Music and movies that emphasize mental health awareness

By Renee Dubaich, Staff Writer

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as the month comes to an end, it is important for our music and movies to provide visibility for mental health struggles and show that mental health advocacy is an ongoing, continuous effort that is impossible to contain in just one month.

That being said, advocacy for mental health continues to grow as more and more people step forward to share experiences with mental illness, helping to and accept and normalize it. The stigma surrounding mental illness still exists, but through the use of media, people have created platforms to share their own stories and shine light on the prevalence of mental health struggles. These stories inspire others to reach out for help, and let them know they are not alone in their struggles.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here is a list of songs and movies that depict living with mental illness and messages of resilience to those who struggle.


Hunger” and “Free” by Florence and the Machine

Florence Welch, well known from the indie-rock band Florence and the Machine, isn’t afraid to speak out about her struggle with mental illness. In her vulnerable song “Hunger”, Welch sings about her struggle with anorexia, utilizing the term hunger to describe the yearning for something greater. Welch sings, “At 17 I started to starve myself/ I thought that love was a kind of emptiness.” Welch acknowledges the realities of her anorexia, and how she wanted to feel at least something instead of not feeling anything at all. The song “Free” from Welch’s most recent album focuses on what it means to be free from anxiety and how powerful and magical this feeling can be. In Welch’s perspective, freeness can be best explained in the verse, “To exist in the face of suffering and death and somehow still keep singing.”

Basket Case” by Green Day

The punk rock band Green Day’s most popular song, “Basket Case” is a song in which the frontman Billie Joe Armstrong deals with immense anxiety and the feeling of losing his mind. He sings, “It all keeps adding up/ I think I’m cracking up/ Am I just paranoid?” Armstrong uses songwriting throughout his career in order to deal with his struggle with his personal mental health. Armstrong wrote the song to express the unknown emotions he felt at the time which he later found out were symptoms of a panic disorder. The song is still a beloved punk rock anthem since the 90s, and ِArmstrong keeps on singing it as a gift to his fans who have gone through similar battles with mental illness. 

Home Maker” by Sudan Archives

Sudan Archives is a violinist, singer and songwriter whose electro and R&B music features lyrics of self love and acceptance. In her song “Home Maker”, Archives embraces the concept of homemaking as a service to mental health and wellbeing. Archives said, “For me, homemaking is a service to mental health and coping with fear and isolation…” Home making can be interpreted as caring for oneself in both body and mind, and also surrounding yourself with a healthy environment. Archives sings, “Won’t you step inside my lovely cottage? Feels so green, it feels like fucking magic.”

Smile” by JAY-Z

In the song ‘Smile’, JAY-Z includes references to his mental health struggles intertwined with other pressing issues like hiding one’s sexual identity and disparities among Black Americans. The song can be seen as one of JAY-Z’s most sincere tracks, as he raps “My therapist said I relapsed”, which embraces the importance of getting help despite the stigma that still surrounds it. JAY-Z expresses throughout the rap the pain that many people endure just to fit in with societal standards. The same year the album was released, JAY-Z opened up in an interview about the importance of mental health advocacy and how he benefited from seeing a therapist.

Solipsism” by Fenne Lily

The indie singer and songwriter Fenne Lily also utilizes her music to share her personal experiences and discoveries surrounding her struggle with mental health and isolation. Lily describes her song ‘Solipsism’ as “something that sounds cheerful, about something really not cheerful.” The song explores Lily’s struggle with accepting and becoming comfortable with strange and uncomfortable feelings that are sometimes unavoidable to experience. Lily sings about her anxiety and the fear of having a panic attack, “checking up to check I’m breathing, sign in blood to keep it beating.” With the term “Solipsism,” Lilly emphasizes that it is okay to be self-centered when you have spent so much time trying to be anything but yourself.



The movie Melancholia is an apocalyptic film about two sisters anticipating the world’s end with stunning symbolism and surreal visuals in order to depict depression. The movie is based on director von Trier’s own experience suffering from a depressive episode and the therapy sessions he attended during treatment. The movie explores the dimensions of the human psyche. Trier described it as “a psychological disaster movie” which is “a beautiful movie about the end of the world”. Through the exploration of the two sisters, depression is represented in varying ways, emphasizing that everyone experiences mental struggle differently than others.


Jonah Hill’s news Netflix documentary Stutz explores a conversation with a therapist and depicts Hill’s own experiences with his mental health struggles and emphasizes remedies and treatments that have helped him through his recovery. The movie opens a window to therapy and may help viewers in reaching out for help and understanding how therapy may be an option for them. Hill uses his platform as an actor and filmmaker to also express how his fame interfered with his recovery. “Through this journey of self-discovery within the film, I have come to the understanding that I have spent nearly 20 years experiencing anxiety attacks, which are exacerbated by media appearances and public facing events,” he wrote at the time.


The movie Moonlight deals with the implications of drastic changes in one’s life and shares the raw and emotional story of finding one’s true self. The film brings awareness to harmful struggles that many Americans face, such as addiction and poverty, and shows the development of a young boy into an adult. The movie meditates on the pressures of manhood, and the main character’s constant struggle for human connection and navigating his life despite constant struggles and pain. The movie explores the experience of “growing up” and the development of one’s identity and understanding of the world.

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places began as a novel as a young adult novel about mental illness, love and friendship, and in recent years it has been adapted into a movie. The story follows the blooming friendship of two high schoolers after one stops the other from ending their life. The movie sheds light on teen experiences dealing with depression and the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The story is an emotional and heart wrenching look into what it means to heal and recover from tragic events and how opening ourselves up to others and not shutting ourselves off can help us focus on the brighter things in life.

Horse Girl

Allison Brie not only stars in the Netflix original movie Horse Girl, but also co-wrote it in order to depict her struggle with her mental health and her family’s history of paranoid schizophrenia and depression. The show emphasizes the importance of mental health in families, from understanding the genetic factors and how mental illness can be linked to family history. The show is quite dark and unsettling, depicting loss of control Brie felt when she was slipping into a dark depression. She said, “In my own personal struggles with depression, I know the feeling of being helpless, feeling powerless, feeling alone. Right before I wrote this, I went through my deepest bout of depression in my life.”