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Hip-hop therapy: Top 10 songs from the last decade that talk about mental health

by Sarah Graham
Tuesday 20 January 2015
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Last Autumn the Guardian reported that researchers believe hip-hop music could play a key role in treating certain mental health conditions, including schizophrenia and depression, because it "provides individuals with a sense of empowerment and self-knowledge that could be exploited to help people tackle their own psychological problems."


Off the back of this research, a Cambridge University neuroscientist, Becky Inkster, and a consultant psychiatrist, Akeem Sule, have launched Hip Hop Psych, a social venture using hip-hop as a form of therapy to treat mental health conditions.

"[Hip-hop] is rich in references to psychiatric illnesses that have not been properly explored, and which could be of enormous benefit to patients," Inkster told the Guardian. "One technique we want to explore is to get individuals who are seeking therapy to write out where they see themselves in a year or two, and to use rap lyrics to outline their future histories."

We all know that listening to our favourite music can have a calming or mood-boosting effect, but could putting your favourite album on really be a form of therapy? We've put together a top 10 of popular songs, hip-hop and otherwise, from the last decade that discuss mental health issues - from depression and bereavement, to anxiety and OCD.

Do you think hearing musicians rap or sing about their mental health struggles has helped tackle stigma? Is there a song we've missed off that you particularly relate to, or that helped you come to terms with your mental health condition? Let us know via Twitter.


1. Professor Green - Lullaby (2014)

Finding it hard to get to sleep, too stressed/And there ain't anyone to sing a lullaby to me/Pretend shit doesn't get to me/And I suffer in silence when I'm hurting/A man's problems are his own/And it's my burden/Tossing and turning, trying to get to sleep/But I find it hard to switch off when my mind's working/I ponder on things I shouldn't ponder on/Off the rails, my train of thought's wandering/Sick of pretending to be so happy/All the while my anxiety's away at me.


2. Eminem & Rihanna - The Monster (2013)

'Cause I need an interventionist/To intervene between me and this monster/And save me from myself and all this conflict/'Cause the very thing that I love's killing me and I can't conquer it/My OCD's conking me in the head/Keep knocking, nobody's home, I'm sleepwalking/I'm just relaying what the voice in my head's saying/Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just friends with the monster that's under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head/You're trying to save me, stop holding your breath/And you think I'm crazy, yeah, you think I'm crazy.


3. Evanescence - Lithium (2006)

I can't hold on to me/Wonder what's wrong with me/Lithium, don't want to lock me up inside/Lithium, don't want to forget how it feels without/Lithium, I want to stay in love with my sorrow/Don't want to let it lay me down this time/Drown my will to fly/Here in the darkness I know myself/Can't break free until I let it go/Let me go.


4. Angels and Airwaves - Anxiety (2011)

Anxiety, don't pressure us/Faster, I dream in speeds of ashes/My heart it beats and crashes/I'm running from the truth/Cause it fucks with my mind/Waiting, we're silly, we're so reckless/The city it's so heartless/A bottle full of crude/That washed up in the tide/Don't pressure us, anxiety/I'm a passenger/So serious, anxiety/Just a passenger.


5. Rihanna - Disturbia (2007)

What's wrong with me?/Why do I feel like this?/I'm going crazy now/No more gas in the rig/Can't even get it started/Nothing heard, nothing said/Can't even speak about it/Out my life, out my head/Don't wanna think about it/Feels like I'm going insane/Yeah/It's a thief in the night/To come and grab you/It can creep up inside you/And consume you/A disease of the mind/It can control you/It's too close for comfort.


6. Coldplay - Fix You (2005)

When you try your best, but you don't succeed/When you get what you want, but not what you need/When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep/Stuck in reverse/And the tears come streaming down your face/When you lose something you can't replace/When you love someone, but it goes to waste/Could it be worse?


7. Ellie Goulding - Lights (2011)

I had a way then losing it all on my own/I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown/And I'm not sleeping now, the dark is too hard to beat/And I'm not keeping now the strength I need to push me/You show the lights that stop me turn to stone/You shine it when I'm alone/And so I tell myself that I'll be strong/And dreaming when they're gone/'Cause they're calling, calling, calling me home/Calling, calling, calling home/You show the lights that stop me turn to stone/You shine it when I'm alone home/Voices I play within my head/Touch my own skin and hope that I'm still breathing/And I think back to when my brother and my sister slept/In an unknown place the only time I feel safe.


8. Ed Sheeran - The A Team (2011)

White lips, pale face/Breathing in snowflakes/Burnt lungs, sour taste/Light's gone, day's end/Struggling to pay rent/Long nights, strange men/And they say/She's in the Class A Team/Stuck in her daydream/Been this way since eighteen/But lately her face seems/Slowly sinking, wasting/Crumbling like pastries/And they scream/The worst things in life come free to us/'Cause we're just under the upper hand/And go mad for a couple grams/And she don't want to go outside tonight/And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland/Or sells love to another man/It's too cold outside/For angels to fly.


9. Thom Yorke - Analyse (2005)

A self-fulfilling prophecy of endless possibility/In rolling reams across a screen/In algebra, in algebra/The fences that you cannot climb/The sentences that do not rhyme/In all that you can ever change/I'm the one you're looking for/It gets you down/It gets you down/There's no spark/You've no light in the dark/It gets you down/It gets you down/You traveled far/What have you found/That there's no time/There's no time/To analyse/To think things through/To make sense.


10. Mary J Blige - Therapy (2014)

Why would I spend the rest of my days unhappy?/Why would I spend the rest of this year alone?/When I can go therapy/When I can go therapy/When I can go therapy/Two times a day/Why would I spend the rest of this week so bitter/And all that listening is making you bitter too/When I can go therapy/When I can go therapy When I can go therapy two times a day/I don't wanna be around me/And I don't blame you if you blocking all my calls/Been no ups since I been sleeping soundly/Most nights I lie awake between two and four/Work is stressing me out/And after all this time/It's still never enough. 

Finding support

If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 20 January 2015