Bono said, ‘Music can change the world because it can change people.’ Music is a medium that shines a light on all areas of the human condition. Mental health is subjected to a powerful stigma that prevents its sufferers from speaking about it without facing ridicule and misunderstanding. Music, however, is leading the way in smashing down the stigma’s walls.
Singers, songwriters and composers translate their experiences and stories into lyrics, notes and compositions. Through those songs and symphonies, we recognise similar experiences to our own. Those songs become anthems in which we take comfort and a greater understanding of the mental struggles we deal with.
Three years ago, Chester Bennington, lead singer of the rock band, Linkin Park killed himself, two months after his close friend Chris Cornell did the same. If there were a music icon who I owed my life to, it would be Chester. He put his whole into the music of Linkin Park, including his immense struggle with depression that eventually took his life. I have been binging on their music for almost fifteen years, and it is their song that helped me piece together what I was going through.
Two or three years ago, casual suicidal thoughts plagued me weekly, occasionally even daily. The song ‘One More Light’ helped me realise that whatever darkness gripped my mind, we, each living light, was worthy of staying lit—staying alive. Life is a struggle, and sometimes our minds tell us that others do not care for us or if we lived. But that song reminded me that there is always someone who cares for us. If you don’t feel like staying alive for yourself, you can stay alive for them.
Another song, ‘Heavy’ gave me the words to articulate how my mind feels when I am under the onslaught of anxiety or held in the swamp of depression. Having a way of describing what it feels like to suffer from those conditions gave me the confidence to explore my feelings more. That confidence helped me grow more resilient to anxiety and depression in recent years.
If I ever feel under attack by anxiety or depression, I blast on a Linkin Park playlist. The two songs mentioned above and plenty of others, including ‘Numb’, ‘Faint’ and ‘In the End’ help me feel safe when my mind wants me to feel anything but.
One of the best things about working in a place with a constant radio is that you hear a song you might have otherwise missed. At the time, I worked for a charity and was typing away in the office when a song came on over the radio. Before that song, I hadn’t been concentrating on the radio; it was merely background noise. However, the song immediately gripped my attention. I can’t explain why, but I listened to the lyrics and became obsessed.
When it finished, I searched YouTube for it and listened to it on repeat. I couldn’t work out why I was so obsessed with the song, considering it wasn’t the sort of music I usually listened to. It took a while, but I realised that the song resonated with how I felt about my anxiety. It was called ‘In my Blood’ by Shawn Mendes, and it quickly joined my playlist of songs that helped when I was suffering.
One of the greatest strengths of music is how easily accessible it is. Not only does it help us understand what we are feeling, but it also helps others see it too. I’ve shared Linkin Park songs more times than I can recount. As the novelist, Jodi Picoult said, ‘The music we listen to may not define who we are. But It’s a damn good start.’