything.”/”What’s a little bit of hunger?””I could go a little while longer,” she fades away”. It is an uplifting song as it tells you “there is a hope waiting for you in the dark./You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are/And you don’t have to change a thing/The world could change its heart”. This song is an absolute masterpiece. It really helps to raise awareness for anorexia and self harm.
  5. Lighthouse by GRL – A bit of background story about the song: They lost their band member, Simone Battle to suicide, and they wrote this song with the intention to raise awareness about suicide, and this song is written in remembrance of her. They show solidarity with lyrics like “When the night gets cold/And the lights go out/The sun is gone behind the clouds/When you feel lost, then I’ll reach out/To guide you home with my lighthouse”. If you prefer songs which are less melancholic, and more uplifting, this is a song for you. It is not exactly a happy song, but its not too depressing either.
  6. Beautiful by Christina Aguilera – This is one of the more popular songs about depression/low self-esteem and bullying. Christina Aguilera’s dark and heavy vocals add weight to the song, with a tinge of sadness. “Words can’t bring you down/Don’t you bring me down today” tells us that words can’t hurt us. However, hurtful or negative words might become etched in our memory forever, ambushing us when we least expect it.  She shows us her vulnerable side with this emotion-laden ballad. As the fourth single off her Stripped album, “Beautiful” was extremely raw, and depicted Aguilera as a vulnerable, relatable individual with struggles that are often masked by pop stardom (Kenya Foy, 2015). Obviously this song and video spoke to anyone who has dealt with self-loathing, and no matter if the culprit for your emotional funk is a bad hair day, or the negativity stems from something much deeper, Aguilera’s “Beautiful” video is basically a visual pick-me-up. Through vivid imagery depicting a myriad of personal struggles, it aims to inspire tons of people to embark upon a path of self-acceptance. Whether the number one enemy you face is society or inner feelings of inadequacy that thrive in a dark corner of your subconscious, the video still delivers its message of acceptance for all, loud and clear (Kenya Foy, 2015).

Disclaimer: These songs are based on my own interpretation, it may not reflect your experience with mental illness (especially depersonalisation disorder), and everyone’s experience is unique. You are a unique individual. I do not mean to cause offense or cause any harm.

References, Links & Sources:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unwell
  • http://www.metrolyrics.com/i-remember-lyrics-tristam.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/matchbox20/unwell.html
  • http://www.metrolyrics.com/hello-lyrics-evanescence.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/evanescence/bringmetolife.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rachelplatten/fightsong.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/linkinpark/givenup.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jessiej/whoyouare.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/grl/lighthouse.html
  • http://www.digitalspy.com/showbiz/news/a407653/jessie-j-heart-condition-meant-i-was-a-sickly-skinny-girl/
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/30888300/jessie-j-i-was-bullied-as-a-teenager-after-medication-turned-me-green
  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2912116/Then-four-G-R-L-break-silence-shock-suicide-band-member-Simone-Battle-dedicating-new-song-Lighthouse-prideful-singer.html
  • https://www.bustle.com/articles/82785-8-things-in-christina-aguileras-beautiful-music-video-that-you-probably-forgot-about

4 thoughts on “Songs about Depression/Mental Illness”

  1. Fire away by Chris Stapleton for country music and suicide of a loved one! The mv could be triggering though, but I thought it was a rather realistic portrayal of the intricacies of an intimate relationship affected by depression/self-harm/suicide. (: Loved this post, Bella!

    1. its a nice song but it’s not my thing though. I am not a big fan of country music. Little talks by monsters and men is good.
      Thanks for sharing and glad that u liked my post.

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