Stokes’ penchant for prose extends to his descriptions of what it feels like to struggle with depression, a battle he’s been fighting since his teenage years when he felt an overwhelming sense of demotivation and malaise. “To this day, there are moments early in the morning when I can fold in on myself,” he explains in the most recent entry of Sound Mind’s Unmasked video series. “It’s like navigating a black hole: You want to stay away from them and don’t [sic] start the cycle of the mind cycling downward.”
The songwriter’s decision to appear in Sound Mind’s Unmasked series is in line with a long history of activism for Stokes. He’s fought passionately for criminal justice reform and racial equality and has penned songs for State Radio, Dispatch, and his own bands aimed at amplifying that activism. Stokes holds a similar passion for mental health advocacy given his own struggles with depression, he has empathy for those who have been forced into isolation during the pandemic. "Our minds are so fragile and our lives so easily diverted and darkened,” he told Billboard. “This has been an extremely hard time on the collective conscience of us all - grief felt and endured by so many at unprecedented levels.”
Still, Stokes has found his way of managing his depression and hopes that what he’s learned will help others do the same. “Community and connection to the people around me have helped me with the bouts I have with depression,” he says. “When you share with someone what you’re going through, even if they’re not going through the exact same thing — but they’re going through something. They’re also humans living this life.” The shared human experience has inspired Stokes throughout his career as a songwriter, but it’s also been vital in helping him navigate a path towards happiness.
Each video in Sound Mind's Unmasked series features an artist sharing their mental health journey, opening up about the toll touring and recording can take. Sound Mind is focused on creating an open dialogue about mental health for artists and audiences alike.