This is branded content created in partnership with Sound Mind.
Grace Gaustad remembers the teasing starting like it did for most kids: In middle school. There would be comments about weight or looks, the sort of casual cruelty that teens start to deploy as a way to insulate themselves from insecurity and create a savage social pecking order. But as Grace got older and her sexuality took shape, the comments took on a newfound venom. She was desperately worried about how her relationship with an older girlfriend would be viewed by her classmates and — after she was outed by that girlfriend on social media — felt like she was losing control of herself and struggled to cope.
The caustic outing of Gaustad’s sexuality amplified her anxiety and depression. She wondered if she was abnormal, and internalized homophobia as a reaction to constant harassment classmates. But through it all, Gaustad found a sanctuary in music and channeled her frustrations and hurt into a staggering talent for songwriting. “When I’m having that horrible day at school, I go home and take it out that guitar… turn that pain into something beautiful,” she says in the latest installment of Sound Mind Unmasked, a video series featuring artists sharing their mental health journey and opening up about the toll touring and recording can take. Unmasked is focused on as shining a light on free mental health resources available to everyone, as well as fostering an open dialogue about mental health for artists and audiences alike.
With her rough school days close in the rearview mirror, Gaustad wants young people struggling through the emotional gauntlet of adolescence to know that the world is so much bigger than school hallways. Being honest with yourself isn’t always the easy thing to do, but it’s a path that yields lasting happiness. “Mental health is no different than physical health and it’s time we start looking at it that way,” Gaustad told Billboard. “Often times people overlook or disregard mental health because it’s something we cannot see with our eyes. If someone breaks their arm, they must take the time and measures to heal it. Our brain is no different.”