Awareness of mental health issues within the music industry has increased hugely in recent years. Help Musicians is a charity committed to helping current and retired musicians who are experiencing hard times. Director of External Affairs Christine Brown talks about a once taboo issue being tackled head on.
Last year, Help Musicians UK, the country’s leading independent music charity, commissioned the University of Westminster and Music Tank to conduct research into mental health issues in the music industry. The resulting academic survey, Can Music Make You Sick?, was the world’s first focused exclusively on mental health in the music industry. The findings were staggering.
The survey of over 2,000 musicians and music industry professionals found that over 68% reported suffering from depression and a further 71% experienced panic attacks or high levels of anxiety. Although these respondents were self-reporting, this suggests that musicians may be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to the public.
When this study was released back in November 2016, the media quickly featured Adele, Zayn Malik and Olly Alexander as those in the public eye with such issues. However, the survey didn’t specifically look at the price of fame; Help Musicians UK represents the whole of the industry, cross genre, those in the foreground and background.
So what did the survey suggest was the cause of this worrying trend and what are the next steps? The findings suggest 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 towards their levels of ill mental health.
Those responding to the survey attributed this to a wide variety of reasons including poor working conditions, the physical impacts of touring, gender inequality and the issues that stem from the daily struggles of a musician. Poor working conditions are often caused by the difficulty of sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion, and the inability for musicians to plan their time and future.
Issues can also stem from the lack of recognition for one’s work or to the welding of music and identity into one’s own idea of selfhood. Lastly and very importantly, women in the music industry face a separate set of difficulties due to the stigmas surrounding family life, sexist attitudes and even sexual harassment.
The final finding in the study concluded that the majority of respondents felt undeserved by available help and felt that there are significant gaps in existing provision. This survey and the campaign undertaken by Help Musicians UK is a vital first step in supporting those with mental health issues in the industry. We await news of the second phase of the survey, which will reveal some regional trends and more detail. The aim is to have a service in place for the industry in 2017. This will ensure that more and more musicians get the support they need, when they need it. Watch this space.
At BIMM, mental health matters because you matter. Our Student Support team is here to help you explore what’s going on for you. Remember that no problem is too big or too small. So if you have any questions about mental health issues please talk to your Student Support Officer or pop in to the Student Services Office.