Musicians and mental health
Our Music Coordinator Jade writes about famous musicians who have experienced difficulties with their mental health.
Debbie Harry (Photo: Rolling Stone)
Anxiety and Depression
Lead singer of new-wave band Blondie, Debbie Harry has spoken openly about her battle with anxiety and depression.
After struggling with the pressures of the music industry and the emphasis that was placed on her looks, she admitted feeling crippling anxiety around her appearance. It was so bad that she removed all of the mirrors in her house to escape looking at her reflection. She also struggled with aging anxiety in her later years.
Debbie confessed that, during the height of Blondie, she would engage in drug use “to blank out parts of her life” when she was suffering with depression. She has since said, “To some degree, it was self-medicating. It was a rough, depressing time of life and it seemed to suit the purpose, but then it outlived its benefits.”
Debbie has since engaged in therapy and encourages others to do the same.
“I think therapy is a terrific way to go. I recommend it highly.” – Debbie Harry
Adam Ant (Photo: Billboard.com)
Adam Ant, post punk icon and lead singer of Adam and The Ants, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the early 2000s, having experienced mental health issues since young adulthood.
Adam developed anorexia in college and had his first admission to a psychiatric hospital during this time after taking an overdose. After his discharge, he began to pursue his music career.
In 2002, Adam was unable to join the 80s themed ‘Here and Now’ tour after being admitted to psychiatric care following a criminal incident in Camden. This occurred during a decline in his mental health. He is now a mental health advocate and is very open about his own experiences, which he documented in his autobiography Stand and Deliver.
“Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It's the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.” – Adam Ant
Brian May (Photo: Smooth Radio)
Queen’s lead guitarist, Brian May, is another musician who has been very open about their mental health and experiences of depression.
May suffered with severe depression after Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991 and admitted that during the months after, following the tragic loss of his friend and then also his father, he experienced suicidal thoughts and just ‘didn’t want to live’.
After receiving intensive therapy, May was able to begin managing his own mental health, although he still often struggles around the Christmas period.
"It's like you're paralysed. I found I couldn't see colour. There was no colour in the world, literally. Even music didn't get to me in the worst moments. Depression would clamp down like a fog. Black fog.” – Brian May
Schizophrenia and OCD
Joey Ramone (Photo: NME)
Joey Ramone, lead singer of American punk band The Ramones, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and OCD at a young age after voluntarily entering a psychiatric hospital. Joey was discharged after a month and began regularly seeing a psychiatrist as well as using music as a way to manage his symptoms.
Some of The Ramones songs written by Joey reference mental illness, such as’ I Wanna Be Sedated’, with the music video even taking place in a psychiatric unit. Joey’s battle with mental illness was featured heavily in ‘I slept with Joey Ramone: A family memoir’, written by Joey’s younger brother Mick.
“I enjoyed my life when I had nothing… and kinda like the idea of just being happy with me” – Joey Ramone
Depression, anxiety and PTSD
Mick Jagger (Photo: USA Today)
The Rolling Stones’ front man Mick Jagger has spoken about his experiences with depression and anxiety, and acknowledged that after beating his drug and alcohol addiction, he soon realised he needed to address and receive treatment for his underlining mental health issues.
He has spoken about his visit to the cardiologist after suffering with ‘heart-pounding palpitations’ as a result of the anxiety that had become ‘the driving emotion’ in his life.
As well as incorporating wellness practices, such as mindfulness, Jagger made the decision to undergo therapy.
Jagger was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his partner L’wren took her own life in 2014.
Maybe then, I'll fade away And not have to face the facts It's not easy facing up When your whole world is black
Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones (Jagger–Richards)