Florida metal band sings about mental health issues, inspires with messages of hope

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Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 23:33:16-04

Editor's Note: This story looks at music lyrics and videos about mental health and rape that some may find difficult to discuss and/or triggering.

When you think of calming your mind, you rarely think that listening to a hardcore metal band would be therapeutic. But last Saturday night, ABC Action News Anchor Wendy Ryan interviewed concert-goers as they headed in to see a local metal band who is helping people heal from mental health issues.

Whether they suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other issue; they felt accepted and surrounded by love during this concert in Ybor City.

"I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7, bipolar at 13. And the subject matter that 'Prison' talks about is pretty much what goes on in my head," said Chase Young, who has been a big fan of the band "Prison" for a long time.

"Battling with depression a lot when I was younger, he does the speeches before the shows. And he kind of gets to me every time. He speaks to my heart," said Blake Decosmo, also a fan of the metal group.

Lead singer Johnny Crowder writes and preaches about the importance of mental health, but realizes the style of his music may not sound tranquil to everyone.

"It's hard to explain to people, who hear screaming on a record and think like, how can that help you? It sounds angry and violent. But for me, it's always calmed me down. It's brought me a lot of peace in my life," explained Crowder, who also has become a mental health advocate.

That peace seems to resonate with his audience, as he talks honestly about addiction and self-harm on stage after attempting suicide three times.

"One thing I preach is definitely anti-self-harm. So it's not only anti-suicide but also like, there's a lot of people struggling with eating disorders. There's a lot of people who engage in self-harm practices. And one kind of common theme that I say is, 'This world is going to hurt you plenty. There's no need for you to add to it,'" Crowder explained.

His message of hope and healing reaches fans who often need to hear it the most.

"Honestly, I had to put my childhood dog down yesterday. And it's hurting in my brain a lot right now. But I'm here instead of doing something bad and it's going to help a lot," said Chase Young, who showed up to see "Prison" play in person.

Shannon Dunne even flew from Chicago to see "Prison" in concert because that's how much she loves their music.

"It's really raw music knowing that someone else feels the way you do, and is really open with his mental health. And that helps," Dunne explained.

The band's song "Still Alive" seems to be a crowd favorite, and much has to do with the lyrics.

"Now we're here. We've got something to prove. No! We will never die! No! We will never die! Let me hear your voices one more time," sings Crowder.

"Prison" fan Gabby Calabrese explains what she loves about that song.

"I'm still alive, you know, through everything that I've been through and everything that I've experienced in my life. I'm still here," she said with emotion.

Chase Young identifies with Prison's song about sexual abuse entitled "Rape Me."

Crowder sings the lyrics in his music video that shows a victim holding signs, revealing the words that are both raw and eye-opening.

"Rape me! You know that I'm too weak to speak my mind," are the first lyrics you hear.

"That's something that doesn't get talked about ever. Dudes getting raped? That's never talked about," Young said.

"I'm really, really outspoken about sexual consent. I've cried performing that song. I've had fans cry, like picture it. Big, buff, bearded like hand-tattoo, Harley guys crying in the pit. And coming up to me afterward and saying, 'You know when I was a kid,' or 'Just three years ago,' they're sharing these stories," Crowder explained.

The music video of his song entitled "Mental Illness" shows him writing lyrics that seem to hit each fan differently.

The lyrics begin with, "Mental illness is not a name to be abused for fortune or fame."

"He has phrases in his songs that are the exact things that I've thought in my brain. And it's nice to hear it out loud, without any like stigma attached," Young said.

"Music helps me pull myself out of the hole. 'Prison' in general, definitely. I identify with it. And that just makes me feel less alone," explained Dunne.

What might be surprising? Crowder uses no curse words in any of his lyrics and that's on purpose.

"I've been writing my whole life. And I've always felt that word choice is really important. So if given an opportunity to choose what word to say or to write, profanity is normally at the bottom of the creativity ladder," Crowder explained.

"Prison's" lead singer puts faith, front and center, wearing a cross around his neck and a tattoo on his cheek, showcasing his Christianity.

"I've had fans be like 'Oh, you're a Christian. Like, Oh, I feel differently about your music now.' And I'm like, this is part of what I want to address is the church misunderstands metal and metal misunderstands the church," Crowder said.

"Prison's" message to get help, if you need it, has fans walking away with hope.

"There should never be a stigma around mental health. The best thing you can do is ask for help. And sometimes that's the hardest step," said Dunne.

"Knowing that they were there for mental health advocacy is a really big thing for a lot of people that have this group's mentality. You know, so it's really uplifting," explained Nada Abu-Nasser, another fan of the group.

"Everyone struggling with their mental issues, he just uplifts everyone and tries to care and help everybody around him," said Austin MacGraw, who loves watching the band as a fellow musician.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay any time of day at 211 or click on its website, here.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.