While I like many types of music, rock has always resonated with me most because it helps me express and deal with mental illness. From Metallica to Tool, the music confronts complex emotional situations. Not taking away from other types of music, rock has been what works for me. So here are some of the rock songs that I have found most helpful.
9. “Monsters” by Shinedown
One of the most insidious parts of mental illness is denial. It is easy to just chalk harmful thoughts in ourselves or the ones we love up to a bad day, to fatigue, or any number of excuses we make when we want to avoid the truth. In Shinedown’s “Monsters,” lead singer Brent Smith says:
Cause my monsters are real, and they’re trained how to kill, and there’s no comin’ back and they just laughed at how I feel, and these monsters can fight, and they’ll never say die, and there’s no goin’ back, if I get trapped I’ll never heal, yeah, my monsters are real.
While he wasn’t writing specifically about mental illness, he made it inclusive enough for it. It is a good reminder that mental illness is very real and to take it seriously.
8. “Help” by Papa Roach
Very few songs describe depression as well as this song does. Several of Papa Roach’s songs deal with suicide, but the lyrics and chorus in this song in particular describe symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts precisely. In it, Jacoby Shaddix says, “I think I need help, ‘cause I’m drowning in myself.” It also expresses the vulnerability of needing to ask for help, normalizing it, and if there is anything we need more of, it is destigmatizing the need to ask for help.
7. “Disease” by Beartooth
Nothing expresses the uncertainty of living with mental illness better than this song. In it, lead singer Caleb Shomo, who dealt with suicidal thoughts before writing the album, says, “Is it taking over, will it bury me, or will clarity become the cure for disease?”
6. “Various Methods of Escape” by Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor has come a long way from his days of pure self-loathing and destruction. Surviving his own battles with depression and alcoholism has clearly influenced his song “Various Methods of Escape,” where he sings about letting go, getting straight, and escape.
5. “The Mountain” by Three Days Grace
This is a song that reminds me to just keep going. Every day is a new mountain. We keep climbing, and we keep surviving.
4. “Waking the Lions” by Pop Evil
Determination has helped me fight off many episodes of suicidal thoughts, and this song is a battle cry for that. “I’m not gonna run from the scars and within, burning your skin. They wanna lay me to rest, but I won’t go!”
3. “The Purpose for Pain” by Scott Stapp
Scott Stapp has struggled with bipolar disorder, to the point it nearly ended his career as a musician. Granted the rockstar lifestyle didn’t help anything. However, he is back, he is healthier, and his new single just came out and is amazing. “There’s gotta be more, ‘Cause this life is insane, Gotta turn this around, And find the purpose for pain.”
2. “Disillusioned” by A Perfect Circle
Admittedly, this song is not about mental illness directly. It’s more about our society’s fixation on technology and the negative effects of it (mental illness being one), while offering a different, more fulfilling path. That said, there is a beautiful moment in the song where the lead singer, Maynard James Keenan, says, “You were never an island, Unique voice among the many in this choir, Tuning into each other, lift all higher.” In my darkest moments, I feel like I’m adrift in a stormy sea, drowning. It helps to be reminded that I’m not alone and that I have to reach out and ask for help to be lifted onto the shore.
1. “Gravity” by A Perfect Circle
OK, I know, I just talked about this band, but I have to mention this one. It has helped me through so many things: long nights with depression as my only company, meditative moments, when I was in the psych ward of my local hospital, terrified. It is the concluding song of their 13 Steps album, which is about a journey through addiction. It is a song about acceptance, healing, and ultimately being in a better place. Keenan says, “I am surrendering to the gravity and the unknown, catch me, heal me, lift me back up to the sun, I choose to live.”