How MXMS Is Starting the Mental Health Conversation Through Music
One in four Americans are affected by mental health issues—including super famous stars like Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga, who’ve both been bravely vocal about their struggles. But not-so-glamorous stuff like depression and anxiety is usually brushed aside, especially for those in the spotlight. This is why it’s all the more powerful that LA duo MXMS brings these issues out into the open with their new single “RX.” Born out of frontwoman Ariel Levitan’s own experience with depression, the lush pop track aims to get people talking about mental illness. “The truth is there are millions and millions of people who feel like they’re alone, but they’re not,” she explained. “You can get through it together." Watch the exclusive video and track premiere here (!), then find out Ariel's inspiration behind the song.
Can you tell us about writing "RX"?
“RX” is autobiographical. It’s basically a reflection of what I’ve gone through personally within the last 20 years of my life. I’m in love with the song because it’s so raw and uncensored and it’s completely from the heart. The idea of over medication and mental health is one that’s still so taboo—even in 2016—and with the stuff that’s going on with our generation right now. I wanted to express the sentiments you feel through all stages of mental health issues. You know, the emotional aspects of depression: Feeling numb, side effects, seeking a safe haven.
Why do you think that even today it’s still so taboo?
I think it stems from parents, who grew up in times where psychiatric medicine was unknown. But also, the world of psychiatry is still very much a trial and error system. To me, it feels like an antiquated field.
How do you think social media impacts mental health (whether positively or negatively)?
From 1998 to 2008, there was a 400% increase in Americans who went on antidepressants. I do believe that the presence of social media can influence millions of people, either positively or negatively. Especially when you have celebrities like Kylie Jenner, you can use your audience as a platform to empower, or to promote unrealistic standards. Now you don’t even have to be face to face to bully someone. My younger sister is affected by cyberbullying—she was a happy kid who was born with no chemical imbalance and has since struggled with being bullied online. I believe it’s had a tremendous amount of impact for young girls growing up today.
What advice do you have for girls dealing with their own mental health struggles?
It’s OK to seek additional help beyond traditional talk therapy. I would love for that stigma to be lessened over the next few years. Here’s the thing: When you have a broken leg, you get a cast. But if you’re a 14-year-old girl who’s going through mental health issues where the symptoms aren't so obvious, it can be terrifying.
How does music help you deal with symptoms?
I started experiencing symptoms of depression when I was really young, like 8 or 9. When I was that young, I didn’t know why I would be able to sort of refocus myself whenever I put music on. But as I got older, I began to subconsciously use music to help through singing. The stage was the one place where I was free of all of that; there was no anxiety, no depression, it was all about the music.
Now that you've heard Ariel's story, watch the song and video premiere here.