World Suicide Prevention Day this year highlights your chance to 'take a minute, change a life'. Mental health and suicide is still widely misunderstood, and this is a continuous obstacle for anyone who suffers. Hopefully, this day will help you rise above any need to analyse or examine the reasons why and simply motivate you to contact your friends and family, to check in with your loved ones and ask "how are you?" and just listen. Advice can be nice at times, but unless it is asked for it isn't actually all that helpful. Just give your time and your focused listening to someone wherever they may be in the world. They key thing is to be active about it. Don't tell people you're here for them or if anyone needs any help. Go direct to a person and see how they are. It really is that easy. Loneliness, whether real or perceived (they're basically the same to the brain), is a big factor in depression and suicide. Make people feel less alone, and that will be a big help. Getting through bad patches can take a lot of time, and quite a few sufferers know this. If you're trying to help, don't expect everything to be fine suddenly. Keep checking in, keep being supportive.
We've put together what we hope will be a handy resource with the help of Xtra Mile Market Reps featuring blogs, a curated playlist and lyrics of artists who have written from experience. The hashtag #MusicWasThere is for stories of how music has helped during difficult periods, suggestions of artists and songs that can be uplifting or relatable in darker days, and even how the music community has rallied around. This year has been particularly difficult for rock music fans with the loss of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell to suicide. We think it's extremely important to talk about this and to encourage everyone to check in with friends and family regularly, and to use music (and other art or outlets) to raise discussion, to feel understood and for a healthy amount of escapism.
We've included videos of songs that XMR Street Team and Market Rep members find helpful in their darkest moments. We also would like to draw your attention to our collaborative 'Encouragement' playlist, which you can add your own songs that help you when things seem bad.
Frank Turner – 'Demons' from Postive Songs For Negative People
"Life gave me demons, so I made friends with the devil,
so I’m invincible
At this truth we have arrived: god damn it’s great to be alive"
Sophie B (Valued XMR Market Rep)
Music and depression for me kind of go hand-in-hand. When I'm at some of my lowest points, I find the saddest songs I can to try and help me let it all out; music is my escapism.
Depression isn't just feeling sad, it's feeling worthless, it's feeling that the entire world would benefit if you are no longer here. It's feeling that nothing is right even when you know you have good things in your life. It's walking out of your house at 3am with the intention of jumping in front of car. It's locking yourself in the bathroom cutting your body because the physical pain takes away the mental pain even if just for a few minutes. It's looking in the mirror and hating everything you see. Depression has come and gone in waves for me for 12 years. I've had counselling, and medication.
Music helps me switch off for a while when the black fog decides to take hold. It takes me away from everything and gives me something else to focus on, especially when I feel I just can't talk to anyone about it for fear of being told to "cheer up". Cheering up has nothing to do with depression.
Depression is still very much a taboo subject, especially among males, and it shouldn't be. Maybe more people would seek help and still be alive today if they felt that people aren't going to just roll their eyes and presume you are seeking attention, because for people suffering with their mental health attention is the last thing on their minds. People need to talk about it and realise it truly is a proper illness.
It's great when bands write songs about it, especially through personal experience, because it lets the rest of us know that we are not alone, and that people do want us. Music is a friend, and a release.
Frank Turner – 'Song For Josh' from Positive Songs For Negative People
Why didn't you say something, on the last time we met?
Why didn't you say something? There's always hope left
And I can't say for certain what I would have done
But I can't do anything now that you're gone
And it kills me to think that for a second you felt alone
Ziggy (Valued Xtra Mile Market Rep)
Since my teens,music has been a rock which has stayed by my side and never let me down. Even at the worst possible times in my life, music has dragged me out of deep holes when nothing else could even reach me.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 21, and have taken medication ever since (I’m 26 now), but looking back I think depression first came into my life when I was around 15. Luckily this was the time when I started to develop my personal music taste, the first time I started actively
seeking out new music rather than just listening to the radio.
I heard Frank Turner’s ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’ for the first time on an old music streaming website while searching for artists similar to Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly. From the first listen, I was hooked - and have been ever since. The lyrics just had this power over me that no music had ever had before, I felt like every song was describing intimate details of my life, describing feelings that I never knew were worth even acknowledging. I could listen for hours, for days - and i did.
By 22, I had a pretty good life. I was married, living with my amazing husband, working a steady job. I was applying for college, with the hope of going on to university to pursue my dream career. But the depression was still there. It’s always there, no matter how perfect your life may seem. It bubbles to the surface at the most unexpected times and the only thing I can do is put my headphones on and let the music surround me.
I’m a firm believer in the power of music as an antidepressant, and live shows as the most euphoric high you can (legally) experience. The happiest times of my life have been at the front of a gig, singing my heart out, surrounded by tens, hundreds, even thousands of people doing the
same. It’s a community, one where despite everyone going through their own personal stuff - whether that be depression, anxiety, chronic illness or just issues we are working through - we are all coming together to enjoy one of the most uplifting experiences there is. It’s a culture of happiness, of community and of family. We are all so drastically different, but in that moment, in the darkness of the venue, the lights come up, the music starts and suddenly we are all together, carrying each others problems like a crowdsurfing rockstar. For me, there is no greater cure.
Felix Hagan & the Family – 'Songs In the Dark'
"It’s not over yet
There is so much left to do"
Valerie Gritsch (XMR social media, Market Rep / Street Team leader)
If you’re like me, music has always been in the background. It’s always been lurking underneath whatever else you’re doing. It’s on in the car, it’s on while you’re working, it’s on while you’re relaxing, it’s on as you shop, etc. Music can be inescapable, which I think may add to what makes it so special when you get to choose what you’re listening to. Whether you’re sorting through vinyl, CDs, tapes, or scrolling through MP3s, finding the right song or album for the right moment can be crucial.
There have been countless times when I've sat carefully crafting the perfect playlist of songs that were sad like me or songs that could bring me through my sadness. Songs that held my hand, that felt like hugs, that reminded me of times that were better. Songs that felt like a warm ray of light on a cool and dark day. There have also been countless times when I’ve been mindlessly listening to a song, a song I’ve heard a thousand times, and suddenly a line or verse jumps out at me and punches me in the gut. It’s saying what I’m thinking or feeling, saying something I didn’t think anyone else could understand. And suddenly, I’m not alone.
Those songs became anthems. They became part of my identity – scribbled on the covers of my notebooks, made as taglines for social profiles, and set as away messages on AIM. Songs I'd blast loudly and scream along to, or sit in revered silence over. And then you'd see that artist live, the one who sang those songs that made you happy to feel alive and a little less alone, and it just becomes way too much. You are overwhelmed, standing in the dark with stage lights bouncing on your face, surrounded by strangers, screaming along with your arms held over your head. I don't have the words for how it feels to sing along to a song like that at a gig, but it's powerful, and cathartic, and joyful – even if you cry while it happens. Then the show ends, and the house lights come up and you realize how many of you there are. And suddenly, you're not alone.
Music was there. Music has always been there. It holds us close, it makes us feel comfortable, less anxious, and safe. It is intensely special. It keeps us company in the dark.
Ducking Punches – 'JFH' from Fizzy Brain
"I guess this is it
A goodbye, a farewell
I’ll gather all the crew
To scream how much we fucking loved you
This is the hardest song I tried to write
I hope it makes you proud
I hope it makes you smile
And Jacky boy, just one last thing
You were like a brother
And you were like a king
Without you I don’t know how
We would have this big loving family now"
Brad Barrett (XMR HUB / Xtra Mile newsletter editor & writer)
I'll keep my bit short as I'm capable of because though I've had definite extended lows, full-blown depression has never quite hit me based on descriptions and experiences of others. Nevertheless, loneliness and self-loathing as a teeanger and twenty-something was a regular thing for me and I found that there truly is no substitute for people checking in and being great to you. But music, books and video games have all helped during these difficulties. Music is king and always will be because of its infallible ability to allow you access to emotions that need to be expressed as well as an honesty that a lot of mediums struggle to tap. Sad songs, happy songs, angry songs, and simple mood music have all come in handy. A distorted guitar or an enveloping melody can both be effective.
Lyrics are also invaluable when it comes to feeling understood and seen, for feeling you're part of this world, of a community even. This is why a fair amount of Xtra Mile artists come up top when we discuss songs for when things are rough. Frank Turner, Will Varley, Ducking Punches, Ben Marwood, Non Canon, are all good examples of great lyricists who have tapped into things with which we can closely relate. Whether it was the abrasive hardcore, post-hardcore or resonant emo of my youth or the softer, rawer acoustic sounds of my adulthood, the words carried me through. Knowing that someone capable of forming my own thoughts, fears and worries around a set of words actually took the time to do this and release it into the world for me (and others) to hear – that feels like connection. It may be no substitute for friendship, but it did a lot of heavy lifting when I was feeling overwhelmed. Music is even better when it's shared. As Val explains above, the carthartic experience of a gig, as well as the people around you who have also found worth in these songs, can really help.
Against Me! – 'Dead Friend' from Transgender Dysphoria Blues
"God damn it
God damn, I miss my dead friend"
Instagram and Twitter posts tagged #MusicWasThere
These have been edited for grammar, style and clarity.
marioplazibat: When my last girlfriend broke up with me, I was really down and depressed. I felt like I wasn't allowed to go out and have fun and all I could do is sit in my room crying, but not even a week later Frank Turner released his then new single 'Get Better' and the song really got me better in so many ways. I started thinking about everything and why I am sad as well as how to break the never-ending depressing circle and sooner or later I finally managed to make progress and started going out again. Therefore music was there for me and helped me get better in the long run. ️
fedz_2015: During my last job I suffered from extreme anxiety, panic attacks and a reluctance to go outside. I hated it and became trapped in this circle of work and regret, eventually it led to me having a crippling breakdown followed by four months off sick, and counseling. I remember when Frank Turner released his latest album (Positive Songs For Negative People) and I listened to 'The Next Storm', it gave me the courage to go outside, not sit about waiting for things to get better for me and face my problems head on to get over them. I then secured a new role and had the same song playing when I had the job offer. Acceptance is the hard part, it's how you overcome and move on. Frank's music helped me and I will be forever grateful.
HollyWeb22: <3 wouldn't be here without it, including a lot of your artists so thank you for being so wonderful x
Counterfeit. – 'Letter To the Lost' from Together We Are Stronger
"It’s been a little while now
since I last saw your face
And i’m hoping that in death
that you have found a better place
I still think about your childhood
And the future you did waste
I guess you felt you don’t belong here
and that haunts me everyday"
And finally...Frank Turner – 'This Year' (by The Mountain Goats)
"I am going to make it through this year if it kills me."
Here's a video of Frank talking about the song too.