Mental Health Awareness Week: 10 rock songs for when times are tough
Mental health and music go hand-in-hand. From the scientifically-proven benefits of music on dopamine production in the brain, to a mere companion for the sorrow, anger, despair, frustration, grief, rage you might be experiencing. Whether you prefer to dance, mosh, or cry the pain away, music is often a much needed reminder that even in the bleakest of times: you are not alone.
As the stigma around mental health continues to dwindle, music remains prevalent in leading the charge as a widely-accepted emotional outlet for both artists and fans alike to soundtrack their struggles, and seek solace in lyrics that comfortingly articulate the thoughts and feelings that most of us cannot put into words.
Alternative music in particular has never shied away from mental health issues, with a large part of its appeal stemming from its sobering sincerity in addressing previously taboo topics like depression and anxiety.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, here are 10 rock songs putting mental health at the forefront:
‘LAST HOPE’ – PARAMORE
From ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ to ’26’, Paramore is no stranger to letting down their guards and giving us a peep into their deepest most intimate thoughts. Hayley Williams has the vocal control to convey both pure unfiltered sadness and whimsical hope in the same lyric, and no song demonstrates this better than ‘Last Hope’.
Inspired by the acrimonious split of the Farro brothers from the band in 2010, the song was written when Williams felt like she was hanging by a thread and embodies the mentally draining impact of life’s trials and tribulations. ‘Last Hope’ maintains a fighting spirit throughout, however, with a message to have faith and accept the bad times with the good: “gotta let it happen.”
‘TO DOM’ – RIVALS
In one of their best songs to date, ‘To Dom’ is a first class lesson in vulnerability. In a tweet about the track, lead singer Kalie Wolfe explains the personal back story to the song, written as an ode to her nephew, Dom, whose mother sadly took her own life. The bridge of the track sees Wolfe read her real life suicide note as the vocals ring out, raw and strong in their conviction like pillars of hope, to convey the overarching message of solidarity and confident optimism for the future: “I hope you see that the world is beautiful, and I pray that you see that it’s not your fault”.
‘HUMAN INTERACTION’ – TONIGHT ALIVE
‘Human Interaction’ is an intimate stripped-back behind-the-scenes look into frontwoman Jenna McDougall’s experience during an emotionally difficult time whilst on tour, battling feelings of depression with the guilt of feeling such a way when everything is seemingly okay on the surface.
In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, McDougall professes: “I think it’s so dangerous when you try and explain why you’re depressed or down or you’re just completely lethargic and apathetic towards everything. When really, in the position I’m in I should be so grateful for all that I have. It’s just that constant battle of saying to myself, ‘I should be so grateful, I should be so happy, why aren’t I?”
The track rounds off with light at the end of the tunnel as the lyrics proclaim: “I will be better, I will be better, I will, I will.”
‘GRAYSCALE’ – AS EVERYTHING UNFOLDS
‘Grayscale’ epitomises the blurred lined nature of life, where you can’t get to the good without going through the bad, and that what might seem grey and mundane now, won’t always be. In a recent press release, vocalist Charlie Rolfe divulged that “when everything around you seems grey and dark, it can be hard. But there’s beauty is everything, life in dead flowers, colours in dark hours. No longer seeing life in black and white, wrong or right, learning to see life through a new lens creates a whole new perspective and makes it easier to live with whatever issues you have. Embrace it.”
Whilst a positive outlook on life is a necessary evil in times of hardship, sometimes, we all just want to momentarily revel in the rage, and despite ‘Grayscale’ being largely carried by a powerful clean vocal delivery, the heavy pivot in the final seconds of the song is a welcomed shift in tone as Rolfe bitterly screams, “in my head I’m fighting for life.”
‘I’M GONNA TELL MY THERAPIST ON YOU‘ – PINKSHIFT
‘i’m gonna tell my therapist on you’ is a flurry of instrumentals and whirlwind of lyrics that pull you along in any direction they wish, like being the ball in a pinball machine, perfectly emulating the dizzying experience of navigating mental health services.
Speaking to us on the meaning behind the song, lead singer Ashrita Kumar shares, “I’ve had personal experiences, I guess, of dealing with mental health and being channelled through [the system]. You say you have a problem, you get channeled through a therapist. The therapist looks for buzzwords, and then once you say the buzzwords, they channel you through the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist only looks for buzzwords.”
‘IODINE’ – ICON FOR HIRE
‘Iodine’ is a refreshing exploration of the allure of self-sabotage. Ambiguous in meaning, ‘iodine’ suffices as a catch-all phrase for anything that harms us, but that we continue to indulge in. Whether in relation to depression, substance abuse, or self-harm, vocalist Ariel Bloomer sings “I say I wanna be happy, but I quickly forget” as an honest admission of trying to do better, but repeatedly falling into old habits. ‘Iodine’ approaches mental health from a different angle, centring on the desire to be better but hitting a wall with progress when the thing you’re battling against is yourself.
‘DON’T WAIT ’TIL TOMORROW’ – YONAKA
Fronted by Theresa Jarvis, Yonaka lean heavily into themes of depression and anxiety across their entire discography. ‘Don’t Wait ’Til Tomorrow’ is no anomaly, but this time errs away from personal experience and acts as a call to action to reach out in times of need: “It could never be too late, to call me up and come my way.” It’s a song you might not know you need until you hear it, but serves its duty well to remind the listener that the first step to being helped is to let yourself be.
‘FORGIVEN’ – WITHIN TEMPTATION
‘Forgiven’ is a soft and sorrowful ballad, with frontwoman Sharon Den Adel despondently lamenting the death of a loved one who has taken their own life. The grief radiates in the vocals, combined with both disbelief and acceptance at what has come to pass: “couldn’t save you from the start.” ‘Forgiven’ embraces the confusion, pain, and hopelessness of those left behind, but is ultimately a declaration of forgiveness and understanding on the path to healing.
‘CONTROL FREAK’ – DOLL SKIN
‘Control Freak’ is one big emotional ordeal. Detailing the motions of anxiety, “I feel like I’m drowning, control freak, controlling”, the track encapsulates the paradoxical nature of trying to stay in control of your mind and live freely, whilst simultaneously succumbing to it by tailoring your life around avoiding triggers and subconsciously being caged within its confines. The song relates to the duo’s own experiences inside psychiatric wards and coping with mental health issues.
‘SANE’ – MEET ME @ THE ALTAR
In true Meet Me @ The Altar fashion, the trio even make mental health struggles digestible in uplifting pop punk riffs and assertive vocals – if Edith Johnson is telling you that “emotion is a sign of doing well”, then you best believe it. ‘Sane’ is such a positive outlook on difficult past experiences, you almost spend the full 3 minute and 28 second track duration celebrating them for making you into the person you are.
DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE. REACH OUT.
Music alone is not the answer. If you’re suffering, reach out and let yourself be helped:
Samaritans 116 123
YoungMinds 0800 018 2138
Mind 0300 123 3393
Calm 0800 58 58 58
Women’s Aid 0808 2000 247
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