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From #MyMusicMindMatters to PRS's new mental health 'first-aiders', a raft of music companies are joining the conversation for WMH Day 2018
By Jon Chapple on 10 Oct 2018
Today (10 October) is World Mental Health Day 2018, and artists, music companies and industry charities are doing their bit to raise awareness of what has been called an industry wide mental health crisis.
World Mental Health Day, created by the World Federation for Mental Health, has been observed annually since 1992. This year’s theme is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’, recognising the specific challenges faced by young people, one in five of whom will suffer with mental illness before they reach 24.
Several well-publicised studies have revealed that poor mental health is particularly prevalent in the global music industry, including Norwegian research from 2016 that found musicians are three times more likely to be undergoing psychotherapy than the average person, and 50% more likely to be using psychotropic medication, and a Victoria University study in 2017 that discovered the incidence of depression for those working in live entertainment is five times higher than the general population.
Among the organisations seeking to make headlines like those history is Britain’s Help Musicians UK (HMUK), which is using World Mental Health Day (WMH Day) to publicise its Music Minds Matter service, which it announced last July and launched in December in response to what it called a “mental health crisis” in the music industry.
Using the hashtag #MyMusicMindMatters, HMUK will “keep the conversation [around mental health] going by inviting the industry, artists, friends, supporters and social media communities to share the music that ‘matters’ to them.” The music will then be compiled into a playlist to raise awareness of the Music Minds Matter service, which combines a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week helpline with clinical, medical, therapeutic and welfare support for those in need.
“We wanted to … shine a light on the worryingly common issues of mental health across the music industry”
The charity has also announced new partnerships with electronic music school Point Blank, on this evening’s Guide to Survival in the Music Industry session, and US-based nonprofit Give An Hour, for the second Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change, taking place in London from 10 to 12 October, as well as supporting the upcoming Venues Day 2018 conference.
“By launching the #MyMusicMindMatters campaign and announcing our diverse range of partnerships, HMUK continues to keep mental health high on the agenda, raise awareness of the support available and encourage positive and lasting change,” says interim HMUK CEO James Ainscough. “Through our holistic programme of support, HMUK continues to make a difference to the lives of our beneficiaries by helping to build a sustainable future for all within the industry.”
Also marking WMH Day is Music Support, which alongside a 24/7 helpline of its own provides Safe Tents at UK festivals and services including crisis management psychiatric assessment and signposting.
Artist manager Matt Thomas, who founded Music Support alongside production manager Andy Franks, today spoke on mental health and addiction at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in London, part of a programme that also includes HMUK’s health and welfare officer, Aidan Culley, Mind counsellor Skye Blythe-Whitelock and musician-turned-counsellor John O’Reilly:
Matt Thomas, founding trustee, will be down at @BIMMLondon today to talk about mental health and addiction in the music industry, how to spot it, how to prevent it and most importantly, how to help each other. Make sure you pop down between 1pm and 2pm#WorldMentalHealthDay pic.twitter.com/veyL4p5CZn
— Music Support (@Musicsupport_uk) October 10, 2018
In the festival world, meanwhile, the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals is gearing up for next month’s Festival Congress and the Independent Festival Awards 2018.
Among other awards – including an outstanding contribution gong for late Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty – the Act of Independence prize will be awarded to London’s Meltdown for replacing Frightened Rabbit’s set at the event with a panel on mental health in the music industry following the death of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.
Bengi Ünsal, senior contemporary music programmer at festival organiser Southbank Centre, comments: “We are incredibly honoured and humbled to receive this award. After hearing the news of Scott Hutchison’s death, instead of leaving the Queen Elizabeth Hall unprogrammed and keeping the issue in the dark, we wanted to use the space and the platform of Meltdown festival to bring people together and shine a light on the worryingly common issues of mental health across the music industry.
“I am grateful to this year’s curator, Robert Smith, and to the wider Southbank Centre team for making it happen, and to the bravely candid panellists for sharing their experiences.”
Also making a difference are veteran Texan alt-rockers Nothing More, who have partnered on their latest The Truth tour with nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), donating US$1 from each ticket sale to the organisation, which helps those struggling with depression or addiction.
“The stigma surrounding mental health deserves to be challenged”
“We’ve seen firsthand how they [Nothing More] empower their fans to embrace things that we believe to be true: that stigma surrounding mental health deserves to be challenged, that your story deserves an audience and that together we can embody a defiant sense of hope,” says TWLOHA’s Chad Moses. “We look forward to standing alongside Nothing More on this journey toward truth.”
Elsewhere, UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music used WMH Day to announce a new mental health initiative for its hundreds of staff. By joining forces with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) to train a group of ‘mental health first-aiders’, PRS says it will be able to provide “support to colleagues on the same basis as physical first-aiders”.
Steve Powell, PRS for Music chief financial officer, says mental health is “a subject of great importance to me personally”. “Today we’ve announced a new mental health and wellbeing initiative that I hope will provide mental wellbeing support to everyone at PRS for Music,” he comments, “and help continue to break down the stigma attached to discussing it.”
Finally, ticket agency Skiddle – whose recent survey discovered staggering levels of anxiety and depression among UK promoters and venue staff – has shared footage of a follow-up panel session at London’s Queen of Hoxton, which discussed the challenges that promoters face and their effects on health, relationships and happiness.
Watch the discussion, which featured HMUK’s Christine Brown, artist-producer Matt Cantor, Claire Cordeaux of the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine and Eugene Wild of Tottenham club the Cause, below:
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