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Help Musicians UK’s landmark study on mental health and the music community leads to three key pledges



The country's leading independent music charity, Help Musicians UK (HMUK), today released the final report and findings of Can Music Make You Sick? and announced three key pledges for the music industry. 

HMUK pledged to establish a Music Industry Mental Health Taskforce, to lead the drive for change across the industry as well as launching a landmark 24/7 mental health service ‘Music Minds Matter’ for anyone working in the music industry by December 2017 This final pledge combines clinical and therapeutic help, grant funding and bespoke legal, welfare, debt and benefits advice. 

HMUK, who have been serving the music industry for 96 years, originally commissioned Can Music Make You Sick? in 2016. This is the world’s largest known academic study into music and mental health and was a survey of over 2,200 musicians —revealing that the music community may be up to three times more likely to experience depression compared to the general public.

The research provided crucial insight into the scale of the problem of musician’s mental health challenges, how this can be further impacted by a career in music, to find out how the charity can help and support those that need it most in the music community.

This new and final study, undertaken by researchers Sally Gross and Dr. George Musgrave of the University of Westminster and published by MusicTank, asked the music community how their working conditions have impacted on their mental health and general wellbeing and comprises semi-structured interviews of 26 respondents from a broad cross section of the industry. The participants stem from the initial 2016 survey.

As well as making the three headline pledges, today HMUK has revealed the key insights and recommendations from the report:

Research key insights: 

  • Money worries - 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 get little time to take a break. Musicians can also find it hard to access affordable professional help for mental health issues.
  • Poor working conditions - Music makers can be reflective and highly self-critical, and exist in an environment of constant critical feedback. As many musicians are self-employed, their work can result in feelings of isolation when it comes to dealing with mental health problems. 
  • Relationship challenges - Family, friends and partners play an important role in supporting musicians, but these relationships can come under huge pressure and strain.
  • Sexual abuse/bullying/discrimination - Musicians’ working environment can be anti-social and unsympathetic, with some experiencing sexual abuse, harassment, bullying and coercion. 

Summary of recommendations:

  • Education – Discussion of mental health awareness should be embedded in curriculum in music education courses and wider discussion should be stimulated in the industry with working musicians.
  • A code of best practice – Allied to a commitment of kindness and tolerance, to act as voluntary demonstration of an organisation’s awareness of mental health issues in the music industry and an understanding of the challenges faced by creative workers.
  • A mental health support service for music community – professional mental health services that are affordable and accessible.

HMUK’s Three Key Pledges:

  • Building a music industry Mental Health Taskforce – with key partners and stakeholders, to be a forum for discussion with the industry to establish a code of best practice and duty of care within the industry
  • Deliver a nationwide support service – This will take the form of Music Minds Matter, the unique new 24/7 mental health service to launch December 2017, to be shaped and defined in partnership with the industry
  • Advocate for change across the industry - Ignite support in the UK and globally for Music Minds Matter with key industry partnerships and collaborations

Christine Brown, Director of External Affairs, HMUK said: “HMUK is uniquely placed to commission and share the results of this important, game-changing study. The charity granted nearly two million pounds last year to those that need it most in the industry, so it is a natural step to examine the key issues and make a call to action to help implement wider, lasting change in the industry, namely HMUK’s three key pledges. 

“The British music industry is in rude health and has a world class reputation – but to continue the long-term wellbeing of the industry and its workers, we aim to create a constructive forum for discussion, partnership and collaboration.

“Through the new Music Minds Matter service, we are closer to providing the crucial support, advice and education the music community desperately needs.  Together we can continue to chip away at the stigma, so that in the long term those working in the community never have to suffer in silence.”

Researchers Sally Gross and Dr. George Musgrave said: “This research is a crucial step forward in our understanding of the complex relationship between the working conditions of musicians and mental health conditions. The honesty and poignancy of our interviewees has made possible this important work, and informed the service provision being implemented by Help Musicians UK, and for that we are truly thankful. We welcome the new service Music Minds Matter and hope that this research can spark a wider debate both in the music industry about the welfare of those at its heart, and more generally about the challenging nature of precarious work."

HMUK Trustee Baroness Judith Jolly added “This is one of the most ground-breaking and important projects that the charity has undertaken in its 96-year history. The HMUK Trustees are delighted and are in full support of this life changing research and the launch of the Music Minds Matter service. I call for the industry to engage with and support the report's recommendations, especially at this time when there is a clear and urgent need for change." 

HMUKs summary reports of Can Music Make You Sick can be downloaded for viewing online here. 

Both academic studies – pilot survey and report may be read in full here: 

musictank.co.uk/product/can-music-make-you-sick-part-1-pilot-survey-and-report/

musictank.co.uk/product/can-music-make-you-sick-part-2-qualitative-study-and-recommendations/

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