Mental Health Awareness Week With
Music Support

Over the last couple of months, much has been said about how lockdown is having a detrimental effect on the nation’s mental wellbeing. While this is true, the mental health of those working in the music industry has been an ongoing concern for years, even at a time when we could socialise and mix freely.

Late nights, readily available drugs and excessive alcohol consumption go hand-in-hand with the competitive nature of an industry that is built on social relationships. Over time, these factors can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of its workers, and the excitement that comes with landing a job in this industry can often lead to new starters side-stepping basic mental health maintenance in favour of trying to impress. For this reason, it’s important that young people who are entering the music industry do so with their eyes open to the potential pitfalls this lifestyle can have, and are aware of the terrific support networks that are ready to help them when it all gets too much.

Music Support has been operating as a charity since 2016, and was set up to help those working in music who have been suffering from mental, emotional and behavioural health disorders. We caught up with Joanne Croxford, Services Officer at Music Support to learn a bit more about the charity and to ask for advice on how both employers and staff can look after their mental health in stressful environments.

What are the broad aims and objectives of Music Support?

To provide help and support for individuals in any area of the UK music industry who are suffering from alcoholism, addiction, and emotional or mental health issues.

What are the most common concerns and issues you hear industry professionals dealing with?

In my experience, the most common concern is anxiety about finding, getting and keeping work in what is a highly competitive business. This is often teamed with feelings of depression as a result of the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction in an industry that has been historically unkind to those who need help.

Have you seen an increase in calls during the pandemic?

On average, we are seeing the same number of calls but the nature of why people are calling is certainly more complex than in previous times. We are, however, preparing ourselves for this to change because we know that addiction and mental health problems develop over time, and as a ‘new normal’ way of life develops there will inevitably be ramifications to people’s mental health.

Can you give some guidance to people who are struggling with their mental wellbeing during lockdown?

Reach out to others, not just by text but by phone and video call. Connect, and be an active member of your local community in any way that you can, even if by volunteering. Keep a rigorous routine and be kind to yourself - accept that there will be things that you have no control over so focus on the things that you can control. Use this time to enjoy a slower pace of life, and reconnect with the things you weren’t able to do when the world was going at 100 miles per hour. No judgement if that means going on a Netflix binge rather than learning Japanese!

Music support have recently partnered with Thrive, the only NHS-approved Mental Wellbeing App that is clinically proven to help detect early signs of mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety or depression, and prevent them from developing. We have over one thousand free download codes to give away, offering ten hours of CBT-based programmes, helpful breathing exercises, and guided meditation - all at the click of your smartphone. Visit our website to download and enjoy introducing it to your daily routine.

What are some of the ways in which young people can prepare for the mental challenges that come along with working in what can be a stressful environment?

Boundaries! Boundaries! Boundaries! Our industry is one that you can easily become immersed in, and if you don’t put strong boundaries in place early on then you will find it harder to do so when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will. Having friends that knew you before you “became your job” is also helpful for when you’re in need of a fresh perspective. Be strict about self-care, even if this means ringfencing time in your diary for eating good wholesome food, doing activities that aren’t related to music, or keeping in touch with those anchor relationships in your life. Also, SLEEP! Stick to a regular sleep pattern as much as you can, and if that doesn’t come easily then try to learn some breathing techniques, yoga or meditation.

What can companies do to help support their employees who are dealing with mental health problems?

Allow people to design their working hours around what works best for them, and trust that they will get their job done with their new found autonomy. Be flexible in how people work and encourage your staff to have conversations about mental health with zero judgment. A great way to get this started is by sending employees on mental health first aid training and encouraging a safe and confidential open-door policy where people feel comfortable to talk. It’s also really helpful if someone in management shows their own vulnerability with the rest of their team, as this can have a hugely beneficial effect in giving permission for others to do the same. Lead by example, and again, remind your employees that they will not be sacked as a result of being honest about what’s going on for them.

Can you tell us a bit about the Online 12 Step Support Group Meetings?

Our weekly online 12 Step Support Group meeting is an opportunity for anyone who is a member of a 12 step fellowship (NA, AA, CA, GA, BDA, OA, etc) to come together in a confidential space with others in the music industry to benefit from the power of peer support.

We have been facilitating similar group meetings backstage at UK festivals since 2016 and were very humbled to see how these meetings have helped touring musicians and workers whose hectic schedules don’t always permit them to get to their usual 12 Step Meetings. As the festivals in our 2020 diary started to cancel we mobilized ourselves and went online so that people could continue to appreciate the therapeutic value of 12 step recovery.

How can people who are worried about their mental health get in contact with you?

Feel free to visit our website for all the info on services we offer or call our helpline (Mon-Fri 09:00 - 17:00) on 0800 030 6789.

To download the Thrive App use the Music Support download code: MUSIC20