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5 Seconds of Summer’s Openness About Mental Health Is a Strength, Not a Weakness

Earlier this year I went to see the band 5 Seconds of Summer with my daughter. It was magic. We had the best time. We sang, danced, jumped, fangirled and had a ball.

My 12-year-old adores the band and has gotten me to love them too. It is such a joy having a daughter with good taste in music who helps you discover exciting new bands and feel a bit younger than your 46 years. 5SOS come from Australia and have been together since their school days, no “X-Factor” manufacturing involved. You may have heard some of their songs. Several have been in the charts, and they supported One Direction on a previous tour.  One of their songs has also just been used on the soundtrack of the new “Ghostbusters” film. Their music is a mix of feel good, upbeat rock such as “Hey Everybody,” and lyrical, sensitive emotional songs.

One of the reasons we love them is they are real role models. The song “Broken Home” relates to the experience of growing up in a broken family and dealing with the confusion of parents who no longer get on. “Jet Black Heart” is about the reality of being human and flawed. It talks to young people of the difficulty of emotions and of the reality of depression, isolation and low self-esteem. The video for the song is beautiful. The band invited fans to send them stories of their own struggles and created the video around those fans who have struggled but lived to tell the tale and recover.

These young men have done a huge amount to challenge the false stereotypical images of the music industry. They have shared themselves as humans, not idols or super humans, and encouraged their fans to do the same.

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So this article made me cross: “5 Seconds of Summer’s Calum Hood Looks Fit to Drop as Pressure Mounts.”

The article is written in such a way as to imply a weakness in the band and an impending split. Comparisons with One Direction and Zayn Malik are drawn and the scare-mongering tone is neither helpful, supportive, nor responsible. It criticizes bassist Calum, noting his exhaustion, suggesting he is on the edge of leaving the band, which misses the point of what this band is about. It goes on to suggest the drummer Ashton’s revelation of depression and guitarist Michael’s experience of anxiety and depression are weaknesses. In reality, all this reveals is the writer’s misunderstanding of mental health.

In fact, it is hugely positive that these artists are honest about what they have faced and about the fact that life, and true stardom, can continue in the face of mental health issues and difficulties. We need role models like this for our young people to keep challenging stigma. (I have written about this here.)

I hope Calum looks after himself and manages to enjoy the tour. I hope 5SOS keep going for as long as they can. But above all I hope that we can recognize and celebrate the huge achievements, musical and personal, of these wonderful, talented, honest and ultimately human stars.

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