Rock Therapy: "Mental Illness" with special interview with Kerry Courtney on writing this song

If you've experienced mental illness, or have a loved one who has, you'll appreciate this song "Mental Illness" written and sung by Kerry Courtney. I’ve been listening to this amazing song almost obsessively. I was so moved by it that I reached out and contacted the singer/songwriter, Kerry Courtney. Happily, he replied back. First, the song (lyrics below) and then our conversation.

Kerry Courtney in the intro said:
“This song's about mental disorders and just like anything like depression, or anxiety and bipolarness and just how like how you're not defined by your mental illness and you're a f-ing person. My name is Kerry. This song is called Mental Illness.”


You know I'll run away with you
We're tired of anything untrue
It feels like we'll never be "normal"
It's alright ‘cause we've never been "normal"

Mental illness lies within the soil of every mind.

Stars will guide us home, with the moon glow
Through the darkest storm, I will hold your hand
Love will carry on, I can feel your heart

Your sad eyes tell stories of your soul
Labeled by medicine takes it's toll

Mental illness hides through the soil of every mind.

Stars will guide us home, with the moon glow
Through the darkest storm, I will hold your hand
Love will carry on, I can feel your heart

Close your eyes to see… You used to shine so brilliantly.

You are not what they've said about you
That's not your worth and you don't deserve that
You used to shine so brilliantly
Like stars at night surround the sea

Stars will guide us home, with the moon glow
Through the darkest storm, I will hold your hand
Love will carry on, I can feel your heart
Love will carry on

The interview

Hi Kerry. I've been listening to your song Mental Illness on YouTube over and over. Wow! I am a therapist and mental health advocate. This song is amazing. Thank you for it.

It's so important to give voice to what is usually hidden in shame, exacerbated by ignorance, and obscured by stigma. And that is exactly what you've done--given a powerful, touching, empathic, comforting and hopeful voice to mental illness.

I'd like to feature your song in my blog Rock Therapy ( Would you be willing to share your thoughts on writing it, what inspired this, why this matters to you? If it's too private and none of my business, of course, I respect that and apologize for being too forward. If however, you would be willing to share your thoughts on this further I would welcome your thoughts or I would be happy to call you for an interview over the phone. Whatever would work best for you.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. And thank you SO much for this important song!


Kerry Courtney:
“Hey! Thank you so much for writing me. Seriously, your words mean a lot to me. I'm glad you were able to feel the song. That's a real important one to me! I'd love to chat or write about it to you.”

You're very welcome. You convey emotion and meaning very well. I only discovered you just recently through your “Black Sun” American Idol audition as I'm a Death Cab for Cutie fan. I've been enjoying getting to know your music and have been sharing it with my siblings and friends.

Thanks for the quick response and for your willingness to share! I'm sure you're very busy. Whichever would be best/easiest for you: Write your thoughts out about it or if a interview would be better. Either works for me. It can be as long or as short as you like--I don't have any expectations, just would love your take on it . I'm sure it will mean a lot and be helpful to my readers and those who have mental illness or have loved ones who do.

Thanks and best to you!

Kerry Courtney:
“It’s wild. Because I wrote ‘Mental Illness’ about some of the demons in my head, and more so for some very close friends that I was talking to that were dealing with things darker than I was at the time.

“A year after releasing that song, and having many folks reach out to me saying that ‘Mental illness’ has either saved them from suicide or just helped them feel more... human, I spiraled deeper into this darkness with demons I never imagined could be real. Feelings things I didn’t think existed. Lower than I thought low could go. It was in that place (that I still feel strongly now), even years later, that I heard my own song and it spoke to me. I realized the power in my own writing deeper than I ever have at that point. I remember thinking I wasn’t going to make it through... every day, and then... you do. And it’s meaningful that you did. And you exist. And everything around you exists. And it’s beautiful. And it’s ugly. And it’s dark. And it’s light. And it hurts you. And it soothes you. It’s all simultaneously so important. That song is about so much. It’s to say, ‘Hey, I’m f****’d up. And you’re f****’d up. But let’s try to help each other out as best as we can through this rock that we’re floating through in space.’”

Hey Kerry! I just got your message. What a wonderful surprise to wake up to this morning. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I’m so grateful you took the time. Love what you had to say—the background story, how your song helped others and even came full circle to help you.

What hit me the most was the line:

“And then... you do.”

That’s so great and so true. So spot on, simple, and profound. So much of my work with my clients is helping them hang in, hang on, get through until... they do. And they do! But believing they will ever get there is so hard for them. I tell them “it’s okay if you don’t believe in yourself or that life will get better—you can borrow my faith and hope in you until you get there. And you will get there. You will. I know you will.”

Thank you again for sharing that with me, my readers, and your fans. This song and your gift has giving a powerful voice and has saved and improved many lives. What a sacred gift you’ve given the world. I can’t think of anything more important than the end point you made: we’re all messed up, it’s okay, we’re here for each other. The word compassion comes from the Latin word “compati”, which means “to suffer with.” Your song is infused with the soul of compassion. You’re a good man.

Bless you and thank you again so very much!


This song has really touched people deeply. There are so many comments on YouTube attesting to that fact. Here are just a couple: Nat commented, “I am not defined by my mental Illness. No matter how many pills I have to take or how much it effect my decisions I will not let it. I am me. I am not my anxiety.” Further, Tristen shared, "I wanna sing it to my girlfriend :) She and I both have bipolar disorder. This song literally brings me to tears. And I would love to share the feeling of hope and relief this song gives me.”

I sent Kerry a follow-up message, “Hey :-) Just wanted to let you know that I’m sharing your song and video to start off my presentation on Youth Depression to a group of 50 or so teachers and parents at a PTA convention today (June 2017). Just wanted you to know and thank you again for such a stigma-breaking powerful message and beautiful song.”