For too long, many people have silently battled mental health issues, putting on a happy face for the rest of the world — including musicians.
But things have been changing. In recent years various artists have spoken out in the hopes of destigmatizing everything from depression to bipolar disorder and more by opening up about their own struggles. See what they’ve shared and said to encourage others.
More from Billboard
May is Mental Health Month. If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders, reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s national helpline 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for confidential treatment referrals and information. For those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
The Grammy-winning singer opened up about her postpartum depression in a 2016 Vanity Fair cover story when she explained why she was hesitant to have another child after welcoming son Angelo. “I’m too scared. I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me,” she said, noting that she did not take antidepressants.
“My knowledge of postpartum — or post-natal, as we call it in England — is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessed with my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life. … It can come in many different forms.”
After welcoming her third child in 2019, the singer opened up about her struggle with postpartum depression in a post on her website. “I wasn’t sure if I would have post partum depression/anxiety this time around. Or, as I like to call it: post partum activity. Or, also: post partum tar-drenched trenches,” she wrote.
“Hormonal. Sleep deprivation. Fogginess. Physical pain. Isolation. Anxiety. Cortisol. Recovery from childbirth (as beautiful and intense as mine was at home, dream birth.), integrating new angel baby with older angel babies. Marriage. All kinds of PTSD triggers. … PPD is still a sneaky monkey with a machete.”
“I know those families and my fans, and everyone there experienced a tremendous amount of it as well. Time is the biggest thing. I feel like I shouldn’t even be talking about my own experience — like I shouldn’t even say anything. I don’t think I’ll ever know how to talk about it and not cry,” the pop star told British Vogue about suffering from PTSD after more than 20 people were killed in a bombing during one of her 2017 shows. “I’ve always had anxiety. I’ve never really spoken about it because I thought everyone had it, but when I got home from tour it was the most severe I think it’s ever been.”
Grande also spoke out May 2, 2021, in the hopes of ending the stigma surrounding mental health. “Here’s to ending the stigma around mental health and normalizing asking for help,” Grande captioned a mini gallery of text slides, which included numerous resources. “Healing isn’t linear, fun, quick or at all easy but we are here and we’ve got to commit to making this time as healthy, peaceful and beautiful as possible. the work is so hard but we are capable and worth it. sending so much love and strength.”
The singer told her fans via social media in 2019 that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “For the longest time, I didn’t understand why I felt so sick. Why I felt lows that made me not want to leave my house or be around people and why I felt highs that wouldn’t let me sleep, wouldn’t let me stop working or creating music. Now I know why,” she wrote. “Honesty is a form of self love.”
The “Bounce Back” rapper nixed a North American tour in 2018, and later told Billboard it was a good move for him personally. “I never really took the time out to nurture myself, to take care of myself. It took me a lot of depression having a lot of anxiety to realize something was off,” he said. “I’ve been getting myself together, getting my mind right. So I have been taking better care of myself.”
The young superstar might be on top of the world professionally, but her newfound fame led to depression and suicidal thoughts, she told Gayle King ahead of the 2020 Grammy Awards. “I was so unhappy last year … I was so unhappy and I was so, like, joyless. I didn’t ever think I would be happy again, ever,” she said. “I don’t want to be too dark, but I genuinely didn’t think I would, like, make it to, like, 17.”
The musician shared with Esquire in 2018 that he had struggled with mental health issues, and how he’d had two emotional breakdowns. “I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself,” said Springsteen, who also noted that his father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia later in life.
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years, and I’m on a variety of medications that keep me on an even keel; otherwise I can swing rather dramatically and … just … the wheels can come off a little bit. So we have to watch, in our family. I have to watch my kids, and I’ve been lucky there. It ran in my family going way before my dad.”
“OCD is weird. I laugh about it now. … Everybody has different ways of handling stress. And, for me, if I get really stressed about something, I’ll start to have the same thought over and over again, and no matter how many times I get to the resolution, I feel like something bad is about to happen if I don’t keep thinking about it,” she told Cosmopolitan U.K. in 2018. “When I found out, and [learned] how to step back from it, it made me feel so much better. I feel so much more in control of it now.”
While promoting her self-titled third album in 2019, the singer-songwriter opened up about her mental health. “[I go into] my thoughts and feelings about my mental state and what life is supposed to be as an artist, my depression, and my insecurities,” she told SPIN about using her music to candidly explore her mental health, and how that has impacted her record. “I’m being more honest than ever before. It’s been very therapeutic.”
Lovato revealed in a 2011 interview with Robin Roberts that she — then 18 years old — had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “I had no idea that I was even bipolar until I went into treatment,” she said. “I was actually manic a lot of the times that I would take on workloads, and I would say, ‘Yes, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.’ I was conquering the world, but then I would come crashing down, and I would be more depressed than ever.”
Since then, she’s used her platform to bring awareness to mental health issues by speaking with legislators on behalf of the Be Vocal: Speak Up About Mental Health initiative, and executive produced the 2017 documentary Beyond Silence, about three people’s experiences with mental illnesses.
After finding major success with her LGBTQ pop anthem “Boyfriend,” Cameron found that she and her sexual identity were suddenly under a very bright spotlight. As happy as she was for all the positive feedback on the song, she also revealed that she had been experiencing depression and dysphoria in trying to reconcile her public image with her private identity.
“Sexuality and performative gender norms, societal rewards and identity are really throwing me for a loop,” she wrote in an in-depth May 2022 Instagram post. “Social media and mirrors and branding and the constant broadcasting of self and visibility of ourselves and everyone everywhere is not optimal for mental health, clarity of energy or relationship to our inner world. For any of us.”
“I have social anxiety. I hate large groups of people, which is ironic, because I play shows for a living,” Sheeran told Charlamagne the God in a 2019 interview. “But I just feel claustrophobic and don’t like being around too many people.”
The musician shared in a now-deleted 2017 Instagram post that she was suffering from PTSD and depression. A year later, after her marriage fell apart, she told People that she sought help from a specialist. “If I didn’t get help, I probably wouldn’t be … I don’t know. I don’t wanna think like that,” she said. “I think that reaching out saved my life. I don’t wanna think of any other outcome that could have happened. I feel like the more I talk about it, maybe it could reach somebody … reach somebody that feels alone.”
“I started having panic attacks, and the scariest part was it could be triggered by anything. I used to cover my face with a pillow whenever I had to walk outside from the car to the studio. My new life as a pop star certainly wasn’t as glamorous as all my friends from home thought. Secretly, I was really struggling physically and emotionally,” the singer told Well + Good in 2017. “I still feel nervous before performing, or have pangs of anxiety from time to time, but it’s not crippling like it used to be.”
The artist shared in Billboard’s March 2016 cover story that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while in high school, and spent weeks in a psychiatric hospital her senior year. “I had tried to kill myself,” said Halsey, who is also a mental health advocate. “I was an adolescent; I didn’t know what I was doing. Because I was 17, I was still in a children’s ward, which was terrifying.”
“It’s especially easy to poke fun at the idea that a white man could be depressed. I have done it myself, as a straight white man who was depressed. In fact, I still carry the shame of having been a straight white man who’s depressed and has experienced suicidal thoughts,” the artist wrote in an essay in It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies). “I also believe everybody is entitled to pain, no matter how perceptibly or relatively small that pain is. I don’t want the shame around depression and anxiety in privileged people to become worse any more than I want it for the marginalized.”
“I struggled with depression. The struggle was intense … Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority. It could relate to failing to meet impossibly high standards. And of course there are always the societal issues of racism and sexism,” the Grammy winner wrote in a 2018 issue of Essence. “Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Thankfully, I found my way through it.”
The former Little Mix singer opened up about the toll being in the popular group took on her mental health in a May 2021 interview with Cosmopolitan U.K. She shared that suffered from anxiety, and was constantly worried about her weight due to being considered the heavy one of the quartet. The “breaking point” for her came on the day they filmed their “Sweet Melody” video, when she was struck by a panic attack, and realized then that she had to leave the group for her own well being. Nelson said of her time with Little Mix: “I can’t believe how miserable I was.”
Jonas shared during an interview with CBS This Morning on May 4, 2021, that he and wife Sophie Turner are working on developing a mental health foundation during the global coronavirus pandemic, which has been a difficult time for many. “For us, we’ve noticed how much just in the last year, year and a half, it’s taken a toll on a lot of different people,” he shared, noting that he’s been taking time to meditate and “speaking to a therapist.” Mental health struggles are not new for the couple. The Game of Thrones actress has previously opened up about her struggles with depression, and how her husband helped her battle them.
The celebrated star told Stephen Colbert in 2019 while promoting her memoir Home Work that she first sought therapy after she and Blake Edwards, her first husband, separated. “My head was so full of clutter and garbage,” she shared. “Believe it or not, it was [director] Mike Nichols who really tipped me into wanting to go to therapy because … he was so sane and so funny and clear. He had a clarity that I admired so much, and I wanted that for myself and I didn’t feel I had it. So I went and got into it, and it saved my life in a way.”
She later added about therapy: “These days, there’s no harm in sharing it. I think everybody knows the great work it can do. Anybody that is lucky enough to have it, afford it and take advantage of it, I think it would be wonderful.”
The “Sorry” singer was contrite in a lengthy 2019 Instagram message to his fans, apologizing for his wrongdoings. But he was also honest about his struggle with depression. “It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning … when it feels like there’s trouble after trouble after trouble,” he wrote. “You start foreseeing the day through lenses of ‘dread’ and anticipate another bad day. A cycle of feeling disappointment after disappointment. Sometimes it can even get to the point where you don’t even want to live anymore. Where you feel like it’s never going to change.”
The rapper and entrepreneur discussed his mental health in a 2018 interview with Big Boi, revealing that he wasn’t diagnosed with a “mental condition” until age 39. “I’m so blessed and so privileged because think about people that have mental issues that are not Kanye West, that can’t go and make that [album] and make you feel like it’s all good,” he said at the time, adding, “It’s not a disability, it’s a superpower.”
“I have had bouts of situational depression and my heart was broken last year because, unknowingly, I put so much validity in the reaction of the public, and the public didn’t react in the way I had expected to … which broke my heart,” the pop star told Vogue Australia in 2018 of the reception to her album Witness.
When asked about the haunting lyrics on his song “U” off of 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, the rapper opened up to MTV about his fight against depression and suicidal thoughts. “I’ve pulled that song not only from previous experiences, but, I think my whole life, I think everything is drawn out of that,” Lamar explained.
“Nothing was as vulnerable as that record. So it’s even pulling from those experiences of coming up in Compton. It’s pulling from the experience of going through change and accepting change — that’s the hardest thing for man, accepting change.”
The rapper opened up about his struggle against depression with Billboard in 2016, saying, “I used drugs to try to fix my depression.” He added, “I have everything I ever dreamed of in terms of stability. But I hadn’t been living that reality, because depression was f–king me up.” A few months later, he revealed in a Facebook post that he had checked himself into a treatment center for depression and “suicidal urges.”
“For me, depression is not sadness. It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure,” the singer and actor wrote for Time magazine in 2016. “Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer. We all do.”
Gaga revealed in 2016 that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In an open letter on her Born This Way Foundation website, she shared: “I have wrestled for some time about when, how and if I should reveal my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After five years of searching for the answers to my chronic pain and the change I have felt in my brain, I am finally well enough to tell you. There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.”
Mother Monster also addressed mental health as she accepted the Global Changemakers Award in 2018: “I have struggled for a long time, both being public and not public about my mental health issues or my mental illness. But I truly believe that secrets keep you sick.”
“The day I released ‘Truth Hurts’ was probably one of the darkest days I’ve had ever in my career. I remember thinking, ‘If I quit music now, nobody would notice. This is my best song ever, and nobody cares.’ I was like, ‘F–k it, I’m done.’ And a lot of people rallied; my producer, my publicist and my family, they were like, ‘Just keep going because this is the darkest before the dawn,'” Lizzo told People in 2019. She added, “Reaching out to people when you’re depressed is really hard; I would shut myself away from friends and family. So I’ve been working on communicating with the people who love me.”
“The last two-and-a-half years were probably the hardest years of my life, mentally,” the rapper told Billboard in 2018. And ironically, his song “1-800-273-8255” — which is the number of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline — “led to depression,” he said. “Everywhere you go, the conversation is about suicide — wanting to kill yourself. Every interview, all the time, for a year straight.”
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me. It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music,” she revealed to People in 2018 about her bipolar disorder II diagnosis, noting that for a while, she thought she had a bad sleep disorder instead.
Williams explained while co-hosting The Talk in 2017 that her depression was so bad while she was in Destiny’s Child that she was “suicidal.”
“For years I’m in one of the top-selling female groups of all time suffering with depression. When I disclosed it to our manager at the time — bless his heart — he was like, ‘Y’all just signed a multi-million dollar deal, you’re about to go on tour. What do you have to be depressed about?'” she revealed, saying that she wanted to share her struggle to “normalize” mental health issues. “I was to that place where it got so dark and heavy because sometimes you feel like ‘I’m the provider, I take care of people, I’m not supposed to be feeling this way — what do I do?’ I wanted out.”
The star shared her battle against depression in her 2014 Elle cover story. “It’s more of an issue than people really want to talk about. Because people don’t know how to talk about being depressed — that it’s totally OK to feel sad. I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. It was a lot to do with, like, I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed,” she said.
“And every person can benefit from talking to somebody. … There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.”
The country star opened up about her diagnosis of “severe depression” in a 2016 Good Morning America interview. “They see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am,” she said. “But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad.” Judd also shared that she had even been in a psychiatric ward a number of times tried different medications.
Things were not good for Minaj prior to hitting it big, and she even considered suicide. “I kept having doors slammed on my face,” she told Cosmo in a 2011 interview. “I felt like nothing was working. I had moved out on my own, and here I was thinking I’d have to go home. It was one dead end after another. At one point, I was like, ‘What would happen if I just didn’t wake up?’ That’s how I felt. Like maybe I should just take my life?”
The young performer opened up to James Corden in 2019. “I’ve struggled with anxiety or depression since I was 10 or 11 years old, so I think it’s a huge topic. One of the things I’ve always wanted to use this platform [for] is to talk about my mental health and help young adults all around America and everywhere in the world know they’re not alone,” she revealed as she discussed her work with the Jed Foundation, a non-profit that works to prevent teen suicides and protect emotional health.
“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to use as my platform for something good, and all the anxieties that I have, use it for good and not evil. I don’t want it to take over my life like it has been for all of these years.”
“My highs, my happiness are really high and my lows are very low and I’m not able to regulate between the two,” the Fall Out Boy bassist told Howard Stern in 2015 of his struggle with bipolar disorder. “Through actual therapy and having kids, it’s way more under control, and something I can see when I’m on the roller coaster and control it more.”
The singer opened up to TODAY‘s Carson Daly in 2019 about mental health and trying to raise a family when they live a very unconventional life due to her and husband Carey Hart’s celebrity status. “I’ve been depressed; I have anxiety. I overthink everything,” she told Daly, noting that she and her husband also go to counseling sessions. “I think talking about (mental health) is the most important thing,” Pink said. “I’m hopeful that the taboo of it is all going away because more and more people are talking about it.”
The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creator and star shared in a 2016 Glamour interview that her struggle started with one sleepless night before a big pitch meeting, which then spiraled into ongoing anxiety and “the worst depression” of her life. She had gone to therapists, but eventually saw a psychiatrist: “He diagnosed me with low-grade depression and put me on a small amount of Prozac.”
The “Jessie’s Girl” singer opened up about his struggle with depression in his 2010 memoir, Late, Late at Night, revealing a suicide attempt at age 16 when he tried to hang himself. “Having suicide ride on my shoulders was not a lot of fun through a lot of my life and surviving that was a real high point for me,” the musician told Reuters. “Once puberty hit, I was pretty much skimming along the bottom, and I am (now) living long enough to understand how to deal with it.”
The OneRepublic frontman revealed in a lengthy Facebook post in 2017 that he had been suffering from “crippling anxiety” that almost led him to quit the group. He shared that after the release of Oh My My, “I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, not sleeping, on meds, not happy, anxiety on a crippling level and it was triggered from sheer exhaustion,” also noting that his anxiety made him want to stop writing music.
The pop star announced in 2016 that she was taking a break after suffering from mental health issues due to lupus. “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways,” she told People. “I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges.”
On April 29, 2021, just days before the start of Mental Health Month, Gomez launched Mental Health 101 education campaign with her beauty brand, Rare Beauty. “I know first hand how scary and lonely it can feel to face anxiety and depression by yourself at a young age,” she shared in her announcement. “If I had learned about my mental health earlier on — been taught about my condition in school the way I was taught about other subjects — my journey could have looked very different.”
“It was kind of something that hit me last year,” the singer shared with Zane Lowe in 2018 about his struggle with anxiety. “Growing up, I was a pretty calm kid. I knew people who suffered from anxiety, found it kind of hard to understand, and then when it hits you, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is crazy.'”
The singer reportedly scrapped her plans to tour in 2012 due to bipolar disorder. “As you all know I had a very serious breakdown between December and March and I had been advised by my doctor not to go on tour but didn’t want to ‘fail’ or let anyone down as the tour was already booked to coincide with album release,” she reportedly wrote on her website at the time in a since-deleted post. “So very stupidly I ignored his advice to my great detriment, attempting to be stronger than I actually am. I apologise (sic) sincerely for any difficulties this may cause.”
In August 2017, O’Connor shared emotional and troubling videos about living with mental illness. “Mental illness is a bit like drugs. It doesn’t give a s–t who you are. Equally you know what’s worse is the stigma who doesn’t give a s–t who you are,” she said in the first video, before noting in another the next day that she was suicidal.
The former One Direction member had canceled performances in the past due to his anxiety, and penned a piece about his struggle for Time in 2016. “Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of; it affects millions of people every day,” he wrote. “When I was in One Direction, my anxiety issues were huge but, within the safety net of the band, they were at least manageable. As a solo performer, I felt much more exposed, and the psychological stress of performing had just gotten to be too much for me to handle — at that moment, at least. Rather than hiding away, sugar-coating it, I knew I had to put it all out there.”
“I used to struggle with anxiety pretty bad. It only happened when I sang live, not when I danced or did any other live performances, and it stemmed from a bad experience I had while singing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2013. It wasn’t my best performance and I’ve never let myself live that down. I had mad anxiety ever since that,” the singer and actress revealed in a 2017 post on her app.
“I DID figure out how to bury my anxiety, though. I’ve tried focusing my energy on other things, like making movies. And I took my time and slowly built my confidence back up before I went back out on stage to sing live.”