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Music is a powerful force that unites, heals, and makes a difference. We look to our favourite artists for their ability to put our feelings and emotions into words—first loves, heartbreaks, highs, and lows. To support a greater conversation, many artists are choosing to use their voice and star power to help break the stigma around mental health.
Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, artists like the ones featured below have been vocal about their experiences. In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, press play on these tracks about mental health and remember that you’re never alone.
In his most personal track to date, Shawn Mendes opened up about his ongoing struggles with anxiety. “Keep telling me that it gets better / Does it ever?” he asks. But the message of the song is that it does. Discussing the making of the song with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, Mendes shared, “The best thing about it is it’s not all down. The whole reason I wrote the song was to be like, at the very end, ‘It’s not in my blood to [give up].’”
Shortly after celebrating six years of sobriety from alcohol and drugs last March, Demi Lovato came clean, revealing a relapse on the confessional ballad “Sober.” Lovato shares her regret with her family, friends, fans, and herself, singing, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why / I do it every, every, every time.” But she also begins to hold herself accountable, ending the song with a promise to get help. Fortunately, Lovato has been glowing since coming home from rehab in November, taking to Twitter to tell fans she is happy, clean, and working hard on herself.
Rapper Logic partnered with the American National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to release this impactful track reminding people that suicide is never the answer. Proof of the impact is in the numbers—the NSPL said calls to their hotline (the title of the track) tripled in the days following the song’s release. Though the Grammy-nominated performer has said he’s never experienced suicidal thoughts, his album Everybody explores the singer’s struggles with derealization disorder and anxiety. After making the choice to see a therapist and focus on himself, Logic shared with Billboard that he’s heading into 2019 the happiest he’s ever been.
Emerging artist dodie is candid about her struggles with social anxiety on “6/10.” The vulnerable track is about feeling like nothing more than a “plain girl” and telling yourself that you’re unwanted. But the video shows that despite the sense of alienation, even the plain girls are beautiful and worthy and they’re most certainly not the only ones with self-doubt. Everyone is going through something, whether they share it or not.
Often the most vulnerable songs come from the darkest places—this Kesha track is no exception. The title track from her third studio album is a beautiful tribute to the rainbows in life and was written while the star was in rehab for an eating disorder. It was a promise to herself to come out the other side stronger than ever. “Every day I would just cry and play that song because I knew I had to get through that incredibly hard time,” Kesha told Refinery29. “Rainbow” is the perfect push to find the magic inside you and “put those colours on,” especially when you’re in need of some light.
Following the tragic Manchester Arena bombing, which took place during one of Ariana Grande’s shows in 2017, the pop star says she developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. “Breathin” was recorded on a day when her anxiety was particularly high and her co-writers encouraged her to put her emotions to paper. The song has been praised for its depiction of the feelings surrounding a panic attack, with the message being to hang on to hope and just keep breathin’.
On “The Last,” BTS megastar Min Yoon-gi (a.k.a. Suga) addresses his experiences with depression, OCD, and anxiety, all part of what he terms the dark side of his success. This revealing K-pop track goes to show that even those who have it all can struggle, but they can translate that pain into perseverance.
It’s difficult to describe how anxiety affects someone, but long-time friends Julia Michaels and Selena Gomez shed some light on their experiences in their new collaboration. Whether it’s making plans, praying they get cancelled, and still having major FOMO, or battling never-ending negative thoughts, the mental affliction can manifest itself in different ways. The main message of the song, as Gomez wrote on Instagram, is that “you’re never alone if you feel this way.”
For Halsey, recording this song about her battle for control of her bipolar disorder was emotional and eyeopening. “I remember feeling like ‘wow is this really what I think of myself?’,” the alt-pop artist tweeted. Throughout the song, she recognizes the effects of her condition on herself and those around her, but is rendered powerless. “Mental illness is an ongoing battle,” she described on Instagram last year. “And it ebbs and flows like an ocean.” As the star continues to speak out about mental health and social issues, she is giving her fans hope and encouraging others to share their experiences.
The rap world has long embraced stories of struggle and rising up in spite of it. On their debut EP as collaborators, superstar rappers Kanye West and Kid Cudi got real about their past and, most importantly, their evolution. “Reborn” is a proclamation that West and Cudi are “movin’ forward” from their mental health issues (West with bipolar disorder and Cudi with drug abuse and depression) and overcoming their demons. It’s proof that we all have it in us to recover from any fall and to come back reborn.
Don’t forget to show your support by participating in Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual initiative to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. You can take part in Bell Let’s Talk Day today—send a text message or make a mobile or long distance call using Bell Media products, tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, use the Facebook image frame, watch and share the Facebook video or use the Snapchat Bell Let’s Talk filter. Each time you do this, Bell will donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives. Every interaction counts.