It’s time to make a song and dance about mental health

A recent study into mental health in the music industry has found that the pressures that come with such a high intensity career have contributed towards a worryingly high number of musicians experiencing bouts of depression, panic attacks and anxiety. The ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’ study carried out by Help Musicians UK as part of their Music Minds Matter campaign discovered that out of a group of 2,211 self-selected respondents, more than two thirds reported they had experienced depression and over half felt there were gaps in the provision of services for musicians.

A number of factors contribute to the levels of ill-mental health amongst musical professionals; generally poor working conditions such as long, unsociable hours often result in exhaustion. The inability to have control over time for themselves alongside earning enough money to pay the bills combines into a relentless cycle of stress and struggle. The state of musicians physical health is also cause for concern in regards to musculoskeletal disorders and nerve damage as well as overtiredness.

Often those with depressive tendencies are drawn to careers in music and use songwriting as an outlet to vent emotions and create authentic, moving songs. This makes it hard to determine whether depression and anxiety are symptoms or cause of pursuing a musical profession. Regardless, it is certain that unrelenting pressures in an oversaturated, highly competitive industry where impressing fans and securing gigs in addition to artists often working multiple jobs in order to get by is a root cause of deteriorating mental health. Even musicians in the upper stratums of the industry who do not have financial worries report suffering with depression. Logic and Khalid’s recent song, which reached number 3 in the charts features the title 1-800-273-8255 which is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Helpline. Much in line with Help Musicians UK’s recent launch of a 24 hour helpline, the song sends across the message that suicide is never the answer and that there is always help and advice available around the clock.

The take home message from these recent developments is that we need to talk more and open up in regards to mental health. Hopefully, with joint efforts from popular influencers in the music industry and charity organisations, musicians will start to feel better supported. But just talking is not enough. We need to start being active in our support – venues need to start paying artists for performances and appreciating their craft, if you have a favourite artist – buy their music, go to their gigs, show your respect for them on social media. Depression is often a lonely illness and musicians feel the full effects of this as they transition from the center of attention performing on stage with full affirmation from fans to being alone with often overtly self-critiquing thoughts. It is of utmost importance that artists continue to talk openly about mental health and continue to de-stigmatise it. Representation and relatability from influential musicians as well as mutual respect and conversation amongst artists will hopefully contribute towards changing attitudes towards mental health and reduction of its effects within the music industry.

Heather Green