Metal and your mental health

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about metal is it screws kids up, or makes them delinquents.

What people don’t understand is kids that are already troubled to begin with often turn to aggressive music to help them cope.

If you check Metallica’s fan club magazine, So What!, KJ Doughton just wrote a terrific artile on this subject, “Of Sound Mind and Body,” where he spoke to several mental health patients and Iraq vets dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. 

Metal is very big among our armed forces, and someone I knew who served in Vietnam told me Black Sabbath were very popular with the Airborne division.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was also interviewed for this story about how extreme music helped me through some rough times myself. Putting on Slayer’s “Reign In Blood,” or any other speed / thrash / hardcore album I loved back in the day, you could indeed tell the music was an outlet for the bands themselves, and it always made me feel I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. It was also a healthy outlet to get your anger out through a pissed off album, instead of hurting yourself or someone else.

As Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman told MTV in 1986, “If you’re living a nice life style and you have no problems and you put on our record, you won’t get it (laughs). You gotta have some problems.” And as Slayer lead singer  / bassist Tom Araya told Music Connection the same year, “I know our music has the tendency to incite people to riot, but that’s not done intentionally. I use the music as a release too. Have you ever heard me sing?”

Many of us have albums that feel like we could have written them ourselves, or that somehow our thoughts were stolen and put into the songs. Maybe I couldn’t relate to everything on Pink Floyd’s The Wall lyrically, but I absolutely felt the alienation and hurt on that album, as have millions of others, which is why it’s one of the biggest selling albums of all time, and has stood the test of time over thirty years after it was released.

Some artists blow off the idea that their music can save somebody’s life, telling their fans they really saved themselves, but music may have saved the musician’s lives as well. No band can wave a magic wand and completely transform our lives, but even if they’re getting us through, or making our quality of life better, they’re doing a hell of a lot already.