ADHD? Dyslexia? Anxiety? Hey, who don’t got hang ups?


Bad news/good news: Generation Z is stressed out, and they’re not hiding it.

Anxiety and learning disabilities rank as the two top disabilities by Canadian youth, and it’s showing up in their music.

Two Canadian musicians, Sean Mendes and Scott Helman, are leading a brave new wave of musicians who not only describe what’s going on in their heads–but name it.

Sean Mendes’ huge song, In My Blood, is an to anthem to anxiety.

Scott Helman’s new song Hang Ups is inspired by ADHD — which he describes in his lyrics as that “bad connection between my mind and my mouth, with the right intentions all the wrong came out.”

Helman says the song explores how ADHD affects his thoughts, actions and relationships (namely with his girlfriend):

“As someone with ADHD, I usually have 800 things going on in my brain at once. With the song, wanted to paint a picture of the feeling after a conversation where everything comes out wrong.”

Now on constant replay on the radio and in my head, Hang Ups speaks to anyone who has learning and attention issues–and if you believe the statistics, it’s a lot of people.

Take a listen (if you haven’t already!).


My generation (X) had its fair share of angst-ridden music. I spent a lot of time listening to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts in my early university years.

Helman was inspired by Kurt Cobain’s music, and I can hear that angst in his music as he pleads “please don’t turn the pain up.”

But what comes next isn’t something you’d here in a Nirvana song: “I just need you, just need you to talk to.”

Today’s twenty-something-and-under music feels different; it’s not saccharine by any means, but it’s not hide-out-in-your-parent’s-basement-and-brood-type-of-music either.

It feels so much healthier, and this may also be borne out by statistics. The studies that show high rates of anxiety in gen Z are also finding that “despite high levels of stress and frustration with the national and political climate, 75% of all respondents said they feel hopeful about their future.”

Scott Helman, music, writing and ADHD

In a 2017 interview with Owen Maxwell in Ottawa Life, Helman says music “was so important because I didn’t have a thing, I wasn’t a sporty kid and I couldn’t focus in school because I have ADHD.”

Helmen went to Claude Watson School for the Arts, a publically-funded school for the arts in Toronto, Ontario. In 2017, he wrote a fantastic letter to the Toronto District School Board in response to proposed cuts to arts schools and programs. In the letter, he says that the school helped his music career, and asks the school board to expand, not cut them: “My career as a recording artist is undeniably connected to my experience at Claude Watson.”

About writing as an outlet for all those ideas and emotions running around in his head and body (I can relate…) he says:

“My ADHD is a huge component of my music, a lot of the times I’ll just start rambling and an idea will come to me. There’s no lack of stuff, it’s more organization of it all. It’s not even that you don’t have the ability to focus, but that your focus is super saturated on specific things. I feel like I’m right there when I’m song writing, it’s very therapeutic. I write about my life so this is a part of my life.” (Source: Maxwell, Ottawa Life)

Helman says he’s learned to accept his ADHD: “You can love some one but 15% percent of the time they really get on your nerves, but I don’t really mind I love who I am.” (Source: Maxwell, Ottawa Life).

“Loving yourself” has a become a bit of a meme, hasn’t it? Something you find in the self-help aisle of the book store.

But this is different. This generation is empowered with knowledge in a way mine never was. I sense a real shift away from being a victim of a learning, attention or mental health issue, to being a self-confident, self-aware, self-accepting, self-advocate.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have any way to name or understand what was going on in my head. I wasn’t nearly as self-aware. I don’t think that was a good thing. It was crazy in the making.

Looking to my own daughter and her friends, I see that Gen Zers aren’t hiding their brain differences, but they aren’t defined by them either. Not only that, they’re using their voice to create a safe space for others to get help, and without shame.

After all, “who don’t got hang ups?”


Attitude, Inside the ADHD mind (website)

Understanding ADHD (Understood website)

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