No Rolling Stone, we can’t just “chill out”


Help me, can’t somebody help me? asks Canadian singer-song writer Sean Mendes in his gorgeous, Grammy nominated song In My Blood.

The song is a powerful anthem to anxiety, that modern affliction that affects so many: Mendes says he shared his story publicly to help others.

Last month, Mendes appeared on the much-coveted cover of the Rolling Stone. The interview focused almost exclusively on how he copes (or doesn’t) with anxiety and celebrity. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to be “edgy,” the story portrays Mendes as a self-absorbed pop star who should “just chill out.” (Tell that to the 200+ million people who have viewed the song on YouTube).

Rolling Stone. You just don’t get it.

Anxiety is not caused by being too sensitive. It doesn’t mean you aren’t strong enough or tough enough. It can’t be cured by “chilling out.” Severe anxiety is a serious mental illness, and the leading mental health challenge facing youth today. People with anxiety are incredibly resilient, and none more so than Mendes who at the age of twenty has achieved international success (and a Grammy nomination).
Articles like this are why so many people suffer in silence: don’t encourage people to talk about it, then tell them to put up or shut up.

Mendes didn’t love the story either. Here’s what he said on Instagram:


Whether you like the song or not (and I love it), In My Blood is spot-on about anxiety.
Lyrics like this — “can’t breathe”, “walls are caving in” and “I’m crawling in my skin” —  describe perfectly any anxiety attack I’ve ever had.

Anxiety hurts. The pain is real–in your body and your mind.

With all that, the song is ultimately hopeful and empowering. Mendes “feels like giving up” but he doesn’t. “It isn’t in my blood”, which I take to mean he’s not defined by it and is able to manage it. Getting help (not suffering in silence) is an important part of his message:

“People forget how important it is to talk to your family and to talk to your friends about what’s going on in your life, because the more you tell people how you feel, the more you understand how you feel and you have more control of your emotions.” (The Sun, April 19, 2018)

Mendes believes that “what helps” is different for everybody. And for many fans, listening to his music is what helps.

That’s the great thing about music. It carries us though hard times. It helps us feel less alone. It literally lifts us up when we’re feeling down.

In the old days, we called songs like In My Blood “music with a message.” These days, we need it more than ever.




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