Institutionalized

Album: Suicidal Tendencies (1983)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is mainly a spoken narrative from the point of view of a young person who lives at home and is constantly harassed by his parents. It was written by Suicidal Tendencies lead singer Mike Muir, who told us: "Not to use the Shrek onion layer analogy, but there's a lot of different levels to it. For one, it was stuff that had happened specifically to a couple of friends of mine. And then at the time there were a lot of those - I don't know what they call them - those boot camp things where parents would get their kids taken at 4 in the morning and send them off to these camps in Arizona or Idaho or wherever. The way I look at it and what I thought was, here are people that were parents for 14 or 15 years, they can't brag about their kids at a party so there must be something wrong with the kid. Then they send them off and stuff. They used to have commercials: 'Does your kid get angry when things don't go their way? Do they do this and that? If you answer yes to three or more of these, they might have a drug or alcohol problem. And you're not alone, we can help.' And I'm sitting there going, Dude, I've never done drugs, I don't drink, and yeah, I get angry when things don't go my way. It's called being human. I'm not a machine. I think it made an easy scapegoat for kids to be the problem. I think a lot of times it was lack of parental skills and time. It happens and it's a timeless thing, there will always be that generational gap, so to speak."
  • Not everyone gets the meaning behind this song. Muir explains: "When I was younger a lot of my friends, they said, 'I hate my dad.' He'd come home drunk and beat them and do all that kind of stuff. They'd say, 'He's an a--hole, he's a drunk.' And they're sitting there drinking while they're telling the story. And I go, 'Dude, you're missing the point. You're feeling sorry for yourself, but don't become that same person.' My dad always said if you see something that someone does and you don't like it, you're twice as bad if you're doing that. When someone does that, you have to sit there and go, 'No, I'm not going to become that person.' A lot of people have gotten the message, and other people are just like, 'Hey, dude, I got Pepsi! Hahaha!' (laughing) Chalk it up to the source."
  • The song was featured in the movies Suburbia and Repo Man starring Emilio Estevez. It also appeared in a season 2 episode of Miami Vice, in which the group make a cameo performing it in a bar.
  • The song's video was one of the first by a hardcore band to get significant airplay on MTV. Directed by Bill Fishman, it shows Muir railing against his parents. The dad in the video was played by Jack Nance, who starred in the TV series Twin Peaks and also appeared in the David Lynch films Blue Velvet and Eraserhead. The mother in the video was played by Mary Woronov, whose credits include The Lady in Red and Warlock.
  • This song was a huge influence on Limp Bizkit, whose lead singer Fred Durst quotes from it on their 1997 track "Stuck," when he says, "All I wanted was a Pepsi, far from suicidal, still I get them tendencies."

Comments: 8

  • Dzo from AtlantaStuck in my house
    Nowhere to go
    Time now it seems
    Moves so slow
    The world now sick
    And so afraid
    These walls of our kingdoms
    Will become our cage
    If we don't stand
    And we don't rage
    Against this virus
    Well then our days
    They are marked
    And we are doomed
    The death of mankind
    Life consumed
    The rain the wind
    The sun and moon
    The silence of all
    It may come soon
    We hold our destiny
    In our hands
    We are all the same now
    Of all the lands
    Of humankind
    Is where we stand
    Of sisters and brothers
    And we must band.
    Last one. Promise. Dzo.
    Thank you Songfacts.
  • Vegan Solarman from VeniceI have a friend who has a severe problem with bipolar it’s, he is a great rapper who could use some help! would you be interested in helping me to help him? may God bless you...
  • Zeny from Bucks, PaCOMMENT CORRECTIONS:

    *Jim from NZ - the actress who plays the mom in the "Institutionalize" video was NOT in Bananarama!

    Mary Woronov really became a cult actress after working with Andy Warhol. She was a fan of Punk. She also did "Possessed To Skate" video. Twas after the Ramones full length music video movie "Rock 'n' Roll High School". Then part 2. Also was great in "Night of the Comet", "Chopping Mall", "Dick Tracy" and much more.

    *Tyler From MD, you are totally wrong! It is more like the parents listen to others more than their own kid. Mike, as named in the song is a normal kid just trying to work things out. Because he likes to sit in his room and listen to music the parents feel that it is not normal behavior.

    Drugs were becoming more of a prevalent force. Many rehab facilities were opening up and pushing many to believe that "if your kid sits alone and listen to music, they must be on drugs" and or crazy so to speak. So when the parents push Mike with all the dumb questions that are not relevant to him he gets upset. Which makes the parents think more that he MUST be on drugs and crazy.

    It upsets Mike because he is not. He does want help. Just not that kind of help. That kind of parenting can make one crazy. He wants them to listen to him and not the dumb TV and people. Even though Mike is the main character of the song, it is not autobiographical for him at least. He wrote it based off of what so many others were going through at the time.

    Mike was very lucky to have a father that truly cared and there for him. I think that made him more open to the atrocities that others were going through. He had a lot of things going on his head as most kids with growing brains do. His dad was able to explain things the best he could. That kind of communication it's precious to a relationship and development.

    No surprise Mike can really talk, and write when you get him going. There are so many amazing interviews full of great stories. Over 40 years and I still feel that Mike is one of the best lyricists ever. Definitely one of the greatest guys I've ever known. Truly helped me get through some of the hardest times of my life. Really with music we are never "Alone". (Look that one up)


    People really need to do a bit of research before they take anything to hear on the internet to be fact. False information continues to be spread so it appear in multiple places. So try to go to credible sources and always keep in mind not to jump the gun.
  • Jim from Christchurch, New ZealandThe mother on the video is from Bananarama
  • David from Portland, OrThis song is genius. Talk about encapsulating all the angst and anxiety kids go through.
  • Xavier from Schenectady, NyWow i think so many teenagers can relate to this song
  • Cardio Toxin from El Paso, Txthis song is impossible to mis-intrepret. and this is an awesomem song, good luck trying to keep up with these guys live singing this song; it is nearly impossible.
  • Tyler from Aberdeen , MdIts Actually About a kid whos Parents Think Hes crazy and they harass him and try to help him but he doesn't want help at all
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