The Epidemic of Mental Illness in Metal
Mental health is the forgotten epidemic of our time. Until very recently, even the concept of mental health wasn’t taken very seriously. Nevertheless, according to Mental Health America, 57 percent of adults with mental illness (over 26 million people) receive no treatment, and it’s a damn shame, because for some people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD or other ailments, the only treatment they have access to is music.
From the very first notes of “Black Sabbath,” the concept of going mad — hallucinating that the devil himself is standing above you — is seared into the very foundation of heavy metal. And even 50 years later, the existential dread expressed by Ozzy Osbourne’s voice and Tony Iommi’s iconic tritone, is one of the most accurate representations of what it feels like to lose your mind.
Another band that’s really been able to capture the spirit of persisting through mental illness is Korn. You listen to “Falling Away From Me” or “Daddy” and you can truly feel plagues of depression and PTSD. You can feel it in Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days,” Linkin Park’s “Crawling,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and more recently, the entire Grey Skies and Electric Light album by Woods of Ypres.
One more song we'd like to talk about specifically is “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” by Type O Negative. It’s one of the band’s simplest tracks and it’s sort of the metal equivalent to Radiohead’s “Creep” or Beck’s “Loser” in that it’s an unapologetically catchy ode to self-loathing.
But the interesting difference is that while “Creep” and “Loser” made Radiohead and Beck famous, Peter Steele was already a metal icon when he sang “I Don’t Wanna Be Me,” so in that sense, it’s a much more accurate representation of mental illness, because it doesn’t just go away even if you’ve achieved all your dreams and became global sex god.
The truth is that mental illness doesn’t give a shit what you have, because it turns the most beautiful things in your life into garbage. And the term “mental illness” can often be a cop-out, because what do you call it when your pancreas doesn’t produce the right amount of chemicals? Diabetes. But what do we call it when your brain doesn’t produce the right amount of chemicals? Mental illness. Doesn’t make complete sense, does it? You can actually see the physical properties of so-called mental illnesses while taking a CAT scan. So maybe it’s time to address these conditions by their physical properties rather than how they make you feel.
Thankfully, metal has a large group of amazing mental health advocates such as Corey Taylor, Jesse Leach, Jonathan Davis and David Draiman, along with groups such as MusiCares and the You Rock Foundation.
Watch our full video on The Epidemic of Mental Illness in Metal below.
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