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Music

The song Bruce Springsteen wrote about his mental health struggles

“I am the President; he is the Boss,” President Barack Obama remarked before awarding Bruce Springsteen the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. This tremendous praise is more than deserved for one of the most iconic musicians to have ever lived. Springsteen’s extraordinary life reads like a work of fiction and is one of many ups and downs, making him one of the most fascinating artists out there.

This extraordinary existence has led to a lyrical viscosity that is unrivalled. His stories depict the American condition through lived experience. His blue-collared, everyman essence is exemplified in how he sincerely reflects on real issues in his work; there’s no messing around. In interviews, he’s in his element and endears himself to people from every walk of life, confirming his position as the definitive man of the people.

Regardless of what chapter of his career you delve into, Springsteen’s music is always extracted directly from the core, whether that be the raw fire of 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. or 2020’s trip down memory lane, Letter To You. His work is as on the nose as anything out there, and that’s why so many people love him.

To conversate with Springsteen would surely be a life-affirming moment. He’s always espoused wisdom that makes us wonder if he’s really of this world at all. One area he particularly specialises in is that of mental health. The candour with which Springsteen discusses his personal struggles with mental health is nothing short of commendable. An open book, Springsteen’s thoughts in this area are a stark departure from the glossy self-help books you see ubiquitous today. 

It is critical as a society that we discuss mental health. A long stigmatised issue previously swept under the carpet, this reluctance to open up about our feelings has tragically been the cause of no end of pain. Everybody from every walk of life has been affected in some ways by the adverse effects of mental health issues. Whether you suffer for yourself, or a family member, friend, or struggling partner, mental health is crippling when left unchecked. 

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So this is why, when someone of the status of Springsteen discusses the topic, it helps to shift attitudes and bring about change, even if it is only incremental.

Of his own experiences, Springsteen told PBS News Hour: “I realised that the only time I felt complete and peaceful was while I was playing or shortly afterwards. It was the first way that I medicated myself, so I always went back to it. The root of that determination came out of a hunger to find a safe and peaceful place, even though it was in front of thousands of other people, which most people wouldn’t consider to be a safe place.”

Given that the desire to escape from his trauma is what underpins Springsteen making music, there’s no surprise that his mental health struggles have permeated his work. The most notable example where Springsteen used music as a means for healing was the openly named ‘This Depression’, from 2012’s Wrecking Ball

On the track, which is a languid anthem, and an ode to all those suffering, Springsteen speaks for all of us in asserting that the love of someone, be it familial or romantic, is key to helping alleviate the burden of mental health issues. In this case, it was an economic loss that accounted for the bout of depression, but despite this, Springsteen’s chorus is universal in its message: “This is my confession, I need your heart, in this depression”. 

A triumphant sedative to mental health issues, ‘This Depression’ will have you snatching for the nearest box of tissues.

Listen to the song below.