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In tune. Informed. Indispensable.

Christine Brown, Help Musicians UK Director of External Affairs, reiterates the importance of mental health in the music industry, how to help others, and what initiatives such as Music Minds Matter offer those who are concerned or in need



Last week Avicii joined the tragic roll call of those who have lost their battle with mental health problems. For generations, the industry has lost some of its brightest talent and future stars due to mental health and related issues. The warning signs have been there for some time but as those affected know best, trying to find help and answers hasn’t been easy.    

Help Musicians UK launched the Music Minds Matter service in late 2017 to provide much-needed support for the whole industry. Since its launch the service has received over 200 enquiries – this has ranged from general enquiries about what the service offers and wanting to talk to someone about how they’re feeling, to people experiencing financial difficulties, going through a bereavement, concerned of the impact of touring on their mental health and relationships, and those experiencing the pressures of working in music.

Music Minds Matter came off the back of the HMUK-funded ‘Can Music Make You Sick’ study undertaken by the University of Westminster and MusicTank in 2016. With over 2,200 respondents, this was the largest study ever undertaken into the issue and resulted in international headlines. Key was the shocking statistic that those working in the industry are three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

HMUK experienced a 22% increase in requests for help from musicians across the UK, and in total last year, spent £1.9m helping these musicians through direct and indirect financial support. But HMUK can only be one part of the support package, the charity believes that we’re stronger when we work together and in partnership, transforming the music industry response through advocacy, campaigning and targeted investment.

With Music Minds Matter and the 24/7 service in full operation on 0808 802 8008 or mmm@helpmusicians.org.uk, the charity is often called upon to take part in panels and events as the industry looks at its response to the issue. One of the key questions is how to spot the signs of that someone is in emotional pain and might need help. HMUK’s partners at US charity Change Direction has produced a guide to recognising Five Signs. They are: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness.

Change Direction suggest that if you recognise that someone in your life is suffering, you connect, you reach out, you inspire hope and you offer help. Show compassion and caring and a willingness to find a solution when the person may not have the will or drive to help themselves. It may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering.  If everyone is more open and honest about mental health, we can prevent pain and suffering, and those in need will get the help they deserve.

HMUK shares these concerns and is pledging to work across the whole industry to build a willing coalition or taskforce. The charity is committed to sustaining a healthy and successful music industry and creating lasting change, this requires collaboration, awareness, education and leadership to navigate and promote real advocacy within the industry regarding mental health.

We believe the solution is in the hands of the music industry itself. We encourage all within the industry to stand with us (and others working in the music and mental health space) to pledge their support to Music Minds Matter and keep mental health high on the agenda.

There are continual themes running through the music and mental health agenda. For example, a musician’s career often involves massive highs and massive lows, and learning how to navigate these can be an art in itself. Low income, unsocial hours, irregular employment, working away from home and continuous use of the body in repetitive activity can all take their toll on musicians. The creative satisfaction of being a musician or working in the music profession can be rewarding, but the connection between performance, identity and self-belief can leave musicians vulnerable.

Mental health challenges are typically complex and are often impacted by co-existing issues in welfare, relationships, physical health, employment and financial challenges. None of these have off-the-shelf solutions and Music Minds Matter (and similar services) is not claiming to be a solution – it’s one element of support or a first step.

HMUK has pledged to invest in and support mental health and Music Minds Matter for the long term. We have already started working with elements of the music industry to end stigma and help ensure good mental health is a top priority. The charity wants to create a sustainable future for all musicians and the industry but cannot do this in isolation. Things are beginning to change and more and more industry representatives are beginning to join the crusade or make changes.

The charity has recently announced partnerships with AFEM, IMS Ibiza and Remedy State – working to support those in dance music industry to encourage awareness of what support is available and the services on hand. This comes after the tragic loss of drum ‘n’ bass producer Apex who tragically took his own life. His label, Hospital Records, and his partner wished to honour his memory and him by releasing a two-track sampler and donate the proceeds to Music Minds Matter. This incredible gesture means so much to HMUK as the service needs to front and centre in supporting all those when they need it most.   

The music industry has lost a number of unique talents in recent years, and we can hope unique collaborations like this can be a positive force to raise awareness, end stigma and help create positive steps within the whole music industry and profession.

Find out more at musicmindsmatter.org.uk or make contact on 0808 802 8008 or email mmm@helpmusicians.org.uk. The service is available 24 hours a day and 7 days per week.

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