Mental Illnesses

A Soundtrack for Social Justice

Mental illness refers to many different disorders that change the way someone thinks or behaves. Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder are some of the most recognizable. There is discrimination and a negative stigma associated closely with people suffering from a mental illness. Misconceptions have created unreasonable fears and negative attitudes towards these people. Growing up in a family where Bipolar Disorder is present, I have learned that mental illnesses do not necessarily keep people from leading normal, healthy lives. It is very important for our society today to understand that it is not a mental illness that defines someone, but their strength and courage to fight it every day.

“Paradise” by Coldplay (2011)

“And so lying underneath those stormy skies

She'd say, "oh, I know the sun must set to rise"

-“Paradise” by Coldplay tells the story of a girl who wishes nothing more than to find safety in a Paradise land. This relates to the way teenagers suffering from mental illnesses feel because many wish to disappear to a place where they can no longer feel hurt. Often times prescription drugs can be seen as a personal “Paradise” because of the relief one may feel once it takes away the pain.

-The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.


Coldplay - Paradise (Official Video)

“Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson (2009)

"But brother, how we must atone

before we turn to stone”

-”Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson reminds me of how connections are often broken with loved ones when a mental illness takes over. The person cannot help the way they feel or act, causing disruption in friend and family life.

-Ten percent of children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment.


Ingrid Michaelson "Turn to Stone" (LYRICS)

All at Once by Jack Johnson (2009)

“Which way will you run? When it's always all around you

And the feeling’s lost and found you again, A feeling that we have no control”

-”All at Once” by Jack Johnson describes the feeling of having no control over your heart or mind when a mental illness takes over. He says he wishes he could reach out to love, because it’s something he can hold. Then he questions what happens when it is gone and whether he will retreat back to his old ways. He also says how the world will overwhelm him randomly and that nothing can help, which I took as falling into Depression, Anxiety, or PTSD.

-As many as one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression

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Jack Johnson - All At Once

Hear Me by Imagine Dragons (2012)

"Can nobody hear me? I’ve got a lot that’s on my mind"

-”Hear Me” by Imagine Dragons sounds like a cry for help coming from someone suffering with depression. They may feel as if they are alone in the world and are calling out for someone to help them, but no one can hear it.

-More than 2/3 of Americans who have a mental illness live in the community and lead productive lives.


Imagine Dragons - Hear Me

Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez (2015)

"No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens

Don't let them see what goes down in the kitchen"

-”Dollhouse” by Melanie Martinez tells a young girl to play with dolls so that she can create her own perfect family. I thought this related to mental illnesses because often times, a bad home life will increase the chances of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder occurring in adolescents. However it is not exclusive to a certain group of people and can affect anyone.

-Statistics point to increased rates of heart disease in mental health patients, while anxiety disorders may cause muscle and back problems.


Melanie Martinez - Dollhouse (Official Music Video)

Spies by Coldplay (2000)

"The spies hide out in every corner,

But you can't touch them no, 'cause they're all spies"

-”Spies” by Coldplay is a haunting song about how “spies” will always follow you, but you can never touch them because they only exist in your mind. This is similar to how mental illnesses will stay with you regardless of how you try to change things or adjust personal life.

-Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income. It is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others and daily functioning.


Spies - Coldplay

It Comes Back to You by Imagine Dragons (2015)

"I've been told just what to do, where to look and point my view

All the things that I could be, I think I learned in therapy"

-”It Comes Back to You” by Imagine Dragons is an inspirational song about the recovery process of someone with a mental illness. In the chorus, Dan Reynolds describes how looking back into the past, things seemed hopeless. But he tells his past self that he can see it through, and he did.

-One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression. (

It Comes Back To You - Imagine Dragons (Audio)

Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons (2009)

"Take all the courage you have left

And waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head"

-”Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons verbally attacks a meager man in the sense that a mental illness would. Throughout the song the man is told how pitiful and weak he is, as well as the fact that everything is his fault in the end. Humans, especially high-school age, are constantly worrying about appearances and social ranks. Combine a chemical imbalance with constantly consuming and destructive thoughts and radical changes will be made.

-Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education dropout—the highest dropout rate of any disability group. (

Mumford and Sons - Little Lion Man

Dream by Priscilla Ahn (2008)

"I had a dream that I could fly from the highest tree.

I had a dream"

-”Dream” by Priscilla Ahn paints the picture of a girl looking back on her childhood and how she dreamed of great things, but now she wishes to “Fly on the highest wing” or leave it all behind. I interpret this as her concluding that her life is over.

-There is one death by suicide in the US every 12.3 minutes.


Priscilla Ahn "Dream" (Lyrics)

A-Team by Ed Sheeran (2011)

"It's too cold outside for angels to fly"

-Possibly the saddest song in this entire soundtrack, “A-team” by Ed Sheeran was written about a woman he had met in a homeless shelter. He begins by saying that she is “under the upper hand”. However by the end, he says that we are all “under the upper hand.” Homeless people often struggle psychologically while dealing with the harsh reality of their life.

-People without homes have higher rates of hospitalizations for physical illnesses, mental illness, and substance abuse than other populations.


Ed Sheeran - The A Team [Official Video]

All That I Am by Parachute (2009)

"When the light hits those eyes, that's she's dying to say

'Just take me away'"

-Parachute’s “All That I Am” describes the feeling of wanting to get away from a mental illness. Repeatedly, the girl cries and asks to be taken away from herself because she cannot endure it any more.

-9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.


Parachute - All That I Am

Brand New Day by Joshua Radin (2009)

"For the first time in such a long long time,

I know I'll be okay."

-I felt the need to end this soundtrack on a happier note because let's be honest; it has been quite depressing. This song describes the beautiful feeling of knowing that you can get through anything. There's always a brand new day with new possibilities just around the corner. A mental illness does not define someone, their strength and courage to keep fighting does. Johnny Depp is quoted as saying, "Just keep moving forward and don't give a s*** about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do, for you."

-Many studies show that most people with mental illnesses get better, and many recover completely. With support, between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms, an improved quality of life, and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence.


Joshua Radin - Brand New Day (Lyrics)