20 Musicians You May Not Know Live with Bipolar Disorder
These performance artists are sharing their experiences with bipolar disorder and the intersection of music to promote greater awareness of mental health issues.
The accomplished singer Mariah Carey shared with People magazine that she has been living secretly with a bipolar II diagnosis for two decades, and she’s now undergoing therapy and taking medication for bipolar. She expressed, “I lived in denial and isolation for years and finally sought treatment after a series of professional and romantic problems arose. I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating.” In 2022, Carey released an expanded version of her album Butterfly, on its 25th anniversary.
The Grammy-winning frontman for the hard-rock bands Creed and Art of Anarchy, Scott Stapp, experienced a public breakdown marked by mania with incidents of paranoia and delusional behavior. At the time, he attributed the incident to an interaction between his antidepressants and an “unprescribed medication.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Stapp talked about bipolar, stating, “It’s hard to understand… a disease that you can’t see physically. There’s no cast. There’s no wheelchair, but it’s debilitating. It can destroy your life because it’s hard to understand.” Stapp has also taken on the role of Frank Sinatra in the upcoming biopic Reagan.
The popular singer-songwriter Halsey received a bipolar disorder diagnosis at the age of 17. She has been hospitalized twice due to bipolar mood episodes and is now regarded as a reluctant role model who advocates for treating people with mental health conditions respectfully. Halsey mentioned, “The thing about having bipolar disorder, for me, is that I’m really empathetic…. I feel everything around me so much.” She discussed this in an interview with Elle magazine. In January 2020, she released her album Manic, and in the following summer, she gave birth to her son.
Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler is known for her unconventional ways of concealing her face, such as wigs, masks, and paint, during performances. However, she has now become very public about her diagnosis and has openly discussed living with bipolar disorder and battling addictions. Sia, who has been praised as a “genius” by artists like Beyoncé, for whom she has written song lyrics, is best known for her mega-hit “Chandelier” and the music video that garnered billions of views on YouTube. Remarkably, she has achieved all of this while managing bipolar disorder, addiction, and an intense focus on self-image and dieting. Sia attributes her stability to medication, therapy, and 12-Step programs. In 2021, she co-wrote and directed a musical drama titled Music.
Best recognized as the bassist, vocalist, and lyricist for the rock band Fall Out Boy, Pete Wentz has been open about his struggles with bipolar disorder. He dispelled the misconception that there is a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for the illness, saying, “I think the idea there is a one-size-fits-all [treatment plan] is one of those myths. Everyone figures themselves out in a different way. There’s no shame in talking about [bipolar].”
At the age of 73, the celebrated jazz musician, tenor saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Odean Pope publicly disclosed that he has been contending with bipolar disorder for 30 years. His intention was to help others by sharing his journey, saying, “I had finally realized that through the proper diagnosis and the proper medication, [it] can be controlled. And for those of you who might be struggling with this, there’s nothing to be ashamed of—it’s an illness and it can be controlled.” Remarkably, Odean Pope, now in his eighties, continues to tour.
In early 2020, Selena Gomez quietly but candidly revealed her bipolar diagnosis during an appearance on fellow celebrity Miley Cyrus’s Instagram talk show, “Bright Minded: Live.” The pop sensation has consistently been open about sharing her health conditions, whether mental or physical, with her fans. However, this latest update was an unexpected and powerful declaration. Once diagnosed, Gomez stated that she sought knowledge about the condition to reduce her fears, and she emphasized that this knowledge “empowers” her rather than holding her back. In late 2022, Gomez announced her collaboration with politician Stacey Abrams to produce a music documentary celebrating female musicians, titled Won’t Be Silent.
Canadian musician, producer, and four-time Juno Award winner Matthew Good received a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder many years ago. Before this diagnosis, Good described experiencing a manic depressive episode in vivid terms, saying, “At the best, imagine the thing you fear worst, imagine being shoved in a coffin with it and then buried underground and then having that coffin start shrinking. At its worst, imagine that, times a thousand.” His most recent album, Moving Walls, was released in 2020.
Grammy-nominated singer Bebe Rexha announced her bipolar diagnosis to her 1.6 million Twitter followers in April 2019 and received an overwhelmingly positive response from her fans. She boldly stated, “I’m bipolar and I’m not ashamed anymore.” While Bebe Rexha acknowledges that the stigma surrounding mental health conditions is on the decline, she recognizes that the same is not true for bipolar disorder, which can often be referred to derogatorily. She asserted, “I won’t allow it to label me. It’s something that I’m going through, but it’s not me,” in an interview with Self magazine.
The former frontman of the new wave group Adam and the Ants disclosed that after nearly 20 years of touring and attempting to maintain his position as a top performer, he finally started taking medication and addressing his bipolar disorder. Adam Ant told Rolling Stone, “The whole subject of bipolar disorder is in its infancy in terms of the public being aware of it as an illness and not a disease, and not a kind of terminal thing where you have to feel shame.” Adam Ant is scheduled to be one of the headliners at the Cruel World Festival in the summer of 2023.
American indie singer-songwriter and author Kristin Hersh formed rock bands Throwing Muses and 50FootWave and also pursued solo projects. She is renowned for her stream-of-consciousness songwriting style. Reflecting on her early work, Hersh explained to the Guardian, “I let bipolar disorder color those songs. Their angry, edgy nature reflected the sound inside my head.” She also credited acupuncture with eliminating her bipolar symptoms. Throwing Muses released their tenth album, Sun Racket, in 2020.
The singer-songwriter was a founding member and lead singer of Barenaked Ladies, but he departed from the group in 2009 to pursue solo projects. Page publicly revealed his bipolar diagnosis in 2011 and acknowledged going through “periods of self-medicating in order to relieve the symptoms.” In 2020, he co-wrote the musical Here’s What It Takes for the Stratford Festival in Canada, and in 2022, he released his album Excelsior.
The late country singer and icon Charley Pride received a bipolar diagnosis back in 1968. His story was featured in a PBS American Masters documentary titled Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, which aired in February 2019. The documentary chronicles Pride’s journey from working in the Mississippi cotton fields to his enshrinement in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Charley Pride passed away in December 2020 at the age of 86.
The award-winning, platinum-selling recording artist and mental health advocate, Demi Lovato, got her bipolar management back on track after experiencing a relapse in 2018. She emphasized the importance of staying on her medications and attending AA meetings, saying, “I make sure I stay on my medications. I go to AA meetings. I do what I can physically….” In March 2020, she released “I Love Me,” which reached No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart the week of its release. During the pandemic, Demi Lovato was among the artists filming mini-concerts in 360° for viewing with virtual-reality headsets, and her performance can be viewed on ceek.com. Her seventh studio album, “Dancing with the Devil … The Art of Starting Over,” was released in April 2021, followed by “Holy Fvck” in August 2022.
Max Bemis, the lead singer and guitarist for the band Say Anything, publicly revealed his bipolar diagnosis in 2014 and incorporated the topic into many of his songs. It took him three years to accept his diagnosis, and he offers this advice to others: “You’re not alone… there are so many cool people with these issues. These issues make you cool in your own way.” Bemis is also a comic-book writer, most recently with Marvel Comics. Earlier, he penned a four-part series, “Polarity,” which tells the story of a hero with bipolar disorder. His band’s eighth studio album, “Oliver Appropriate,” was released in 2019.
A singer-songwriter, poet, and spoken-word artist, Mary Lambert even sings about bipolar disorder, as seen in the lyrics “I’ve got bi-polar disorder / my s—’s not in order.” Speaking about her journey toward self-care, she shared with bp Magazine, “I started working on what was necessary for me to function and feel better…. I’m really grateful for that time, which is when I also stopped smoking and learned how to eat better.” She referred to her 2019 album, “Grief Creature,” as an “ode to mental illness.” In 2021, she made her acting debut in “Arlo the Alligator Boy,” an animated musical film.
Furstenfeld is best known as the lead singer-songwriter of the alt-rock band Blue October, but he also channels his creativity into painting, writing, collaborating with other performers—such as with Harvard of the South—and pursuing solo projects. When he performs solo, Furstenfeld goes by “5591,” which he reports as his identification number at an inpatient facility. Blue October’s tenth studio album, “This Is What I Live For,” was released in October 2020. He made his film debut in 2022, playing the character Ajax Abernathy in “Section Eight.”
Craig Owens, the former lead vocalist of Chiodos who now fronts Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (D.R.U.G.S.), publicly disclosed his battle with manic depression, bipolar disorder, and constant anxiety attacks in a statement in 2008. He wrote, “Why did this happen?… I have been battling with manic depression, bipolar disorder, and constant anxiety attacks for years.” He credited his survival and strength to the support of his family, friends, and fans, as well as therapy. In the summer of 2022, D.R.U.G.S. released their second studio album, “Destroy Rebuild.”
This Grammy-nominated blues/soul/gospel musician has been described as one of the best female vocalists that many people have never heard of. After revealing her bipolar diagnosis, she went on to release her most recent album, “War in My Mind.” She explained, “I’ve come a long way with healing, and I’m comfortable with my darknesses, weirdnesses, and things that I’m ashamed of—as well as all the things that make me feel good.” In 2022, Hart released a collection of covers of Led Zeppelin songs, “A Tribute to Led Zeppelin.”
Davies is best known as the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the English group the Kinks and is now a solo artist. According to the biography “Ray Davies: A Complicated Life” by Johnny Rogan, Davies received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1973. His last album, “Our Country: Americana Act II,” was released in 2018.