Singer Meredith O’Connor Assembles Global Artists For Mental Illness Awareness Track “You Are Not Alone”

Over the last year with COVID-19 forcing many of us around the world to remain at home, and in some cases alone, mental health has become a focus of conversation everywhere. The global pandemic has brought to light a number of disparities and injustices that managed to stay under the radar, but more than ever we are seeing the importance of openly talking about issues such as mental illness.

According to recent data, around 1-in-7 people globally (11-18 percent) have experienced one or more mental illness. Given the known underreporting and poor data coverage of mental health across most countries (but especially within lower-income nations), this could be considered a minimum estimate.

During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019. While we as a society adjust to these drastic changes in our lives and collectively as a human race, there is also plenty of data to suggest that music can help treat mental illness.

With this in mind, the release of Anti-Bullying icon and singer Meredith O’Connor’s new song “You Are Not Alone” comes at a perfect time, and she assembled a star-studded global team of artists to collaborate with her and spread a message of love, positivity and healing. Meredith partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise funds for the non-profit during this crucial time. With some of the biggest names from K-Pop, to Bollywood, Afropop, and more, celebrities from all over the world unite to raise funds and awareness to mental health through the messaging of the song. 

We spoke with the singer about her new campaign, and why it was important for her to put her artistic talents to good use during the pandemic.

How did the idea for “You Are Not Alone” initially come about? 

The idea for this campaign is actually years old, inspired both by how alone I felt undergoing bullying, OCD (and later learned PTSD as well) and the feeling of isolation made my experiences that much harder. However, the overall process of therapy and healing has shown me that I was not alone in these experiences, which gave me so much hope. Later, when my music career took off on tour, I began to notice how universal some of the experiences I had were. It became my mission to do what I can to offer things that I wish I knew in middle school especially.  

Why is bullying such an important topic for you personally? 

A lot of why speaking out about bullying became so important to me was because, many years ago, the first instance of success I found in music, I viewed it in a way as a chance to be the role model that I wish I had growing up. It can be very scary to internalize bullying as a child and start to believe what others say. The minute people wanted my autograph/photo etc., I thought of all the things that I wish I heard when I turned on the TV or things that would have helped me feel better about myself. The message behind my music is about how being yourself is a good thing, even if people tell you otherwise (and they likely will). I did not expect to have the response from fans that I did, or that hundreds of thousands would relate to things that I thought I faced alone. Meeting other celebrities who also supported the message was really inspirational as well, and also helped to inspire this project. 

Bullying impacts a person’s mental health in so many ways, and now with the added stress of COVID, we are seeing so much more discussions around mental health and illness. What are some of the main messages you wanted to share about mental health with this song? 

I think when Kodie Shane raps, that’s honestly my favorite part of the song. I remember writing it with my co-writer Heather Holley and somehow, a bunch of words describing the main concepts that got me through the thick of OCD came to me in the form of a rap, which Kodie did so well. I think the main line in that part of the song about facing your illness, fears, or whatever it is that is holding you back in a safe way (through therapy, etc) can seem so daunting and truly does take a lot of courage, but can change your life. In the age of COVID, isolation is literally required for our safety, however, the digital age can be used to connect us all in a healthy way which is what I hope people feel from this song. 

(L-R) Mary Wilson, Kodie Shane, Meredith O’Connor

You have a stellar line-up of global artists participating in this song. How did you go about contacting them and getting them to say “Yes!”?

Speaking of some of the inspirational women involved in the project, I have to first talk about one of the greatest, most kind, talented and important people in the entire industry of music, Mary Wilson [multi-Grammy-nominated artist and founding member of the Supremes], who recently passed away. Not only was she one of the first artists to join the song, but in the time I was lucky enough to speak with her she told me why she wanted to be a part of this song, and how the lyrics resonated with her. She was so genuinely caring, and I know that her legacy will live on. I hope to do whatever I can to continue to honor her. I’m getting emotional as I write this as I wish I could speak to her again and thank her for everything.

Following the initial recording with Mary Wilson and Kodie Shane, we wanted to work with other artists who believed in the mission I had and wanted to use their platform for positive change. Positive representation is so important, and that led to the idea of wondering if it would be possible to get some of the biggest names from different countries around the world together on one track to show the universality of mental illness, and to show that hope is possible. It was absolutely a long shot. But, I cannot believe the response we had. I’m so grateful for each celebrity that also loved the message and cause.  

What do you hope listeners will take away most from your song and this campaign?

I hope that the voices from all over the world model the importance of speaking up, and that you are not alone in mental health challenges, even if it feels like it. It’s such an important message because I know that feeling isolated can make things that much scarier. 

Here is a list of some of the artists featured on “You Are Not Alone” alongside Meredith O’Connor: