Happy family


Noah Kahan on Mental Health and Therapy   

noah kahan anxiety and depression

If you are from New England, active on TikTok, a fan of folk music, or if you watched the 2024 Grammy Awards, you’re likely familiar with Noah Kahan. Noah Kahan is a rising star who, in 2022, captured the hearts of many listeners with his viral album, Stick Season. The singer-songwriter is from Vermont, but has already sold out arenas around the world. He landed a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2024, but he believes that music is only one part of his path. The artist has said:

“It’s the honor of my lifetime, and hopefully the most important thing I’ll ever do, is to get a chance to help people through their battle with mental illness.”

Noah Kahan released The Busyhead Project in May 2023 with the goal of helping people overcome their struggles with mental health, and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. “If I can help anyone get through their struggles, it will be the proudest achievement of my career.”

The musician even echoed these sentiments earlier this month, during his time on the red carpet at the 2024 Grammy Awards. “It’s my greatest priority to reduce the stigma around mental health, and hope that it reaches someone out there who doesn’t know how to ask for [help] yet.”

Noah Kahan’s Struggles with Mental Health

Noah Kahan has struggled with anxiety and depression for almost his entire life. As a child, he would experience episodes of depersonalization, which at the time felt like “this vivid sensation that I was exiting my body.” As long as he’s been struggling with his mental health, Noah Kahan has been open about it. Mental health was openly talked about in his home growing up, and this has translated into his career. He is using his platform to spread awareness about, and destigmatize, mental illness through ongoing conversations—on and off stage—and through his lyrics.

On Instagram (among many other places), Noah Kahan shares his story. “I can’t remember when it started, but I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression and mental health my entire life. I’ve been on medication since I was 13 or 14, on and off. I’ve been going to therapy since I was eight years old. And I was lucky and privileged enough to grow up in a family where mental health was always talked about and considered, and therapy was encouraged. It was just a dinner table conversation to talk about how we were feeling.” 

While these conversations helped a lot, Kahan still struggled daily. “I still felt alone and I felt confused about why I felt sad or scared,” he explains, but music helped ground him on his darker days. As he listened to others’ lyrics, he reflects on feeling “heard” and that he could “go through another day.” 

“When I had the opportunity to become a musician… and for my music to be heard by a lot of people, I made it my goal to do that for others if I can. To write lyrics that are honest about my challenges and hopefully help someone be honest about their own. Because I know I desperately needed that when I was a kid.”

Noah Kahan’s Journey in Therapy

On his viral track, “Stick Season,” Noah Kahan sings, “So I thought that if I piled something good on all my bad / That I could cancel out the darkness I inherited from dad.” 

Noah Kahan’s father also struggled with depression, and the artist partially attributes his struggles to genetics. However, he is also grateful for the openness his family had around the topic of mental health. His father and mother created a positive environment to talk about feelings and to ask for help. They encouraged him to attend counseling and therapy from an early age. Kahan recognizes his privilege in having this level of support at home—because, at the end of the day, not everyone does.

‍“As I get older, I’m so grateful for that dynamic in my family because I know so many people either can’t afford to go to therapy, weren’t allowed to go to therapy, or weren’t allowed to even talk about how they’re feeling with their parents, and maybe pushed those feelings inside.” 

Noah Kahan talked about his journey through therapy in depth with Sounds of Saving, a non-profit supporting music for mental health.

At first, in his small hometown in Vermont, Kahan explained he struggled to find therapy that met his needs. Part of this was due to a lack of accessibility, being in a rural area. However, the core reason was because he could not find unbiased therapy—in a town where “everyone knows everyone,” Kahan’s therapists often ended up being a parent of someone in his school, or a friend of a family member, and eventually, a fan of his music. 

Now, with a wider reach and telehealth sessions available, he’s finally found something that’s stuck. He’s also taken a newfound approach to therapy sessions—being honest and being vulnerable. In doing this, Kahan says he was able to find real happiness. He feels like a weight was lifted off of him.

As such, Kahan is now a major advocate for therapy. To one live audience, he said: “Even the happiest person in this audience should go to therapy if you can. It could save your life and fix your relationships and make you a better person. I recommend therapy to everybody.” 

Of course, Kahan recommends having an open and honest mind while attending. And he reinforces that, in order for therapy to be effective, you need to put in the work. “A therapist is great, but they’re only human and they can only really do as much as you’re willing to do yourself.” He added, “It’s a symbiotic relationship, you have to be willing to be vulnerable for them to help you navigate those insecurities.”

This is what saved him—being honest, being open to help, and making an ongoing commitment to his healing journey. In a powerful essay published by Time Magazine, Kahan wrote: “I returned to therapy and resumed taking medication. I regained control over my mental health and accepted that I would always have to be vigilant in watching for symptoms. I still felt anxious every day, but I learned how to work through the thoughts, to sift the rational from the far-fetched. I made an album that brought me so much creative joy that for the few weeks we worked on it, I felt like I was floating—but this time fully cemented in the reality of it all. I smiled and cried tears of joy and of sorrow for the years that I’d wasted running toward nothing. My album did well, and I eventually began touring again, this time maintaining my commitment to staying in therapy every week and taking medication that helped keep me grounded.”

Even the Most Successful People Can Struggle with Mental Illness

Noah Kahan has long struggled to accept himself, and in turn this prevented him from fully accepting (and celebrating) his successes. He always wanted more, as if his current successes were never enough. This was, until recently, when he recommitted to weekly therapy. 

“It’s really hard to let go of some of that and just be excited for myself,” Kahan said in his interview with Sounds of Saving. “Going to therapy has allowed me to be okay with knowing I feel that way, and with trying to make small changes to remind myself that I can be happy with where I am.” 

He continued, “I thought for years if I got a million streams on a song I would be happy, and then I got a million streams and I wanted 10 million, and then I got a billion and I still felt like shit. It doesn’t matter what level of external success you’re having. If you’re unhappy inside then you’re gonna be unhappy with everything.”

A message that is core to Noah Kahan, one that he wants his fan base and beyond to know, is that anyone and everyone can be afflicted by mental health. You can be number one on the Billboard charts, or topping the viral charts on Spotify, but still have internal demons that need to be addressed. He wants others to know that they are not alone. He, himself, has walked in similar shoes.

“An important thing for me to talk about is the privilege I had growing up in terms of being able to go to therapy, to be in a family that was open about mental health, to be in a good school system where people paid attention to me, and still to end up with these feelings in my adulthood that feel unresolved. I wanted to express that pain and mental illness don’t see boundaries of wealth or privilege, or circumstance or sexual orientation.” The musician feels that perspective is important, continuing, “I wanted to talk about what it was like to be here in a real way, and to be grappling with mental health even as I’ve had success in my career and opportunities in my life.”

The Busyhead Project

Noah Kahan established The Busyhead Project in 2023 to support organizations that provide mental health treatment to those struggling. The Busyhead Project is also aimed at improving access to treatment in underserved communities, ensuring people can reach the care they need. On top of these initiatives, Noah Kahan’s desire to diminish the stigma around mental illness is what is propelling The Busyhead Project forward.

At its start, Kahan aimed to raise $1 million to these causes. The foundation has since raised over $2 million between concert ticket proceeds and donations.

Do You Need Help with Your Mental Health?

Noah Kahan said it before, and we’ll say it again here: Anyone can benefit from going to therapy. However, if you are struggling on a daily basis with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, fear, panic, or any other symptoms of mental illness, we encourage you to seek help. If your loved one is struggling, we encourage you to intervene. Asking for help is not always easy, but it can be life-saving.

Too often, young people will turn to drugs or alcohol, or self-harming behaviors, to try and cope with undiagnosed mental health disorders. This can be dangerous and life-threatening. However, you do not need to reach a “breaking point” or “rock bottom” to start your therapy journey. Getting help now can allow you to get a grasp back on your life, find happiness and meaning, and prevent longer-term issues.

You are not alone.

Turnbridge is here for you. Turnbridge is a treatment center for adolescents and young adults struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. If you are unsure where to turn, but would like to speak with someone confidentially, we can guide you. Call 877-581-1793 today.