Music & Mental Health: The Antidote To Our Darkest Thoughts

Music has an undeniable power in society and has done for generations now, managing to evoke emotion from performer to listener year upon year. Everyone has songs they listen to when they’re happy or when they’re sad; when they’re full of life or empty beyond belief. In honour of Mental Health Awareness week, I will be looking at the unbreakable bond we as human beings have with rhythmic sounds and the overwhelming impact music can have on our lives; particularly in my case.

I am yet to meet a human being who hasn’t encountered stresses in their life. Everyone deals with turmoil and heartache in different ways, whether that be through grieving, isolation, distraction or braving a smile; we all have a common ground that helps us along the way: music. When all hope is lost, when the black mist of despair takes over your very existence, there’s always those songs that pick us up or at least soothe the wounds.

More often than not these songs are attached to memories, a flashback to specific moments where everything felt okay. My example of this has always been LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends; a song that serves as a gentle reminder to me of those who I cherish so dearly and exactly why I wake up every morning. I walk this Earth to live in the moment, to strive for an unforgettable life filled with joyous occasions and wonderful people. I look at my parents, look at my grandparents, look at my uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, cousins; friends, associates and acquaintances, they remind me what it is I am doing here.

It has saved me from difficult moments time and time again. It feels like the only medicine I have to conquer anxieties and uncertainties and perhaps that boils down to over-reliance but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about that. I wouldn’t change how I feel about this songs for a second, it honestly feels like a family member.

I’ve never been one to shelter how I feel or shy away from emotion, it is something I have wore on my sleeve for the last 21 years of life and there’s no way I am about to change that now. I’ve made it no secret just how important music is in my life; I use it as a form of escapism from reality, an opportunity to transform into my own realms of existence and think solely about myself. It’s the most selfish times of my life but in the best kind of way, only music can have that kind of effect on me.

Songs can stick to you like glue if they’ve served enough of a meaning in your life. There are plenty of examples of songs I have picked up along the way but you’ll always cling on dearly to the earliest influences, and that is simply because of the people you connect those songs to. Every single time I hear Lovely Day by Bill Withers I remember my grandad in his noble, confident best form, tapping his feet to the tune as he told me all about growing up in Liverpool. It is a song that makes me appreciate the day we have been blessed with, it makes me remember all the life lessons my incredible grandfather taught me; it will belong with me forever.

Similarly, I look at Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car as a bookmarked moment of the things I was taught by my family. It was a song played at my gorgeous mother’s wedding and one that, and I truly mean this, has never not made me shed a tear. My way of living has always been utterly selfless, I see the best in people and want nothing but greatness for those around me; no more so than my mum who has the coping mechanisms and patience of an absolute saint. I wake up every day with pride knowing I was her first born, the apple of her eye.

It wouldn’t be an emotional post about my relationship with music if I didn’t mention my dad. He is the man who has guided me towards musicians who have had such a lasting impact on my growth, from the very first moment we listened to By The Way by Red Hot Chili Peppers in your old Mondeo; or maybe the fact you found Kings of Leon before anyone and that you’re the obvious reason for their success. Grandad loved Fleetwood Mac but Landslide is, as Elton John famously said, ‘your song’. It holds so many memories towards you that when I hear it now, it isn’t Stevie Nicks’ voice I hear, it is the voice of Jimbo in the kitchen. You’re such an influence to me every single day and you’re probably the reason I have such a connection to music so thank you for that; without your passion I would probably still be writing football scores in my notepads rather than publishing album reviews.

Music can also be there to pick you up off the ground, to use as a form of relatability in times of need. Some songs, albums or artists can possess such intense passion and beauty that it becomes infectious; an itch you can’t quite be rid of but one you’re eternally grateful for. For me this was Frank Ocean’s Blonde album. It arrived at the perfect moment in my life; I was struggling more than I ever had before with a whole host of issues, but the music that played through those headphones on that fabled night in August, into the ears of a sleep deprived post-traumatic mess, was the glistening light at the end of the darkest tunnel.

The whole album was like nectar to my ears, it felt like a warm hug from my mum, a ruffle of my hair from my grandad, the first kiss with my first love; it was a feeling that I struggle to comprehend even to this day. Some say it is dangerous to be so powerfully motivated by music, but to those people I offer them to feel that very feeling and tell me it doesn’t make everything worth it. When you witness something impact and change your life right before your eyes it is a mesmeric feeling, and one I truly hope everyone can feel at some stage.

We live in an age where mental health awareness is bigger than ever and as a result we are beginning to see steps in the right direction, but the work is far from over. There are still taboos to be broken, still old habits to kill off and threats to conquer; but in the case of myself, so much can be achieved by dedicating yourself to something you are passionate about. My passion is consuming music from all angles, giving my opinion on all the music I possibly can find and it is something I hope to do for a career. I write this post not to tell you the right or wrong way as there is no such thing, I instead want to share my experience and how I cope; and it just so happens to be music that gets me through the dark days. People may consider posts as open and honest as this as weak, but you couldn’t be more wrong; writing this has never made me feel more powerful and ardent, so I urge you to find that passion too.

Your passion might be exercise, it might be film, TV, fiction, food, drink, animals, humans; it really doesn’t matter so long as it is what YOU want to do. In this game of life we are given many chances to roll the dice, just know that there’s no shame in rolling a one when aiming for a six, because the ambition and devotion will always be rewarded at some stage. So cry if you want to cry, smile if you want to smile, stay indoors all day if that is what you feel is right; you control your own destiny and nobody can take that away from you. No matter how hard life tries to kick you down, remember that you’ll be there to dust yourself down and stand tall; so put your favourite song on and enjoy life, it’s the greatest gift we could ever wish for.

Cheers music, you are the all-conquering entity that will never disappear; the superhero without a cape, the doctor without a stethoscope, the therapist without a pulse.

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