For poet Theo LeGro, no other passion has played as significant a role in her mental health journey as music.
"Sometimes, music becomes this communal experience that has reminded me of what's worth sticking around for, when that's been in question," Legro, 32, told TODAY's Carson Daly. "There are songs that I now love that remind me of feeling really, really strong in an otherwise really, really difficult situation."
Last month, Daly began a video series called Mind Matters, which spotlights people who face mental health challenges and discusses the various ways they cope. In the latest installment, Legro — who is training to become a therapist — opens up about her struggles with depression, suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Not only does music help ground her in moments of hopelessness, but it's also been central to the process of accepting her diagnoses and beginning to heal, she said.
For example, PTSD can change the way that memory functions, making some parts of Legro's life difficult for her to access — except through music.
"It can take you back to a place that's harder to visit," the Brooklyn resident explained. "And it also worked in the opposite way, where it's taken me back to places that were joyful that I had forgotten about until I heard a certain song."
The relationship between music and mental health is so important to Legro that she's gotten involved with Sounds of Saving — a nonprofit that uses music as a means of sparking human connections, fueling hope and, ultimately, helping to save the lives of people considering suicide.
"(Music) is the universal human language of emotion, connecting us across genres and continents," reads its website. "And our personal stories about how music creates hope are especially powerful."
That's why Sounds of Saving collaborates with music artists to make videos sharing their experiences with mental health, as well a song that they've leaned on during a tough time.
Legro met one of the organization's co-founders, Charlie Gross, during her outpatient treatment after a two-month stay in a psychiatric ward. Gross and Nick Greto, the other founder, had just begun planning events for Sounds of Saving and asked Legro to be a part of them.
"What's been really great about these events is that it does really foster a sense of community," she said. "To speak out loud in front of a crowd about (mental health) and then to have other people share that they were dealing with similar things. It made me feel validated in knowing that this is something that other people struggle with as well."
If she had to give advice to those who are struggling, Legro would emphasize the importance of reaching out and asking for help — because while "you might feel as though you're being burdensome, I can guarantee no one is anyone else's burden," she said.
Another tip is to adopt a more short-term perspective, rather than trying to tackle the big, existential questions of what life is worth living for and why you should be here. For Legro, pushing herself to make it through the next five minutes often brings her to a place where those questions don't seem as urgent.
And of course, as an artist, Legro pours her emotions into her poetry — much of which deals with mental health. Still, she argues against the pervasive idea that being miserable is a precondition to producing great art.
"It goes back to this idea that your mental illness is the entirety of who you are. In reality, your depression is one very small part of what makes you who you are," she said. "You will not be a different, less interesting person if you go to therapy, if you figure out how to make life a little bit easier for yourself. All of the things that you were making art about before — they might change but you're still you. You'll still be able to create. You just gotta trust."