Jack Barakat, Kevin Fisher break the mental health stigma with WhoHurtYou
Last month, All Time Low guitarist Jack Barakat and Kevin Fisher debuted their dark-pop project WhoHurtYou. After the duo found themselves on the other side of bad breakups, they were determined to use their project as a method of healing by turning a negative experience into something positive.
Now, Barakat and Fisher are using their platform to demystify the stigma around mental health and entering therapy. Speaking about their firsthand experiences, the pair open up on the reality of seeking out a therapist and what it felt like to admit they needed help.
What was the turning point that made you realize you needed help?
KEVIN FISHER: There’s always been a stigma around it. The stigma of “Oh, you’re a weak person if you have to go do it.” I went through a bad breakup. Jack went through a bad breakup. That’s why this whole project started. But it was around that time. It was a very difficult time. I had a few people recommend [therapy] to me, and I was very hesitant. It was actually through a program called MusiCares that grants a year’s worth of sessions to people. It wasn’t until then that I was like, “I should at least try to do this because it’s something that will be provided to me.” After the first session, it occurred to me that this was something I should have been doing for forever. So if we can put out the message that everyone should do this, it’s one of the most healthy things you can do. It was such a positive experience for me and something I wish I had been doing for years prior. It wasn’t only the experience with the breakup. It was finding out certain tools you can use in everyday life for some of the different situations you’re going through.
JACK BARAKAT: I tried therapy years and years and years ago. I’m talking like 10 years ago. I had only gone to one or two sessions. I had gone from one session to another session trying to find the right person. And I think it’s important to know just because they’re a therapist doesn’t mean they’re the right therapist for you. I had gone years ago and didn’t really like it that much and didn’t really find someone I had clicked with. Looking back, after finding someone I got along with and understood me and whatnot, I wish I had stuck with it and given those people more than one or two sessions. It’s important to know that therapy isn’t a “you go in and you’re fixed,” you know? You go in, and you’re telling your life story. You’re explaining all your things. It’s a very long process. The first time I started going with the right person, I’d found it just changed me and made me realize I’m not crazy. [Laughs.] The thoughts I’m having are normal and what everyone goes through.
“I had gone from one session to another session trying to find the right person. And I think it’s important to know just because they’re a therapist doesn’t mean they’re the right therapist for you.” —Jack Barakat
A lot of people are nervous or unsure of how to take that first step. How did you go about finding a therapist?
BARAKAT: I asked some of my friends. Once people knew I was struggling, they mentioned it to me. I just asked around and found a close friend of mine that recommended me someone that had helped her a lot through her breakup and whatnot. I gave it a shot and rolled the dice and stuck with it too. Like I said, it’s important not to just give up after one session like, “Oh, I didn’t get anything out of that.” It’s not gonna kill you. It’s a process.
FISHER: I had a few recommendations from people, especially MusiCares people. I think I got really lucky that the first person I went to got it right off the bat. How she handles her process just really stuck with me. Like Jack said, I think it’s important for people to know it’s not an instant thing. After the first session, you’re not going to walk out of there having all your problems solved. It’s a process. It’s more like a tool you can start using in your life and be able to process things as they come and stuff that’s happened.
[Photo by: Jade Ehlers][/caption]BARAKAT: Me and Kev have personally looked into Talkspace which is like an online-based therapy company that links you up with a therapist whether it’s video chat or texting or calling. That’s maybe for people who aren’t into wanting to go to an office or leave their home or talk to a stranger face to face. It’s a cool, unique way to get help without having to leave your bed.
FISHER: There’s a ton of different apps and stuff where if you haven’t been before, you can just try it out in your room or where you’re comfortable and ease into it.
BARAKAT: Something cool about therapists, even mine when I’m on the road, I would just call her. She was super-cool about it, and it was really easy. There’s different ways to do it for different people.
You both mentioned how therapy isn’t an immediate fix. It’s something that takes time. What was your motivation to keep going back?
BARAKAT: I compare it to the gym for me. I never wanna go to the gym. Up until the moment I start working out, I’m dreading it, and then I leave there, and I feel amazing. Like my head is clear, and I’ve done some good today. I never wanted to go to therapy. Every single time I woke up and I had a session I was like, “Damn it!” [Laughs.] But I’d go in and leave like a weight had been lifted. I had a clear head. I felt really good. I was happy I did it. I never left therapy being like, “Wow, that was a waste of time.” My motivation was going back itself. Just wanting to get better and feel better like I did every time I left.
FISHER: Exactly. Even after the first couple [of] times, like Jack said, you feel like you downloaded a bunch of stuff. You just feel better. It was one of those things where even after the first session I was like, “Why haven’t I been doing this?”
I think a lot of people are afraid of it being awkward talking to a stranger about the things they might be going through. What was the first therapy session like for you?
FISHER: It’s important for people to know that these are professionals. They’ve treated so many different people and talked to so many different people. If you go to a good one or one who’s a professional, they’re going to be able to make you feel comfortable.
BARAKAT: That’s totally true. I went to a couple [of] different ones over the years, and I realized [that] they all have different kinds of styes and reactions, and they’re all different kinds of people. So I think it’s important to give every therapist a couple [of] sessions to see if it clicks. If it doesn’t, it’s not weird to go to someone else. It’s gonna be uncomfortable telling a stranger your life story. But like Kevin said, they’re professionals. They see numerous people a day. They’ve seen and heard pretty much everything—believe me. It’s not going to be comfortable at first, but it will get there. It’s definitely a process.
I think it’s super-important for people to know they can’t just go in there and expect someone to know and understand them. It’s a two-way street. They’re gonna have to have an open mind and be open with themselves. —Kevin Fisher
FISHER: With all that said, I think it’s super-important for people to know they can’t just go in there and expect someone to know and understand them. It’s a two-way street. They’re gonna have to have an open mind and be open with themselves.
What advice would you give to those who feel like they may need help but are too afraid or nervous to ask for it?
FISHER: Nowadays in society, it’s gonna be a process because there’s still so much of a stigma around it. I commend Jack so much for speaking up and being [like], “Look, just because I’m this personality and I have this following doesn’t mean I don’t go through my own struggles.” I think it’s going to become a movement of people being like, “Look, just because you think I’m this person or you see me this way doesn’t mean that sometimes I’m going through hard times and need help.”
BARAKAT: My best advice is if you think you need therapy, there’s a good chance you should probably go get it. Even if there’s an inkling in you that something isn’t right or you’re not happy or you think your life can be changed for the better—then do it. I think everyone can benefit from it in some way. It’s someone to talk to, an unbiased opinion, someone to listen. Anyone can benefit from that.
Looking at it from the other side, what would you tell those who want to reach out to their friends who may need help but are unsure of how to approach the situation?
BARAKAT: My therapist always told me you can’t make someone go to therapy. They’re gonna go when they’re ready. I think it’s important you mention it to them. You can’t force someone to do anything. You can maybe nudge them that way and mention how it helped you or helped someone close to you.
FISHER: I love that. If you relay your own experience and how positive it was for you, that might make them more open. But it’s something everyone has to decide for themselves. All you can really do is encourage.
How do you hope to use WhoHurtYou to combat the stigma around mental health and entering therapy?
BARAKAT: I think us talking about it is a big deal. It’s crazy that not that many people talk about it. I know tons of artists that go to therapy, and I have friends that go to therapy. Putting it out there and being open with it is a big step. I don’t think anyone who follows [All Time Low] came to our shows, has met me in person and [has] been like, “Oh, that kid’s in therapy. Jack sees a therapist.” I think it’s important that the first step is being like, “Oh yes, I do.”
FISHER: To raise awareness is a step in the right direction.
WhoHurtYou dropped their debut single, “Wish We Never Met” last month. Their first EP, Stages, will be dropping later this year via Fueled By Ramen. The release will chronicle the stages of a breakup, and you can get the first taste of WhoHurtYou below.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, there is help to be found. Please consider these online resources and talk to your regular doctor about your symptoms:
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to Crisis Text Line by texting GO to 741741.
- MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help
- ImAlive – Online Crisis Network
- International Association For Suicide Prevention – Resources
- The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America
- The National Alliance On Mental Illness
- American Psychiatric Association – Finding Help
- National Institute Of Mental Health
- American Psychological Association – Psychologist locator