“Create the music industry you want to see and invest in positive mental health” – AFD Conference panellist on musicians’ mental health issues

Last week, the very first Appetite For Disruption Conference was held in Brighton, UK, which saw 700 students from over 15 prestigious educational institutions join leading representatives to discuss the future challenges of the music industry.

The array of panel sessions and talks throughout the day focussed on many aspects of the industry, including the future of streaming, the art of songwriting, gaining fans through social media, and much more.

Check out our write up of the session that centred around how we can save grassroots music venues here, and continue reading this article to find out what was discussed in the ‘Can music make you sick?’ session chaired by Liam Hennessy from Help Musicians UK

With Hennessy revealing that 68% of musicians experience depression, the first issue to be discussed was why the panel thought that figure was so high.

“You are expressing your passion and often get knocked back on social media. The job involves unsocial hours and on top of that, success is largely down to luck,” explained Stephen Daltry, counsellor, psychotherapist and executive coach.

“We have a lot of students who experience anxiety. It is stressful being a student anyway, but also working long and odd hours as interns can take its toll,” commented BIMM Brighton’s Caitlin O’Connor.

“Musicians and music students are each other’s support networks. It’s important to look out for each other.”

Lucy Stone, Rhythmix

Lucy Stone from music charity Rhythmix expanded on how unsocial hours can affect musicians: “There is a lot of working alone, which can make artists feel isolated. Partners and family members can have very different time tables and a lot of friends move on to do 9-5 jobs, yet musicians are still working night-time hours.

“Musicians and music students are each other’s support networks. In any other job you have supervision and support, but there is nobody looking out for musicians in that way, so it’s important to look out for each other.”

Next up, the panel spoke about how the industry is responding to the news that such a high percentage of musicians suffer from some form of depression or anxiety.

“At HMUK we have a student health scheme,” said Hennessy. “If you did find yourself in a situation, we can offer a grant for counselling.”

O’Conner said of BIMM’s offering: “We can refer students to counselling sessions. We also this year started a services day with a number of organisations and services to help them get advice and support.”

The panel seemed in agreement that there is a lot out there for musicians and music students who are struggling. “All different parts of the industry have their own networks and systems in place,” said Stone. The panel also agreed that a crucial element to getting help is making sure you actually ask for it.

“Think about self-responsibility. It’s down to you to take advantage of those services.”

Stephen Daltry, counsellor and psychotherapist

“Take on board the support services and invest in yourself so you can build up your sense of self and be able to take on the challenges that the industry can bring,” urged Daltry. “Think about self-responsibility. It’s down to you to take advantage of those services.”

Stone warned: “Drugs, alcohol and being in that environment can have an impact on your mental health, even if you’re not taking part yourself. Find what re-centres yourself and bring yourself back to a time when you were in positive mental health.”

Hennessy explained what HMUK can offer those in need: “We’ve set up a 24/7 support line and service. You can be a music student, a professional musician at any stage of your career and you can access this helpline. Through that, you will be able to get up to 45 minutes of emotional support. If it comes out of that conversation that you need further counselling, we can refer you.”

Stone concluded: “You are the future of the music industry. Create the music industry that you want to see. In 10 years’ time, make sure you are investing in other peoples’ positive mental health. To do that, you have to invest in yours right now.”

If you are a musician who would like to find out more about mental health issues or would like to talk to someone, visit https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/