Artists confront mental illness

From the infamous members of the 27 Club to Ke$ha and other celebrities, the music industry is creating a better environment for open discussion about mental health, despite activism lacking at times. Openness aside, mental disorders have always trod murky ground as far as medical conditions go, partially due to them being difficult to diagnose, but more so because they are misperceived as frivolous rather than serious problems.

Lana Del Rey’s sad girl persona has come under scrutiny, for example, as a glamorization of depression, and a construction of an image rather than soul baring artistry. Del Rey has always been polarizing, but when her open battle with depression is minimized as a stunt, critics must step back and realize nobody is being as transparent about these issues as she is. Her vulnerability being labeled as false only damages how people perceive mental illness.

Australian hitmaker Sia has been making headlines lately for keeping her face covered in performances and public appearances, bringing to the public eye a struggle with social anxiety. She refuses to photograph for magazines — even appearing on the cover of Billboard with a bag over her head — and prefers to use stand-ins when it comes to music videos like the one for “Chandelier,” which features an interpretive dance by Maddie Ziegler.

Sia’s public disregard of her shyness and her own fame are accompanied by past struggles with depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. But public reception to her openness has been more positive than Del Rey’s. Critics need to realize both artists are exposing vulnerabilities that correlate with their struggles with mental health, which could encourage others to come forward and help bring validation to the often misunderstood aspects of mental health.

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Having influential musicians write songs about their depression and bring their battles with mental demons to the forefront is a phenomenal way to heighten the conversation and help those that need to be helped.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 9 print edition. Email E.R. Pulgar at [email protected]

 

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