Grunge and depression (+How the idols die)

In this article, it will discuss the relationship between grunge music and depression. It will explain what is the grunge movement, what could be the cause behind so many suicide cases in the grunge world, and how depression is seen in that environment. 

The article will also discuss what is suicide ideation and what are the warning signs to be aware that someone is contemplating suicide.

What is grunge?

Grunge is an alternative rock genre of music that was popular in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Its most popular place was Seattle, in the USA, a city that saw many grunge bands forms, such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains

Grunge and Depression: Understanding the relation

There are many grunge stories affected by depression and suicide. Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, are all victims of suicide or the abuse of drugs and alcohol. What was, back then, seen as a heroic thing, part of a culture to idealize those who died young. Nowadays it is in discussion as to how people didn’t realize that those people were in so much pain?

They were part of great bands, part of a movement that impacted the whole world, that had its influence not only in the music industry but also in fashion and behavior. 

But their songs, which usually were about teenage depression, detachment from reality, social alienation, and the lack of identification with the politics around them, showed the view of the world they had, and that what nowadays we understand as depression was part of it.

Something that from a distance can be so obvious now, but back in the 1980s and 1990s wasn’t. Back then people weren’t even allowed to talk about mental health. Those words, which sounded so distant, were a prohibited theme. 

Very little was explained to teenagers and young people. When their idols died of an overdose or committed suicide, there was no discussion as to what could have been done to prevent it, or how to raise awareness.

And now, with all the information that is out there, depression and suicide continue to grow in our society. And that leaves us to wonder if we are talking about this enough, or if there is still more to be done?

And it is also a question if those great artists had been more aware of what mental health, depression, and suicide are, could it have made a difference?

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that is usually described as an intense sense of sadness. But not only that, depression gives the person a sense of emptiness, hopelessness, a decreased sense of self-worth, and diminished self-esteem.

Depression affects, nowadays, 5% of the world population and it is more common than women to develop depression. But it is something that can happen to anyone, at any moment in their lives.

Some factors might make a person more susceptible to depression. It can be that they had a family member with depression, and that can make it easier for them to develop it. A person that is experiencing a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, also has a greater chance to develop depression.

Depression can also be related to an imbalance in a person’s brain chemistry, and if a person has gone through one depressive episode before, they have a higher chance to develop it again.

Although everyone will feel depression differently, a person can be considered depressed when they feel its symptoms intensely for two weeks. The most common symptoms of depression are:

  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Change in eating pattern
  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of ability to focus
  • Isolation
  • Lack of pleasure in activities that the person used to like
  • Pains and headaches
  • Irritability
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive cry or inability to cry even when a person feels like it
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of death and suicidal thoughts

How to help someone through depression?

When you realize a friend is going through depression some things can be done as a way of helping. The first thing is to have an honest conversation about it. It might be that they will talk about how they feel, but they won’t want advice, and that is an important thing to remember. 

Although you might want to help, your friend is going through something that they don’t understand. Be supportive during this conversation and let them know you are there.

It might be a time to suggest they look for help, and you might even help them find it. Share your concerns, and that you think depression tends to get better when they are in treatment. 

Once they start treatment, it doesn’t mean they will get better right away. So keep close and offer help with everyday tasks. Sometimes even those can be extremely difficult for people with depression. 

And invite them to do things, but keep loose dates in those invitations. Understand that not every day is the same in the life of a person with depression and that they can join you when they want.

With all that, try to take care of yourself as well. Remember that your mental health also needs care and dealing with all this can be overwhelming, so allow yourself some relaxing time as well.

With all this, dealing with depression might not seem so lonely.

What is suicide ideation?

Suicide ideation, known popularly as suicidal thought, can take many forms. It can be a fleeting thing, or it might be a persistent idea that can make a person start planning how to do it. Having those thoughts is a lonely moment, there is a lot of stigma around suicide, and people tend to avoid talking about it.

Suicidal thoughts can appear for many reasons. It can be caused by a mental illness, such as depression, or it might be a way out from a situation of intense suffering. Some people might not want to kill themselves, rather just want the pain to end. 

People who abuse alcohol and drugs also tend to contemplate suicide more often. And although it might be hard to understand when the suicidal thoughts start, it might be safe to safe that the triggering factors can be a sense of being overwhelmed.

When a person is considering suicide, they might give some signs so people around can pay attention to it. Those signs are:

  • Indicating they are feeling hopeless
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Extremely anxious or agitated
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Isolation
  • Concerns with violence and death
  • Giving away their belongings
  • Severe self-criticism

Observing a person with those signs might give you a notion that it is time to talk about it, and understand what moment of suicide ideation they are in. There are two moments, the moment of thinking about it, when there is no planning involved, it is mostly an idea that occurs.

But sometimes the person might be going from thought to action, and start planning how they would do it, that is a crisis moment, and this person should not be left alone, and it is important to look for professional help.

How to help someone who is contemplating suicide?

Once you are dealing with a family member or friend contemplating suicide, it all might feel overwhelming, and you might not know what to do. But some things can be done to try and help. 

The first thing is to talk openly and honestly about it. Breaking this barrier and acknowledging this is happening will allow your friend to share their thoughts. It can also help them feel connected to someone, and when people feel connected they tend to have less chance of attempting suicide.

Another important thing to do when someone close is considering suicide is to be present. This will also help in feeling connected to someone, and it will also make them feel less of a burden, this all can be important things to prevent suicide.

If you think your friend is going from suicidal thoughts to actions, it is important to keep them safe. They must not be left alone, and things that they can use to harm themselves should be removed from their site, this way, if they have an impulse urge, they won’t have things close.

And the final, but one of the most important things when dealing with someone contemplating suicide, is to try and make them understand that it is time to look for professional help. This will give them the support they need.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Are all grunge bands depressed?

Will listening to grunge music make me depressed? 

No, listening to grunge music won’t make you depressed, as long as you can differentiate the music from real life, it’s safe. But if you feel it might be getting too intense, it might be better to not expose yourself too much to it.

Every grunge band performer had depression?

It is not possible to say that all the grunge bands had performers with depression. We now know that back then people didn’t speak a lot about mental health, and many performers were in pain. But it is impossible to say if it was all of them.

Are all grunge songs depressive?

Although grunge songs usually have a tough connotation to them, they might not all be depressive. And even if one song triggers depressive feelings in one person, it might not happen the same way to another person. So it is important, when exposing yourself to things, to understand what triggers you.

Can being a fan of a grunge band show you are depressed?

No, being a fan of a band, liking their songs, even if they are about sad things, doesn’t make you depressed. You should be aware of the symptoms of depression and observe how you feel, so you can realize if you are depressed.

Was Kurt Cobain depressed?

Yes, it seems that Kurt Cobain was depressed. He had a tough life, he seemed very isolated from everyone, and even when he became famous it seems he still wasn’t fulfilled or found joy in what he was doing. So when looking at the main symptoms of depression, it seems he might have been depressed.


In this article, it was discussed how grunge music, depression, and suicide are linked. The article discussed why so many grunge icons suicide and with that, understand what is suicide ideation, and what are the warning signs to be aware that someone might be contemplating suicide.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write in the section below.


Harmer B, Lee S, Duong TVH, Saadabadi A. Suicidal Ideation. 2021 Aug 6. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 33351435.

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