When singer-songwriter Em Beihold started to see her dreams come true last year, she didn't feel the way she'd expected. Her song "Groundhog Day" was getting shared widely on social media, especially TikTok, and music labels were asking to work with her, but she remembers thinking to herself, "Why am I not as happy as I expect to be?"
Beihold, 23, had started taking antidepressants around the same time and didn't realize prior that "they could take the highs away, as well as the lows," she recalled to TODAY's Carson Daly in an interview for TODAY All Day's special "Mind Matters: Fighting the Youth Mental Health Crisis."
Watch Mind Matters: Fighting the Youth Mental Health Crisis hosted by Carson Daly on June 3 at 12:30 p.m. ET on TODAY All Day.
"(My mom) was saying, 'That sounds a little bit ungrateful.' And I (said), 'It’s not ungrateful. Let me find the words for you.'" From that conversation, her even bigger hit "Numb Little Bug" was born.
The song in which Beihold croons, "Do you ever get a little bit tired of life, like you’re not really happy but you don’t want to die," hit No. 1 on Spotify's Global Viral 50 chart in February and has been streamed over 270 million times. On tour, Beihold saw firsthand the impact of "Numb Little Bug."
"I had a few people come up to me and tell me that like they had tried to commit suicide last year, and had recovered and found help, but also found my music," she told Carson. "That’s the most meaningful thing I can get out of any of it, the fact that they felt they had support through what I was writing. And those are probably honestly my favorite moments from tour, and I’m obviously I’m so happy that they’re still here and getting help."
Beihold, who boasts more than 666,000 followers on TikTok, struggled with generalized anxiety disorder and, like many young people, started to feel more frequent lows during the pandemic. She saw a psychiatrist, who prescribed her medication so quickly that she was "taken aback," she said. "But I was willing to try."
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"I tried different versions of the medication and just decided that wasn’t the route for me, but again, for some people, it really is," Beihold continued. "I think it’s just finding what’s best for you, and also making sure you talk to the people around you, as well."
While she continues to search for a therapist who's the right fit for her, music helps her get through difficult times.
"(Music) is the way that I process my emotions best," Beihold said. "It’s a flow state when I’m writing, and there’s nothing quite like it."
Her new music continues to delve into some of the most difficult-to-describe emotions. Her song "12345" — which she wrote with friends and performed on tour but has yet to be released — touches on struggling with panic attacks.
"I’ve had my own experience, not to the worst extent of panic attacks, but where you get choked up, and you can’t breathe, and the whole world caves in on you a little bit," she said. "I have this phrase, it’s like dance through your depression. I think we need band together and find positive ways to describe these really tough things that are going on."
Beihold's new single, "Too Precious," is all about "being excluded," as she described it. "I never liked to do what the cool kids did. I was never into smoking or drinking and often was just excluded."
Her family was initially skeptical of how open she's been about mental illness in her music career.
“I remember I was making a video, and I had a pill bottle in it, and my parents were like, ‘Are you sure you want to show the pill bottle in this video? Because that’s a sign of weakness,’” she recalled. “That’s just what their generation grew up on. ... We just talked about it, and we laugh about it because that’s the only way to get through. ... I have no shame attached.”
Her parents changed their mind when they saw what a difference her music has made.
“As they’ve seen the response in the comments, and the (direct messages) and people saying, ‘After hearing this, I went to therapy,’ or, ‘I talked to my family,’ I think they get it now,” she said.