Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows Opens Up About Depression

By Paul Fuhr 11/22/17

After dealing with his own three-year battle with depression, Shadows says he "would never ever question someone’s mental state.”

M. Shadows

M. Shadows, the frontman of American heavy metal group Avenged Sevenfold, isn’t simply talking about male mental health—he’s trying to get others to talk openly about the problem, too.

According to NME, Shadows is actively working to break the stigmas around mental health issues by getting others to open up about it. In fact, the more that people talk about their struggles, the better off society will be, he believes.

In the meantime, the singer thinks the stigma is as crippling as it is silencing. “The stigma is disheartening because everyone on this planet goes through things at one point or another, so we just have to be there for each other,” he told NME. To that end, Shadows leads by example, claiming that he’s a “really open person” and regularly talks to others about his own issues. 

Earlier this year, Shadows (born Matthew Charles Sanders) earned the #3 spot on Ultimate Guitar’s list of Top 25 Greatest Modern Frontmen—an honor that undoubtedly reflects his dynamic onstage presence as well as his willingness to share his struggles through music.

More than that, though, Shadows noted that while there were a lot of people willing to talk about depression following the suicide of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, not many were offering to listen.

He cautioned that people need to be sensitive to what others are going through before offering opinions. “Those who are not very good at understanding mental health issues are not going to know what other people are going through in depression. You have to kind of put yourself in somebody else’s shoes,” he observed.

“It takes a lot of work from all of us to understand where people are coming from, and then do the best to help them because it’s just too important. We’re going to lose too many people if we don’t do something about it.”

The “Hail to the King” group is no stranger to loss, either. For one, the 2009 accidental overdose death of drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan rattled Shadows and his bandmates. “All I can say is, I never knew what depression was and you could say the word over and over again to me and I’d never know what the depths of it felt like until I lost Jimmy,” Shadows told NME.

“I went through about three years when I couldn’t do anything, so I went to go talk to someone and it was the hardest three years of my life. But once I’d been through those three years I would never ever question someone’s mental state, because I went through it.”

In addition to Sullivan, Avenged Sevenfold was confronted in 2014 with the news that a UK teen had committed suicide after listening to their music. In a public statement posted on their website, the group not only acknowledged the tragedy but pushed for stronger suicide prevention awareness.

“The news of this young man’s death has shaken all of us in the band. Fan or not, no one should have to feel such hopelessness,” they wrote. “It has also made us more committed than ever to do something about it so that it doesn’t happen again.”

The two incidents have clearly shaped Shadows’ perspective on anxiety and depression. “All I can say to people who don’t think depression is a real thing, or say ‘just suck it up and get over it’—they just really have no idea,” he told NME.

The frontman insists that no one should endure depression by themselves—a sentiment that’s probably best echoed in a lyric from his group’s song “Save Me”: “Know you’re not alone.” 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.