Mental Health and Music: The Sound of Stability

Today is World Mental Health Day, and for college students, this invites a conversation that needs to not only be had but be taken seriously. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “50% of students rated their mental health below average or poor,” and “30% of students reported that they had problems with school work due to a mental health issue.” Mental illness is present among many college students, which begs the question: why is it still stigmatized and why aren’t we talking about it?

One reason why many are not vocal about suffering from mental illness is due to the fact that it’s associated with weakness. The very fact that it’s associated with weakness is causing those who suffer to stay bottled up. This causes the illness to worsen and symptoms to heighten. 

Those who suffer from mental illness find their own ways to cope. As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety since the 7th grade, I’ve had a lot of time to figure out my best way to cope when my symptoms become very heightened.

My escape is music.

A photo of scrabble words assembled to spell

 It goes as follows: turn phone notifications off, put headphones on, put on my favorite playlist, and lay in bed with my eyes shut. After about half an hour to an hour, I’ll feel a lot more in control of my emotions and content. I’ll often listen to music throughout the day to keep my mind stabilized and prevent it from reaching a bad place before it’s too late.

It’s interesting to see how music specifically tends to help not just me, but others who suffer from mental illness as well. Ana Martin, a literature and film student at UC Santa Cruz, says that music has a tremendous effect not only on how she deals with her mental illnesses, but how she functions in general on a daily basis. “Music is completely tied to my mental health. I need music to even make the walk (or rather hike) across campus. I use music to tune out whatever causes my anxiety. I use music to help me prepare for the day and listen to it throughout the day to restart my mental state. Recently, I got noise-canceling headphones and I’ll just sit and listen to music when I’m overcome with anxiety. And it’s essentially the same with my depression,” said Martin.

A similar story is said about Janette Avila, a social work student at Sacramento State. To Avila, music serves as an outlet to understand her emotions. “Suffering from depression and anxiety, I don’t always know how I feel, but when I start to listen to music, it helps me understand how I feel. Music is like a friend. It doesn’t matter what time it is, or even what’s going on; it will always be there for you even during the tough times. Music isn’t about the sad you know, it’s there to excite you honestly, make you feel anything and everything,” said Avila.

black headphones on a yellow background

Music has been a great release for many that suffer from mental illness. Unfortunately, for me personally, with how long I’ve dealt with mental illness, I’ve conditioned myself to bottle it in and keep to myself. However, this is why it’s so important to bring awareness to mental health and to have World Mental Health Day. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on how we view mental illness and it allows for people who don’t know much about mental health to learn more and how to communicate with those who suffer from it. 

If we do what we can to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, it will allow more people to be motivated to seek help and to get better. The conversation often initiated about depression and anxiety feels tense and uncomfortable, and it only feels that way because we let it. It’s human to be depressed. It’s human to have anxiety. It’s human to have a mental illness. It’s human to cope, and it’s human to seek help.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. Always remember that you are not alone, and there is always help for you.