Billie Eilish Normalizes Mental Health in Pop Culture

Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen—what do all these pop stars have in common? They’ve all publicly struggled with their inner demons.

Mary-Kate Olsen was mocked about her eating disorder and substance abuse. The media still loves to bring up Lindsay Lohan’s constant ups and downs with substance abuse. And no millennial will ever forget that fateful moment when Britney Spears snapped and shaved her head. And we’re still concerned today, as interest in the fan gossip #freebritney movement shows.

As a maturing millennial, I understand the role mental health played in these stars’ public breakdowns. The press framed their behavior as famous people acting badly and ignored the root causes of the bad behavior, subtly reinforcing the stigma keeping mental health battles in the dark. Today, there’s a growing realization that we need to normalize talking about mental health struggles.

Cue Billie Eilish.

Eilish’s music has been called goth pop, sad teen, misery music and has even been accused of encouraging suicidal thoughts. But that’s not what the 17-year-old super star says her music is about at all.

Billie Eilish on Mental Health for ‘Seize The Awkward’

Eilish has openly addressed her struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts and body dysmorphia in her music and interviews.

Take her song “Bury a Friend.” The song is dark and ominous, accompanied by a video directed by horror movie director Michael Chaves (The Conjuring/La Llorona). Eilish plays a demon under a bed, with gruesome scenes depicting possible suicide attemps with lyrics that repeat “I wanna end me.” The message is clear: Eilish is her own demon and life is a constant battle with herself.

Billie Eilish, “Bury a Friend”

In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 24. It’s refreshing to see a pop star willing to face an issue calling out for attention.

Hiding celebrity mental illnesses has been going on for years. No one talked about Billie Holiday’s heroin addiction until after her multiple arrests. And even then the media portrayed her as the bad guy instead of the victim. Consider the ‘70s. A healthier conversation about mental health would have helped Karen Carpenter face her family’s emotional abuse and her battle with anorexia.

Eilish isn’t instigating any “sad teen” trends or encouraging kids to be depressed. She’s singing about what teenagers everywhere go through. She’s one of the biggest and youngest celebrity advocates for mental health in today’s society. Finally, teenagers don’t have to feel like they need to hide their inner struggles or that they must go through everything alone.