For nearly a century, Help Musicians UK (HMUK) has supported the health and welfare of artists in Great Britain and Northern Ireland by providing everything from resources in career development to grants when times are tight. Last year, the organization expanded its outreach to include support for team members like managers, DJs, and sound engineers.
In 2016, the charity noticed a 22% increase in calls for musician mental health support. “The way we see it is we have a duty of care for those who come to us,” says Christine Brown, HMUK’s Director of External Affairs and Business Development. “We really wanted to delve deeper into what the problems or what the issues were around music and mental health.”
This resulted in HMUK commissioning the “Can Music Make You Sick?” study from the University of Westminster. Recently, we spoke with Dr. George Musgrave, who co-ran the study, about its results. The findings were unsettling — of the more-than 2,000 artists surveyed, 69% reported experiencing depression, 71% experience anxiety, and 55% found it difficult to find mental help.
As a direct result, in December 2017 HMUK launched Music Minds Matter, a dedicated 24/7 support line and service that’s completely free of charge and specific to those in music. By contacting MMM by phone or email, artists have access to information, emotional support and guidance from trained professionals who understands the challenges of a career in music.
“[There’s a] critical need to do more to tackle stress and improve the mental health of what has become the many, not the few,” says Brown. “HMUK continues to advocate for the industry’s long-term health and wellbeing. It is the core of why we exist and why Music Minds Matter was created. We hope by highlighting the breadth and scale of what the MMM service offers, we can make a difference to more individuals in need, not just in times of crisis, but for anyone who is close to someone in the industry experiencing mental health challenges.”
MMM’s callers can access Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), advice about legal or debt-related issues, signposting to specialist services dealing in addictions, homelessness and even sexual harassment, as well as HMUK’s range of health and welfare services including grants for artists if they’re unable to work. “It's a comprehensive mental health service over and above emotional support and listening, which you might get from other mental health services,” says Brown.
“It's truly about understanding the musician, or the person who works in music, right through to if someone needs a grant for therapies or some type of specialist support for their health and welfare.
Beyond the services Music Minds Matter and Help Musicians UK provide, Brown recommended that artists — or other industry professionals — who are struggling with their mental health check out the following resources.
Music Managers Forum - Beyond providing resources and networking for managers, the UK-based Music Managers Forum, in conjunction with Music Support, also recently produced a Mental Health Guide specifically for managers. Topics covered include anxiety and depression, drug use and alcoholism, setting boundaries, and more.
Music Support - Beyond serving as a mental-health resource in the UK, Music Support strives to help those battling addiction to drugs, alcohol, and more. Everyone who works on Music Support’s 24/7 helpline have music-industry experience and understand the unique situations callers often need support with.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) - A resource that, as the name might imply, works closely with the medical side of mental health, BAPAM features a directory of psych-social doctors broken down by UK region. Currently, Music Minds Matter is working with BAPAM to build a network of clinicians and professionals across the UK, according to Brown.
Change Direction (US) - The goal of this US-based organization is to start conversations and “change the culture” around mental health and wellness. Recently, Talinda Bennington, widow of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, who tragically committed suicide in 2017, launched the 320 campaign to create programs and resources, like a five-sign guide, to help those struggling with their mental health.
Samaritans - A 24/7 helpline available to the UK and Ireland.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - A 24/7 helpline available to the US.
Mind (UK) - Beyond providing a mental-health helpline, Mind also has a legal helpline and a dedicated “blue light” helpline for emergency workers and their families. Also, for those who prefer not to call, they offer a textline instead.
CALM (UK) - Founded in response to the rising rates of male suicide — in 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were men — CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) offers an evening helpline, webchat, and online resources.
Since its launch in December 2017, Music Minds Matter has had around 260 inquiries, says Brown. Now, the organization is starting to think bigger.
“We'd like to roll out globally with partners bearing in mind that musicians tour,” she says. “We want a musician or anyone working in music — whether it's the live crew or a manager — to be able to access help 24/7 wherever they are in the world. That's something that we've pledged to do.”
She says that MMM is starting to collaborate with organizations including Change Direction to start building that global network and providing real, actionable access to a range of specialist resources that can help change musicians’ lives, as well as advice and emotional support.
“I definitely feel that there's a real need and there's actually a want for it,” Brown says. “The stigma around mental health is slowly lifting and it is moving up the agenda for the music industry. We are working with industry organizations here and abroad to roll it out.
“People are recognizing that there is a problem and that we need to really look after our artists..... We're now in a society where we can start to be open and honest about mental health, and that's the first step to real, lasting change that could protect the future health of our music industry.”
Part three of our series on musicians and mental health focuses on two artists and their own relationships with mental health awareness. Get notified when it goes live — sign up to our newsletter.