Our top 10 picks for best mental health songs!
We decided to create a countdown of songs we felt shared a strong message about mental health. We searched for artists who shared their experiences with mental health challenges in interviews and other media outlets. We also chose songs that had meaningful lyrics. Join us as we share out top picks and give a brief explanation about why we chose each song.
*Feel free to share your choices for top mental health songs in the comments section!
Florence + The Machine – Hunger – High As Hope Album (2018)
“At seventeen I started to starve myself — I didn’t have to call it loneliness –We all have a hunger”
This song is a powerful anthem that speaks about the pain and universality of personal struggles. Florence Welch’s (lead singer) admission at the beginning of the song, “At seventeen I started to starve myself I thought that love was a kind of emptiness And at least I understood then the Hunger I felt And I didn’t have to call it loneliness” is a powerful statement that lingers throughout the rest of the song. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 30 million people of all ages and genders in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. This is an outstanding amount of people who struggle on a daily basis. Welch herself recently opened up briefly about her history and struggles with an eating disorder during her youth. During an interview with the New York Times, she shared small details about the song’s inspiration, her eating disorder, her newfound sobriety, and dealing with the loneliness that accompanies fame. This song also speaks volumes to the difficulty of coping with emotional pain, trauma, and mental illness. As the song plays on another section that caught our attention finds Welch sharing her attempts to feed the “hunger”. She sings “I thought that love was in the drugs But the more I took The more it took away And I could never get enough I thought that love was on the stage Give yourself to strangers…” What makes this song special is the chorus, “we all have a hunger”, which plays continuously like a reminder that we as people all share our own version of pain and struggle with finding ways to relieve it. Our journey often feels as though they are ours to carry, but we often forget that life carries its own set of struggles for all people. We are not alone and Welch reminds us that we are all looking for a way to find love and acceptance together.
Janet Jackson Featuring Daddy Yankee – Made For Now
“If you’re livin’ for the moment don’t stop, and celebrate the feeling -We’re made, for now, not tomorrow”
Here at PsychoSocial we continuously post about being fully present in the moment. This is not always easy and we often find ourselves preoccupied with yesterday and tomorrow. Yet, the reality is that we live in moments and when we aren’t paying attention we often lose track of them. Janet’s new anthem is a breath of fresh air. Not only is she calling out for us to celebrate the moment, but she’s imploring you, “don’t stop!”. We all have to deal with challenging experiences and go through the process of growth. But, it’s nice to take the time to immerse ourselves in the present moment and just enjoy our surrounding, the company we have, and the experience. We picked this song not only because of its lyrics and dance rhythm but also for its visuals (music video). Janet continuous to bring infectious rhythms that inspire others to dance, live, and have fun. Mental health requires work, just like someone dealing with diabetes has to change their diet, someone dealing with depression does things to care for themselves. Janet has been vocal in the past about her struggles with depression on and off throughout her life. In an interview with CNN back in June (2018), “I struggled with depression. The struggle was intense … Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority. It could relate to failing to meet impossibly high standards. And of course, there are always the societal issues of racism and sexism,” she then shared, “Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Thankfully, I found my way through it.”.
Lana Del Rey – Ride – Paradise (2012)
“I’ve got a war in my mind – Dying young and I’m playing hard – I am alone in the night”
Those who are fans of Lana Del Rey are no strangers to the songbird’s deep lyrics and larger than life theatrics. Yet, there is something refreshing and inspirational in many of her songs that not only reveal pain and sorrow but a melancholy yearning for a lost or missing love. Ride is no exception and it perhaps encapsulates her deepest ode to struggles of emotional turmoil. One of the reasons we picked this song was because of its haunting, yet beautiful melody. During the beginning of the song, Lana provides a monologue that drives into the song with such a powerful force and gives insight into her mental state throughout the lyrics. She refers to this time in her life as “the winter of my life”. Winter is often associated with depression due to the drastic change in climate, mood, and difficulty in life to grow in many terrains. There are many people in the world who deal with seasonal depression and it can be challenging to cope with. Lana then goes on to state that the men she met along the road were her “only summer” alluding to her need for connection while at the same time feeling completely disconnected from the world. The song goes on about her continuously being on the go, as if heading somewhere, but having no real destination. This again appears to be another metaphor for her feelings of depression as many people often feel there may be no point in life or reason for living. It’s as if she is searching for meaning while at the same time her mind is fighting between hope and disdain. Depression impacts about 18 million people a year in the United States, is the leading factor in suicide, and is the leading cause of disability (hopefordepression.org). It can often be misunderstood as simply sadness; however, it is more complex and powerful. This song encapsulates some of those feelings of hopelessness, disconnection, and fight between the desire to live and the willingness to die.
Rachael Platten – Fight Song (2016)
“Take back my life song – All those things I didn’t say – Starting right now I’ll be strong”
Fight Song by Rachael Platten has provided a source of strength for me since the song came out. I love how it encompasses different components of the human spirit, both positive and negative. We have all had experiences where we felt like we were a small boat being tossed around, trying to find direction. During an interview, Rachael Platten stated, “I think it reminds us that those mean voices in our heads that are saying we aren’t good enough and that we can’t do it, or it’s too late…that they are not true”. This statement stood out to me because negative self-talk is something that I struggle with in my own life. My experience with anxiety causes me to overanalyze myself in relation to other people and my need for validation from the people that are closest to me. ‘This is my fight song -Take back my life song’ – this line is repeated many times and it gives me hope every time. It reminds me that we have the power to take control of our lives and create the happiness we deserve. Everyone struggles with something, whether it is body image, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem but we have control over how we interpret these events in our lives and how we use our individual life experiences to connect with others.
“I had a one-way ticket to the place where all the demons go — And you’re taught to cry into your pillow”
When I first listened to this song, I was brought in by the complexity and raw emotion of the lyrics. The song Alive takes the listener on a journey that starts with childhood and brings us to the present day struggle of functioning in life when the shadows from the past are still very much present. Each verse talked about a different time in Sia’s life, where she felt that she wasn’t going to make it, but came out on the other side, stronger than before. As complex and social individuals, many times our perception of ourselves is intertwined in the value that is reflected back to us from important individuals in our lives. As children, we do not have much control over our external and because of this, children use the internal thought processes to create stability. While talking about childhood, there was imagery of darkness and light that was incorporated into the song. It talks about the darkness of the thunderstorm and being envious of the love that comes with the light. Sia is no stranger to struggle and has experienced depression and anxiety on a personal level. Sia sings, ‘I found solace in the strangest place-Way in the back of my mind I saw my life in a stranger’s face-And it was mine’. Depression and anxiety have a way of pushing us to the point of no longer recognize ourselves. Sia stated in an interview, “When you have a lot of people telling you what you are and perceiving you in a certain way, it’s difficult to find your own identity” (Brainyquote.com). Anxiety can cause an individual to become hyper-fixated on specific events and over analyze that event for weeks and even months after the fact. This process is called rumination. As written in an article by Psychology Today, “The repetition and the feelings of inadequacy raise anxiety and anxiety interferes with solving the problem. Then depression deepens”. What makes this song unique is that it is also a song about finding your own internal strength. The phrase ‘I’m alive-I’m still breathing’ is the foundation of the song and provides an encouraging level of strength for the listener even after starting the journey in darkness.
Katy Perry-Mind Maze (2017)
“Get out of my own way – Every hit gets harder when you’re fighting without armor”
Katy Perry is a bona fide superstar and is mostly known for her catchy and fun songs. However, Katy has shared details about her past struggles with mental health. (https://ew.com/music/2017/06/12/katy-perry-mental-health-interview/) . Her famous interview with therapist Dr. Siri Singh, which she allowed to live stream, has reached millions of fans around the world. This new level of vulnerability and transparency has certainly created some discussion about the struggles we all face regardless of financial success or any other factor. Mental illness does not discriminate and affects people from all over the world. Katy Perry’s song Mind Maze shares a glimpse into her struggles and desire to grasp clarity. Mind Maze is the perfect title and describes how many of us feel when dealing with mental health issues. It can be confusing, lonely, and scary. We often feel as if we’re the ones who aren’t strong enough to deal with pain and keeping ourselves from healing. However, we must remember that mental illness is complex and as Katy sings in the chorus, “It’s a mind maze. All these head games. Caught in a cage. A complex cage”, it can often feel like we’re trapped and can’t find our way out. This song is very different and raw compared to many of Katy’s famous hits which more often than not function as anthems and inspiration. Instead, we get Katy Perry as a person struggling and searching for a way to escape.
Evanescence-Bring Me to Life (2003)
“Wake me up inside– Save me from the nothing I’ve become — Call my name and save me from the dark”
This song stood out to us because of its strong themes of depression and suicide. In the United States alone suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, there is one death by suicide every 12 minutes, and about 38,000 people die from suicide per year (https://save.org/about-suicide/suicide-facts/). When Amy Lee first hit the scene her music became wildly popular due to its raw lyrics and dark undertones. At a time when bubblegum pop was all the rave, Evanescence brought songs that resonated with millions of fans who were seeking music that represented their struggles. Bring Me to Life included lyrics such as, “save me from the nothing I’ve become” and “don’t let me die here”. These strong lyrics along with the video depicted Lee as a broken-hearted lover ready to take her life. Depression continues to be one of the leading causes of suicide along with substance abuse. They are serious mental health issues that continue to pose a challenge in the United States. Given the recent string of celebrity suicides, that have brought this serious issue to the limelight, we felt that it was important for us to include this song in our countdown.
Lily Allen-Everyone’s At It (2009)
“Prescribing themselves anti-depressants – So you’ve got a prescription and that makes it legal”
Lily Allen is not new to controversy and she is often admired for her politically charged lyrics and catchy phrases. Everyone’s At It, is not only rooted in Allen’s opinion of drug culture and its impact on society, but also on its close connection to mental health. As she boldly states, “from grown politicians to young adolescents prescribing themselves anti-depressants” Allen is not shy to remind us that drug abuse impacts people of all ages. In the United States alone, 21 million people 12 years and older had a substance use disorder in 2015 (Live Science). Allen also points out that prescribed medication contributes to the substance use epidemic in her lyric “So you’ve got a prescription and that makes it legal”. Having a prescription is only one component of the larger issue when it comes to drug use. Of course, medication has its benefits and can provide support for millions of people struggling with mental illness and pain. Yet, many people abuse these drugs and develop substance use disorders which greatly impacts their quality of life. As with many other things drugs are often used as a coping strategy by people to mask their emotional pain. Drugs can provide automatic relief; however, this is only temporary and does not get to the root of the issue. Drugs are highly addictive and can be difficult to stop using without intensive support and detoxification. Allen’s reminder that unless we continue to talk about drug use and abuse as a universal problem, then it will continue to impact people from all backgrounds.
Green Day-Basket Case (1994)
“It all keeps adding up – Grasping to control – Sometimes I give myself the creeps”
I feel like Basket Case by Green Day is a timeless song because of its inclusion of taboo themes like mental health and mental illness. Even 24 years after the song was released in 1994, the song’s message continues to resonate with many people who experience mental illness. The songs main theme is emotional instability and the challenges it brings. The lead singer, Billie Joe has been open in the past of his experience with both panic disorder and anxiety and has shared the following, “The only way I knew how to deal with it was to write a song about it”. Billy Joe shared that before he understood the mental health aspects of his afflictions, he felt like he was going insane and losing control of his own mind, an interview he stated, ‘Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me-It all keeps adding up I think I’m cracking up-Am I just paranoid?’. Anxiety is still a prevalent problem and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects about 18% of the population. Globally 1 in 3 people suffers from anxiety-related conditions. ‘The WHO reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with specific phobia and social phobia being the most common. There is still an immeasurable amount of stigma and social push back when it comes to discussing mental illness even in 2018. Normalizing the conversation around mental health and mental illness starts with those who are closest to you. Start with people whom you trust and as the conversation continues over time it will become easier to share. If we practice vulnerability and create a dialogue we can inspire others to also share their stories.
Jessica Simpson – I Belong to Me
“I belong to me – I don’t belong to you – My heart is my possession – I’ll be my own reflection”
This song has stood out to me since it first came out in 2009. In the song, Jessica Simpson was coming to terms and adapting to life after her divorce. I felt that this song was relatable on many different levels. Self-love and self-acceptance are important components of stability within a relationship. It allows for balance and an understanding that each individual comes to the relationship with their own wants, needs, and desires. The process of give and take allows for growth and forward progression over time. When these components get lost, so does the sense of self one experiences both inside and outside the context of the relationship. Interactions become one-sided and can influence the individual’s’ perception of their own worth. Patterns of interaction begin to solidify and can continuously bring down the individual who is not on the receiving end of the relationship. In the line, ‘My heart is my possession, I’ll be my own reflection’, sounds like she is taking a stand for her own self-worth and using that realization as the momentum to find the strength within herself that is outside of the constraints of a relationship.
So, do you agree with our list? Please tell us in the comments section and share what songs you feel should have made the list!
Luis Cornejo is an LMFT and the Founder of PsychoSocial. Katherine Dominguez is an ACSW and the Co-Founder of PsychoSocial. Their goal is to bring you mental health content and information.