COMBO Board member Angela Whaley submitted the following article when the subject of Musicians’ Mental Health came up at a recent board meeting. Angela is involved with a mental health group that meets on the first Sunday of the month at the Youth on Record offices at 1301 W. 10th Ave., Denver – First Sunday, 3-5 p.m. All are invited. And this is a very important subject that COMBO will be covering at a meeting to be held in the near future.
What can impact a musician’s mental wellness? A Help Musicians UK report based on a commissioned University of Westminster study results reveal that those working in music may be up to three times more likely to experience depression, compared to the general public:
● 69% of all respondents reported they had experienced depression
● 71% said they had experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety
● 2,211 (self-selected) respondents took part in the industry-wide survey
● 71.1% of all respondents believed they had experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety
● 68.5% reported they had experienced depression
● [Of those that reported] 30% claimed they would be very likely to, or had already sought help
● 55% felt there were gaps in the provision of services for musicians
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Preliminary findings suggested that while artists find solace in the production of music, working in the music industry might indeed be making musicians sick, or at least contributing to their levels of mental ill-health. Respondents attributed this to a variety of reasons including:
● Poor working conditions including: the difficulty of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion and the inability to plan their time/future
● A lack of recognition for one’s work and the welding of music and identity into one’s own idea of selfhood
● The physical impacts of a musical career, such as musculoskeletal disorders
● Issues related to being a woman in the industry – from balancing work and family commitments, to sexist attitudes and even sexual harassment
Headline findings for this qualitative research include:
● Music makers’ relationship to their work is integral to their sense of self. It’s how they define themselves.
● People in the music industry needed to believe in themselves and their work, yet the unpredictable nature of the business can knock that belief.
● Music makers can be reflective and highly self-critical, and exist in an environment of constant critical feedback.
● A career in music is often precarious and unpredictable.
● Many musicians have several different jobs as part of a portfolio career, and as a result can feel as though they work 24/7 and can’t take a break.
● It can be hard for musicians to admit to insecurities because of competition and wanting to appear on top of things.
● Family, friends, and partners play an important role in supporting musicians, but this can also lead to feelings of guilt.
● Musicians’ working environment can be anti-social and unsympathetic, with some people experiencing sexual abuse, harassment, bullying and coercion.
What can we do about it?
The research suggested 3 key areas for change:
● A code of best practices
● A mental health support service for those working in music
This is what Music Minds Matter is about. It’s about educating ourselves and our community. It’s about creating a code of best practices. And most importantly, it’s about creating a community of mental wellness support for those working in music.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, please contact the Colorado Crisis and Support Line at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255 or go to http://www.coloradocrisisservices.org to access chat. Help and hope are available 24 / 7 / 365