Newby: Mac Miller’s music brought light to mental health

In the aftermath of 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller’s death, conversations flanking mental health and music are crowding social media outlets.



Malcolm James McCormick, AKA Mac Miller, onstage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on April 14, 2017. Miller was found dead inside his LA home Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Taylor Newby, Opinion Columnist

With each break in the day — whether shuffling between classes, gliding through hopeless amounts of construction, caught in the traffic that’s clogging all of Dubuque Street — there is music. With it often comes the transition from one place to the next or strapping down with determination to get some work done, music comes with purpose.

And the message that wafts through speakers and headphones alike, managing to move with deep-rooted meaning, catches audiences in the middle of crowded schedules and the realness of life.

In the rumbling aftermath of 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller’s death, conversations about mental health and music are crowding social-media outlets. They offer sidebars in lecture rooms, and give room to the devastating grief that tears through us in the wake of loss, depression, and substance abuse.

Nearly 332 million people across the world battle major depressive disorder a year, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And approximately 16.1 million people of that overwhelming number live in the United States. Among those grappling with the grief of this disorder was Miller.

Where most struggles with substance abuse and depression disorder are kept quiet and tucked well away from the spotlight, Miller was upfront in his battle and had a knack for making people feel less alone in their own fights.

The lyrics throughout his albums, strung together with songs of meaning, offer his own stories of his struggle with both mental health and substance-abuse scattered throughout. In one song on his most recent album, Swimming, released just a month before his death, Miller says, “I just need a way out of my head. I’ll do anything for a way out of my head.”

The point of Miller’s music wasn’t to merely entertain, it was to bring his listeners into the experience of his life — whether that be the devastation that he faced in battling depression, the addiction he grappled with for several years, or the affection he had for his friends and family. Miller was intentional in sharing both the good and gory parts of his life, and it made a difference for the audiences he was reaching.

What Miller left behind was irreplaceable: an opportunity for conversation.

“Somehow, we gotta find a way,” Miller says in another song on Swimming. “No matter how many miles it takes, somehow we gotta find a way.”

In an interview with Craig Jenkins of  The New Yorker, Miller was encouraging in his experiences with both mental health and substance-abuse, owning his actions from this previous spring regarding his DUI arrest, and offering insight on his current state. And in reflection of Swimming–, Miller explained that he was finally making the music he’d always wanted to make.

The interview was published the day before his death, apparently from an overdose. The grief that gripped his community after his death was immeasurable. Miller’s music remains as a testimony to the internal battle he fought.

What Miller left behind was irreplaceable: an opportunity for conversation. He left light on the discussion of mental health, and that is a conversation that we should continue carrying on.

And so, in the wake of the grief that grips us and the small in-betweens this life offers, we are reminded in music that has been used as a platform for both praise and pain, that we are not alone.