Before Big Grammy Win, Billie Eilish Opened Up About Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts
Last night, 18-year-old pop singer Billie Eilish took home five Grammys — winning Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. This was after receiving six nominations total and becoming the youngest musician to win in the top four major Grammy categories.
— Recording Academy / GRAMMYs (@RecordingAcad) January 27, 2020
Eilish does it with the help of her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, the producer and co-writer behind the singer’s haunting vocals and sullen, if not occasionally dark, lyrics. They compose albums in the comfort of their family home where Eilish lives with her parents and records in her brother’s bedroom around homeschool, touring and friends.
While it may sound like an idyllic existence to some, last week Eilish opened up to Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” about being a young musical sensation and the toll it takes on her mental health. Eilish confessed to King that her broody lyrics (like the “Bury a Friend” line: “I want to end me”) reflect feelings about herself and managing depression and suicidal thoughts.
In the interview, Eilish said that early in her career, record labels and radio stations discouraged her sad sound, saying it wasn’t relatable. Eilish stated, “That was just funny to me because everyone has felt sad in their lives. … A lot of kids don’t love themselves.”
While Eilish describes her demeanor as someone who is “always laughing at everything,” she told King the burdens associated with achieving massive success over the past year made her consider taking her own life at one point. Eilish, who has been diagnosed with clinical depression, said that with therapy, treatment, a strong support system and hobbies, like songwriting, she finally considers herself on the other side of a depressive episode that started in 2018.
Eilish’s interview might hit home for teens who have complicated emotions that aren’t always outwardly visible to the people in their lives. By opening up about her experience with suicidal thoughts and depression, Eilish destigmatizes mental illness that might otherwise make young people feel ashamed.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10-34. Several studies suggests that a lack of access to mental health resources could be the reason that some depressed teens end up making attempts on their own lives.
If celebrities like Eilish continue to speak out about their personal struggles with mental health, it won’t solve the disparities in society that disproportionally impact teenagers of color and contribute to higher suicide rates, but it could raise awareness among teenage fans that they aren’t alone.
Eilish’s song “Bad Guy” has been streamed more than 3 billion times since it was released earlier this year. With a platform as large and diverse as Eilish’s, she has the ability to reach teenagers who might be struggling with a lack of access to quality mental health care and resources, reminding them they are part of a larger community of people who feel just like them. Eilish even gave her fans a shout-out during one of her acceptance speeches at the Grammys.
As a parent and a marginalized, neurodivergent person with anxiety, ADHD and a slew of other issues that can be closely correlated with depression, Eilish’s ability to open up publicly about her mental health struggle reminds me of the importance of using your platform for good. Normalizing things like discussions about mental health should be the rule, not the exception. The more celebrities like Eilish start talking about mental health, the better society becomes for the people in it who live with things like depression with suicidal thoughts.
Hopefully, Eilish’s bravery will be part of a trend of celebrities showing up to represent mental health. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing about it.
Image via Creative Commons/Julio Enriquez