As the topic of mental health continues to evolve and become less taboo, it has made its way into more and more artistic mediums. Music is one of the most powerful ways people communicate and relate to each other in a viscerally human way. A melody mixed with meaningful lyrics can make things feel on a whole different level.
Music videos are an amazing layer of storytelling that can further nuance a musician’s message and use the audience’s senses more to experience their songs. When it comes to the topic of mental health, these music videos have had a huge impact on the fans.
“1-800-273-8255” By Logic feat. Alessia Cara & Khalid
This clip hit viewers hard upon its initial release and it continues to be a pivotal song on the subject of mental health and depression and its intersection with the LGBTQ + community. The song, titled Suicide Hotline, is about feeling hopeless and lonely in life before slowly finding the joy of being alive.
The story of the music video follows a teenager struggling with his sexuality and the acceptance of his family and peers. With the intimidation and confrontation, he almost feels like he is ending his life before calling the hotline. With the help and love of those around him, he finds himself married and even father to her husband. Continuing education and the growing number of children’s shows with LGBTQ + portrayal will hopefully help eradicate this painful journey for young people.
Josh Groban’s “River”
“River” is one of Josh Groban’s most watched music videos on YouTube. It’s a song about the desire for a simpler place and peace of mind. Groban addresses one of the biggest stigmas when he talks about mental health by singing, “Some days I can’t say why I feel lonely. Some days I’m too proud to ask for help.
The lyrics are relevant to many who struggle with not understanding why they feel the way they do and feel uncomfortable with therapy due to the outdated social implications. The video for “River” follows crowds of figures across ever-changing urban skylines, communicating a sense of loneliness in the midst of a crowded city.
“Dance with the Devil” by Demi Lovato
While the subject of Demi Lovato’s video has been heavily criticized upon its release for featuring reenactments of their overdose and hospitalization, Demi’s transparency about drug addiction and their near-death experience is a caveat and a necessary message to share using their artistic creativity as a musician.
The video for their song, “Dancing With The Devil” shows Demi both before and after the overdose and even highlights the sexual assault Demi suffered on the night of the event. Their passionate vocals and captivating playing in the video, mixed with real radio clips aired during this time, put the listener in Demi’s shoes as he painfully relives those moments and feelings.
Florence’s “Hunger” + La Machine
Taylor Swift recently shared her experience with an eating disorder, and she is one of many musical artists to do so. It has become increasingly clear that their message resonates with the 702 million people around the world who will have food problems in their lifetime. Florence + The Machine released the song “Hunger”, which details Florence’s anorexia in her youth.
In addition to eating disorders, the song speaks of “hunger” as a tangible replacement for feeling empty, which can be a more difficult emotion for people, especially young people, to deal with. In the clip, a statue of a man is stared at by critics, attention drawn to the holes he has developed over time. But, different people come and really appreciate her beauty.
“Beloved” by Mumford & Sons
Grief is a difficult mental health topic to cover and truly understand unless it has been experienced. Mourning has been portrayed in various on-screen ways in popular movies and TV shows like Creation and WandaVision, but it can be difficult to communicate emotion in the compact format of a music video.
Mumford & Sons is tackling the task with their music video “Beloved”. In it, the mother of a young boy is ill and he imagines taking her away from the hospital. After a fun-filled, imaginary last day with his mom, he’s brought back to reality and she’s gone. The desire for one more day is a universal grieving theme, and the video does a wonderful job of sharing it.
Billie Eilish’s “Idontwannabeyouanymore”
Fans learned by The world is a little blurry that Billie Elish struggles to take care of her mental health and relationship with her body due to societal pressures, and her songs reflect those themes. “Idontwannabeyouanymore” has lyrics like “Tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before. I don’t want to be you anymore” that communicate feelings of frustration with depression and low self-esteem.
The music video for the song is monochromatic, with everything from the background to Billie’s hair being a faded and worn white shade. It doesn’t give the viewer any real idea of where Billie is in the scene and symbolizes the feeling of mental fatigue and haze. Plus, she sings the whole song to herself in a mirror, hammering out the message for herself as well as the listeners.
“In my blood” by Shawn Mendes
Anxiety can make people feel like they are “crawling under their own skin” as Shawn sings it in the song. It expresses the feeling that the walls are collapsing on someone and how nothing helps to make that feeling go away. He goes on to say that he’s afraid of being alone, but doesn’t want to give up.
Throughout the music video for “In My Blood” different things befall Shawn, including chunks of rock, snow, and a downpour of rain. But after things are thrown at him while he is unable to move on the ground, the grass and flowers start to bloom around him, showing that taking him out and not giving up can lead to beautiful results. .
“Now I’m in” by Haim
“Now I’m In It” follows the main character, played by Danielle Haim, who feels stuck and lost in the cycle of her life, not knowing how to escape the monotonous humor of her depression. She tries everything to “find her way”, even getting into a car wash, but she sings that “the rain keeps falling. I’m lost in it”.
Danielle’s sisters support her throughout the video, carrying her everywhere, dressing her and drying her tears. The three sisters go out together at the end of the song, and while Danielle is fine, there is a brief cut in the water from the car wash – an ode to the feelings that will always be with her, but not completely over.
“Save Me Myself” by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s “Save Myself” video is an example of communicating a story or emotion in a movie with few or no words, and it’s very powerful. There are no words spoken in the video, and in fact, a vast majority of the shots are of eye contact between a surgeon and a patient. The piercing emotional depth behind the eyes of the two women is intensely moving to watch.
As the operation takes place and the patient goes through all types of emotions, Ed Sheeran sings about how “life can bring you down, so I numb how I feel”. He goes on to talk about giving all of his energy and not having it for himself when he was struggling, and how he needed to learn to take care of himself before everyone else.
Paramore’s “False Happy”
Many people struggling with their sanity can feel pressured to look happy and good on the outside, and that’s what Paramore’s “Fake Happy” music video is about. The group showed people that it was okay to disagree by showing disgust at being “false happy”.
Hayley Williams crosses paths with people whose faces are upside down smileys. She imitates and exaggerates their gestures, sharing the experience of masking inner emotions and feeling like a caricature of a person. Her own face isn’t visible until the very end of the video, but she smiles after really connecting with the people around her.
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