12 Of The Most Famous Musicians Who Suffered With Mental Illness

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

It’s hard to imagine that today’s biggest stars could suffer just as much as their fans in everyday life. In fact, it’s often hard to accept our own feelings when struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

There’s often a lot of stigma that comes with mental illness, and a lot of it stems from feeling like “You shouldn’t even feel this way.” This is especially true when you’re supposed to have “everything” you need.

In this article, we’ll go through 12 of the most famous musicians who suffered from mental illness and have shared their experiences with the world as a way to empower the conversation about mental health.

Trigger warning: Mentions of addiction, overdose, suicidal thoughts and ideation, sexual abuse, and the Ariana Grande Manchester bombing.

1. Demi Lovato

Famous American singer Demetria Devonne Lovato, popularly known as Demi Lovato, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and spoke about mental illness as far back as 2011.

This is when Lovato entered rehab to deal with bulimia, self-harm, and addiction.

Having had a late diagnosis, Lovato turned to self-medicating like thousands of people with undiagnosed mental illnesses. Lovato has since become the face of bipolar and eating disorders in the media and in a great way.

Lovato’s work has tangibly skewed the percentage of how negatively people who have seen the artist speak about the disorder view bipolar people, according to this study.

2. Mac Miller

At the height of his career, rapper Mac Miller laid his struggles bare in his lyrics, touching the souls of millions of fans in the process.

As he rose to fame, his struggle with addiction took a stronger hold on him. In his final years, Mac Miller openly discussed his efforts to quit and do better mentally, often sobering up for a while before relapsing shortly after.

Just months before his death, Miller had gone off lean, only to relapse twice, the second time ending his life.

Two years after his tragic death, Mac Miller remains one of the best hip-hop artists of his generation.

3. Ariana Grande

Following the devastating bombing that occurred on May 22, 2018, killing 23 people, including an 8-year-old child, Ariana Grande spoke out about her struggle with anxiety and mental health. 

Grande has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the tragic incident. She also shared an MRI scan of her brain with PTSD compared to a healthy brain in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

However, being the strong woman that she was, went the extra mile and teamed up with the mental health organization Better Help and donated $1M for her fans’ therapy following the second anniversary of the bombing.

4. Sia

The multi-talented singer-songwriter Sia has publicly discussed her mental health on numerous occasions.

Following her boyfriend Dan Pontifex’s death, she released an album titled Healing Is Difficult, which addresses the depression and addiction she was dealing with.

In an interview with Louis Theroux, the “Unstoppable” singer said she’s dealing with complex PTSD resulting from a difficult childhood, drug use, and alcoholism following Pontifex’s death, and stage fright.

Sia also told the New York Times that she’d planned her suicide by an overdose at a hotel, going as far as writing her suicide note until a friend called, accidentally saving her life.

Currently, Sia has since quit drinking and has been sober ever since.

5. Halsey

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school, Halsey has become a true mental health advocate, discussing her disorder in depth. 

She has repeatedly said that she tries to give insight into what it’s like to have bipolar disorder and how to support those who have it. Halsey even dedicated her album Manic to the person she was during a manic episode.

In her Artist Spotlight Stories interview, she said she’d made peace with her mania while working on the project with her album. To quote Halsey:

“When I’m manic, it’s also when I make my best art when I’m most compassionate. It’s the version of me that has given me everything that I have, so part of this recording process was writing her [her manic self] a love letter.”

6. Kendrick Lamar

Much like Mac Miller, the street poet Kendrick Lamar talks about his mental illness in his music much more frequently than in interviews.

One of the strongest depictions of Lamar’s struggles was the song “U,” which details his self-deprecating and suicidal internal monologue.

The song ends with the iconic lyric, “And if I told your secrets, the world will know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness,” which was one of the many sentences that started the conversation about Lamar’s alter ego Kung Fu Kenny and about mental health in the black community.

Kendrick mentioned in an interview with MTV that he “pulled that song [“U”] not only from previous experiences, I think my whole life.”

7. Zayn Malik

Another star who has openly discussed his mental illness is Zayn Malik, British singer and former member of One Direction.

In 2016, Zayn pulled out of multiple shows. He then apologized to his fans on Twitter, stating that he’d been struggling with anxiety:

“Unfortunately, the anxiety that has haunted me throughout the last few months around live performances has gotten the better of me. With the magnitude of the event, I’ve suffered the worst anxiety of my career.”

He later said he was done with sugarcoating his mental illness in statements and that he wanted to tell the truth about his anxiety.

Zayn also discussed his struggle with self-esteem issues and eating disorders and how stepping back from the limelight and going home to his parents helped him cope better.

8. Beyonće

Our Queen B also had her fair share of struggles with mental illness. From generational trauma to body-shaming, Beyoncé has worked through a lot in her 40 years.

“I remember when I started hearing people criticize me after I had put on some weight. I was 19,” she said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

She further said that the comments upset her but one day, she took it upon herself not to feel sorry about herself, prompting her to write her hit song “Bootylicious.”

In a recent interview, Beyoncé also opened up about her journey of being the cycle breaker in their family’s struggle with generational trauma. She also mentioned that being a mother, it’s important to begin her healing and to teach her children self-care while still honoring her family.

9. Zendaya

In 2017, Zendaya shared on her website that she’d been struggling with anxiety and stage fright specific to singing live since her live performance on Ellen’s Show in 2013.

Due to a technical issue, Zendaya wasn’t able to hear anything through her earpiece, which negatively impacted her performance. This was one of her first live performances ever, and it stayed with her for years.

After that, Zendaya coped with her anxiety by distancing herself from singing and focusing more of her energy on making movies. She also took her time to rebuild her confidence before going back to performing live.

Following the pandemic, Zendaya also mentioned that she’d been going to therapy, having experienced bouts of depression for the first time.

10. Billie Eilish

To older generations, Billie Eilish may represent modern-day teen angst, but as she aptly put it, she wishes that her songs that talk about being depressed and suicidal can be somewhat comforting to younger listeners, as it makes them feel less alone in their struggles.

Billie’s openness with her mental illness with depression, body dysmorphia, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts can be viewed as one of the many reasons why 37% of Gen Z are getting therapy, more than any other generation.

Billie’s Grammy-hoarding discography touches on depression, addiction, sleep disorders, sexual abuse, and even toxic social media, just to name a few.

11. Kid Cudi

In 2016, Kid Cudi finally opened up about his mental illness after admitting himself to rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. 

In a Facebook post that same year, Cudi opened up about his battle with anxiety and depression to his fans, saying that it has been affecting him nearly all his life. Seeking help, he adds, is his way of getting peace and reclaiming his happiness.

He also said in an interview that he hopes that his music can make a difference to people who are struggling:

“I turn my pain into music, And my music is how I am different. And my difference is my power.” 

12. Jay-Z

Like his wife, Beyoncé, rapper Jay-Z is also open about his mental health struggles. His album 4:44 alluded to the fact that he’s also been doing his inner work and getting therapy.

In an interview, he talked about the stigma surrounding therapy and joked about how the black community is more scared of therapists than the police. 

The American icon also stated that he thinks therapy should be provided in schools as “children have the most going out” with no language and proper guidance to navigate it in a healthy way.

Wrapping Our List Of Well-Known Musicians Who Are Open With Their Mental Health

It’s easy to forget that mental illness is a problem everyone will eventually have to face, rich or poor, successful or struggling. 

When you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, it can be crippling, and it often feels like there’s something wrong with you as a person.

Mental health isn’t connected to material success but the impact our life experiences have on us. Musicians and many others speak through their art and their platform to remind us that it’s okay to take a step back and ask for help when dealing with that impact. 

As Zendaya, Halsey, Ariana, and many more have said, doing therapy puts you on a path of self-compassion, healing, and empowerment.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.