Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Term Paper


School of Unrestricted Education

Primary Advisor

Dr. Grace Veach


In 2008, The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, ran an article blaming “emo” music and subculture, more specifically the band My Chemical Romance, for the suicide of a 13 year old girl named Hannah Bond. For the sake of definition, emo is a type of rock music specifically centered around strong emotions— being emotional, or “emo”. Much of emo music and culture centers itself around dark themes, and the struggles of mental illness and heartbreak. Similar correlations were made in the 1980s between heavy metal music and suicide, and Hannah Bond herself was far from the first girl whose suicide was attributed to emo. So, what drives the correlation made by media and parents between rock music and adolescent suicide? Specifically, what were the factors and attitudes driving the panic in the 2000s around emo music? Can music actually cause teenagers to become depressed or suicidal? Did the emo subculture actively promote self-injury? Or was it a safe place for adolescents to find a community, identity, and catharsis? This thesis aims to answer all these questions and provide a defense of the emo genre. Empirical evidence shows that music is not a causal factor in mental illness and that it can instead provide catharsis. Anecdotes from those involved in emo and from outside observers showed that the emo community itself was centered around finding hope in the midst of darkness and that its leaders de-stigmatized mental problems. Finally, much of the criticism of the genre has been misplaced and hyperbolic due to moral panic. We have concluded that emo music and subculture have had a net positive effect on those involved.