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Demi Lovato, Mary Lambert raise the flag for mental health
"It's not all painting at 4 o'clock in the morning and road trips and f****** great things," GRAMMY nominee Halsey revealed to Elle, in reference to living with bipolar disorder. "Sometimes it's throwing things and, like, getting hurt and having to pick someone up from the police station at 2 o'clock in the morning."
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans grapple with mental illness. Yet mental disorders are still highly stigmatized in our culture. When musicians such as Halsey speak out about living with mental illness, they help themselves while giving others hope, and perhaps even the courage to reach out for support.
With Mental Health Awareness month spotlighting the topic of mental health throughout May, Halsey is just one of many musicians who lends her voice to raise critical awareness for mental illness no matter the date on the calendar.
Since receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2011, GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Demi Lovato has consistently leveraged her profile to speak about mental illness.
"There's something about when you speak out and are vocal about your story, it's very inviting to others who are dealing with the same thing," Lovato told Variety. "If you can make that impact on somebody's life, it does something for you spiritually that makes you want to tell the story again and again and again."
Lovato's 2011 hit "Skyscraper" perhaps came the closest to revealing her internal struggle with mental illness via music. She told E! News the song was a "cry for help," which ultimately helped her confront the mental health issues she was dealing with and seek help.
Now Lovato uses her platform to raise awareness for others who may be struggling. In 2015 she became the spokesperson for Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health, an initiative that "aims to empower adults living with mental health conditions to speak up … as a community to advance mental health in America."
Rapper Logic has raised the banner for mental health by dedicating two tracks from his 2017 album, Everybody, to mental health — "1-800-273-8255," featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid, and "Anziety."
The inspiration for "1-800-273-8255" flowed from Logic's 2015 fan tour where he encountered many people who said his music saved their life. Written in cooperation with the National Suicide Prevention lifeline, "1-800-273-8255," the hotline's phone number, features a back-and-forth dialog of a caller in crisis and the lifeline counselor on the other end of the line.
Logic says he wanted to address the topics of suicide and anxiety head-on because they are too often avoided and considered shameful.
"I'm proud of every aspect and side of myself," Logic told GRAMMY.com. "I was so scared for so long to say that because society has led me to believe that my anxiety is stupid and shouldn't be talked about. … I wrote these things from a selfless place in my heart because there's so many people out there struggling, and I was struggling."
In the opening line to her 2014 hit "Secrets," GRAMMY nominee Mary Lambert does not mince words as she sings, "I've got bipolar disorder." The singer/songwriter has since used her music and voice as powerful tools for mental health awareness, which earned her Didi Hirsch's 2015 Mental Health Ambassador award and special recognition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
When writing "Secrets," Lambert wanted to turn the lens inward in a bid to illuminate human experience through her own story.
"I was coming up with different facets of myself, specifically things that I think I probably considered flaws at one point, and being bipolar was one of those things," Lambert told GRAMMY.com. "I try to write songs almost for my 17-year-old self, like what would I do if I had heard the song after I had just been diagnosed? … I would have felt less alienated. I would have felt like there was a friend on the radio, so that was pretty important to me."
For Lambert, beyond the therapeutic, introspective personal benefits, finding commonality with others' mental health experiences is critical.
"My art is for me, and the sharing and the performing and the recording is my sort of offering," says Lambert. "If I can be a catalyst for someone else's healing then I'm doing exactly what I want to do."
This approach can be heard in the track "Lay Your Head Down," from her recently released EP, Bold, where her spoken word poetry touches on reasons she cries, including reflection on taking medication for bipolar disorder.
For those who manage their mental illness on a daily basis and live vibrant, working lives such as Lambert, self-care is paramount. It's about knowing your limits and finding coping skills that help keep you stable.
DJ Armin Van Buuren also stresses self-care, particularly for fellow musicians who struggle with mental illness.
"I speak to a lot of my colleagues, and this is something you will not find in headline news: Almost every single DJ has problems with depression," Armin told GRAMMY.com. "There's a really black page in the DJ book. … It's important to look after your health."
Through MusiCares, The Recording Academy is dedicated to lending aid to musicians in need. The MusiCares Healthy Essentials program provides clients with access to a range of free medical clinics, health screenings, addiction recovery programs, and educational workshops. The immediate goal of the program is to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to maintain both their physical and mental health.
As it relates to maintaining her own mental health, Lambert is a proponent of living openly, a message she lives and breathes.
"Find the coping mechanism that allows you to be your full, complete, complex self and don't apologize for it," says Lambert. "Because there's no shame in being your authentic self. Mic drop!"