There’s been an encouraging trend in both the music world (and society at large) over the last few years toward a more open dialogue about mental health. Now more than ever, both high-profile musicians and fans alike are engaging in conversations raising awareness around mental illness in an effort to break down outdated stigmas. However, there is still much work to be done, particularly when it comes to how the music industry looks after those who work within it. We recently ran a piece that documented the experiences of music journalists and publicists with mental illness, explaining how anxiety, depression and the like are commonplace within this sector, often having a significant, detrimental impact on people’s everyday lives. In light of this, AP recently reached out to some bands and asked them if the music industry is equipped to deal with the problem of mental health, and this is what they had to say.
“I’d like to see more bands team up with mental health organizations and hopefully see that practice become the industry standard.”
“My answer to this question would be both ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ There are some phenomenal organizations working with kids in the music scene to help them with mental health struggles. Hope For The Day, Finding A Lost Voice, and Music Saves Lives are some examples of great people doing great things for the kids who need it most. However, I don't feel as though everyone is benefitting from these organizations as much as they could. I think it would be great to have representatives or mental health counselors become a standard part of all major tour crews. Many kids don't know about the help that's available to them, and many go to shows to find comfort. I think making sure that every person at every show knows that they're safe and there is someone to talk to if they need it is very important. I'd like to see more bands team up with mental health organizations and hopefully see that practice become the industry standard.” —Patrick Miranda, vocals
“Music itself is a cure to many people, and as a musician, I want to believe in that.”
“Being part of an adventure in the music industry is a journey that is amazing and scary at the same time. The music industry is unforgiving and emotionally demanding. Stress, pressure and tiredness are feelings that are often faced by those involved in it, probably way more than what people can think. Competition is tough, frustration is a recurring feeling and you often have to make use of a wide set of skills. Getting results you hope for may take time and drain a lot of energy. It’s a path that is not easy to lead, and it may come across crazy to friends and family. On the other side, you get to be part of an incredible community of people that are as passionate as you about what they’re doing. As a band, we try to create this connection as much as possible, whether it’s with the fans, other bands we meet or people we work with. I love to see how two people who initially came to one of our shows alone end up being friends and show up together at the next gig. Through our music, we try to let people know they’re not alone, and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment when I see our music bringing them together. As much as the music industry may be a source of stress, depression and serious health issues to some, the music itself is also a cure to many people. And as a musician, I want to believe in that.” —Linda Battilani, vocals
THE SPOOK SCHOOL
“When you’re breaking down and feel like you’re going to do something silly, who are you going to call? The music industry?”
“When you’re touring internationally and struggling with your mental health, it can feel like there is no one to turn to. When your medication has run out but you’re still two weeks from the end of tour, and when you’re breaking down and feel like you’re going to do something silly, who are you going to call? The music industry? Who is the music industry? Is there a phone number, an email address, a business card? When you are essentially working freelance in the literal gig economy of music, you don’t have an employer providing health insurance, providing sick pay for days when you’re ill, providing avenues to access mental health care.
“There is no overarching body to which all musicians belong; there are organizations that do try, but especially at the beginning of a musician’s career, there are no professional bodies holding your hand. The music industry is just that, an industry. As a musician and an individual, you are on your own. The music industry may not be equipped, but there are positives within the music community. Playing music and being surrounded by like-minded people provides an in-built support network. My bandmates are invaluable to keeping me going and getting through dark patches. A lot of our lyrics are very personal and can sometimes reveal a little of the darkness I struggle with. Hearing people relate to those lyrics and relate to those feelings and struggles is a massive support and helps you realize you’re not alone and not on your own. An industry can’t do that, but individuals can.” —Niall McCamley, drums
AS SIRENS FALL
“The music industry is a machine, pumping out product often with little concern for an artist’s emotional well-being.”
“It’s no secret that poor mental health is prevalent in the music world. In a twisted irony, it often paves the way for innovation and incredible creativity. However, as we have seen all too much, mental illness can and does often have tragic consequences. To succeed in the music industry, one must be willing to live a very fast-paced, hard-working and difficult life. Endless touring, scraping together money just to survive and constantly being away from loved ones can take its toll on the minds of performers in particular. The music industry is a machine, pumping out product often with little concern for an artist’s emotional well-being. Music itself can be an excellent form of therapy, but it’s a balancing act. The industry is not yet well-enough equipped to deal with mental health. That will come with open conversation, self-care and honest reflection. Artists must take the time to stop working and look after themselves every now and then. Success isn’t worth it if you don’t make it out alive.” —Mikey Lord, vocals
“I’d love to see more discussion pointing to helpful places, rather than a general discussion on how it’s time to talk about mental health.”
“This is a hard one, and I don’t think there’s a definitive answer. There are some great organizations both in music and the wider world, like To Write Love On Her Arms and Mind that both educate and offer practical help and advice. Anyone that finds comfort in music and rock shows, from the band onstage, to those watching them or involved in putting them up there, can benefit from these resources in some way.
“I do think a lot of people either aren’t aware of these organizations or aren’t aware of the extent that they can really help–I know I fell into the latter camp for a very long time. I’d love to see more discussion pointing to helpful places, rather than a general discussion on how it’s time to talk about mental health. Some of my favorite bands do great work already, like Ducking Punches, who have sold shirts with all the proceeds going to PAPYRUS. There was also the Top Of The Punks compilation that a bunch of bands did for Mind earlier this year. Miss Vincent have started doing a little bit with Mind because I’ve used them so extensively over the last couple of years, and it seemed such an obvious place to try and direct people to. A lot of our songs are about mental health, so if fans connect with our music, then perhaps they can connect with these sources of support. Music and mental health go hand in hand, and I’d love to see the wider industry adopt an approach that follows up the emotional support and solace that music can offer with the more practical support that mental health organizations provide.” —Alex Marshall, vocals/guitar
“Mental health issues are becoming more and more openly talked about, yet there’s still a prevalent attitude of, ‘Just get on with it, and you’ll be all right.’”
“It’s a complex issue, but we’re on the right path. Mental health issues are becoming more and more openly talked about, yet there’s still a prevalent attitude of, ‘Just get on with it, and you’ll be all right,’ which is probably the worst thing you can do when you’re suffering with a mental illness.
“The competitive, fast-moving nature of the industry means that you can end up feeling pressured–by other people and by yourself–to bottle it all up so that you don’t have to take time away to address your issues, usually out of fear for being replaced or becoming obsolete. As someone with type 2 bipolar, I’ve felt it myself and dealing with it in this way in the past has caused me to become almost totally nonfunctional. I now try and self-manage, learn what my triggers are and adjust my lifestyle accordingly. I don’t know what the long-term answer to this problem is, but I think opening up about your experiences and joining a discussion, listening to others and making people aware they aren't suffering alone is a good first step.” —Paul Howells, guitar/backing vocals
We also spoke to Jamie Tworkowski, founder of mental health nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms—whose shirts have been worn by the likes of Paramore, 5 Seconds Of Summer and A Day To Remember—and asked him for his thoughts.
JAMIE TWORKOWSKI, TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS
“The music industry can’t solve the mental health crisis on its own.”
“It’s hard to make a blanket statement about the music industry because it’s made up of so many different pockets and individuals: There’ll be some managers and labels who get it, and some who don’t, just like some bands will probably have better support systems than others. You’re going to find different answers within the music industry.
“What comes to mind for me is the idea that we shouldn’t just isolate the music industry and rather think about mental health and the solutions in general. The music industry can’t solve the mental health crisis on its own. What we do with To Write Love On Her Arms is try to point people toward professionals, licensed mental health counsellors and people who work in suicide prevention. TWLOHA is trying to serve as a bridge to those people and places, and my hope would be that the music industry–or any industry–could do that, too.
“We want people's reactions to mental illness to be, ‘This isn’t any different [than] a broken leg or having the flu. If you need help, let’s get you the help you need.’”
“It should be OK to talk about these things: If you have an artist who is struggling or needs a break, there should be an environment where you can have those conversations that facilitate support. We want to work toward a world where talking about mental health is no different to talking about physical health. If a singer was physically sick and couldn’t perform, a band might have to cancel some dates, and the response should be the same with regards to mental illness.
“The music industry doesn’t have to solve it on its own. The industry can look to those who work in mental health for help, and it would be my hope that all industries do that going forward. We want people's reactions to mental illness to be, ‘This isn’t any different [than] a broken leg or having the flu. If you need help, let’s get you the help you need.’ The goal is to normalize mental illness, so that it doesn’t have an asterisk by it. Problems with your mental health can be compared to car trouble: Things break down in this life. If your car has a problem, you go to the mechanic to get it fixed; and my hope for the music industry would be that if anyone working within it is struggling with their mental health, they’d be pointed toward a professional, so they can get the help they need and deserve.”
The following services all offer help and advice to people struggling with mental health:
Crisis Text Line: Text ‘START’ to 741-741
National Alliance On Mental Illness: 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)
Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Calm Zone: 0800 58 58 58
ChildLine: 0800 1111
Mind: 0300 123 3393
The Samaritans: 116 123
Crisis Line: 1-888-353-2273
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Suicide Hotline: 525-510-2550