Songs About Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a common theme is Pink Floyd’s music, so I guess it depends on how much of the song needs to be specifically devoted to it, and just how obvious/overt the link must be, to consider the song to be “about” mental illness. A good portion of their catalogue might fit the bill.

For instance, “If” from Atom Heart Mother has the line “if I go insane, please don’t put your wires in my brain” and seems to deal more broadly with depression and loneliness. Honestly, I think it’s more “about” actual mental illness than “Brain Damage” is, titles not withstanding (not that I’m not saying “Brain Damage” isn’t also about mental illness). And then there’s The Wall and The Final Cut, which are whole albums dealing with, among other things, problems of the psyche—mental illness, if you will. And, bringing it around to your “from a familiar place” criteria, it’s generally understood that much of the content of those two albums (and most especially the last) was heavily influenced by his own personal feelings, if not always his own personal experiences (I mean, shit, it’s not like he ever went up against tiger tanks along the approaches to the Anzio beachhead or landed in the Falklands).

Pretty much the collected works of psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson, who struggled with schizophrenia for most of his life.

The best example I know is the album “On My Way to Where” by Dory Previn. She had a history of psychosis and depression, and had a breakdown that landed her in a mental hospital. Her therapist suggested to Previn that she write songs as part of her therapy, which eventually became this album.

Several of the tracks are available on Youtube. Here are some.

Scared to Be Alone

Esther’s First Communion - This describes the onset of her mental illness, and her mother’s reaction to it.

With My Daddy in the Attic - Previn’s father was also mentally ill, and at one point out of paranoia he locked himself in the attic. The lyrics come very close to saying that she had an incestuous relationship with her father.

Beware of Young Girls - Dory Previn’s husband Andre Previn had an affair with Mia Farrow, which Dory blamed for her breakdown. This song is an attack on Farrow.

Twenty Mile Zone - This song is based on a true incident where Previn was practicing primal scream therapy in her car and she was pulled over by a cop.

Mr. Whisper - This is about the voices in her head, the electroshock therapy that was used to treat her hallucinations, and the breakdown she had while a passenger on a commercial flight.

An obscure one: An Inmate’s Lullaby by Gentle Giant.

One of the more peculiar songs from a pretty peculiar band.

Imaginary Lover by Atlanta Rhythm Section might qualify.

I always thought Drive by the Cars might be talking about mental illness, though there are varied interpretations of that song.

In Alice Coopers 2 creepiest songs years Ago and Steven the protagonist is clearly in the depths of madness.

Oh, and how can we forget
Angie Baby (“It’s so nice to be insane, no-one asks you to explain.”)
Delta Dawn
or I suppose pretty much anything by Helen Reddy for that matter.

Oops. Let me try this again, with fixed links:

Oh, and how can we forget
Angie Baby (“It’s so nice to be insane, no-one asks you to explain.”)
Delta Dawn
or I suppose pretty much anything by Helen Reddy for that matter.

I’m Going Slightly Mad-Queen

My favorite line- I think I’m a banana tree

Jenny by Nothing More (Wikipedia, YouTube)

Halestorm Chemicals YouTube


Two hits in a row by the Stones,

19th Nervous Breakdown
Paint It Black.

Sanitarium Blues , Townes van Zandt.

Paranoid, Black Sabbath.

And the complete works of Kurt Cobain.

Lump by The Presidents of the USA

“Lump lingered last in line for brains and the one she got was sort of rotten and insane”

Sunny Came Home by Shawn Colvin is about a woman planning to burn a (her?) house down

Sadly enough, the vast majority of Linkin Park’s songs always seemed to resonate with people (like myself) who struggled with substance abuse and depression.
After singer Chester Bennington’s suicide it became apparent why.

Richard Thompson’s “Grey Walls” is a fairly unsettling description of having a loved one institutionalized.

Men At Work’s Who Could It Be Now is a homage to total paranoia.

Sting’s Every Breath You Take is the tale of a stalker.

“You Done My Brain In” by the Bonzo Dog Band.

Lead singer Vivian Stanshall was actually institutionalized for a short time after the band broke up.

Patsy Cline had her demons.

Randy Hanzlick- I’d Rather Have A Bottle In Front Of Me(Then Have To Have A Frontal Lobotomy)