MITC launches anxiety relief and self-isolation guide
Music Industry Therapists and Coaches (MITC) has released a 50-page guide to help artists and music industry professionals navigate the difficulties thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Guide to Anxiety Relief and Self Isolation, which has been put together by booker-turned-psychotherapist and MITC founder Tamsin Embleton, is a free resource available and can be downloaded on the MITC website.
The guide includes anxiety information and support, as well as a range of online resources and techniques to help increase self-awareness, address unhelpful thought patterns, face fear and develop resilience.
The resource also covers tips for home-working and self-isolation, looking at combatting cabin fever, developing a home-working environment, balancing loneliness and relationship challenges.
“As the live music industry steps into unchartered waters, it’s unsurprising that many of us have fears about the current crisis and what the future holds”
The guide also offers breathing techniques to reduce anxious symptoms, nutritional advice, home fitness tips and self-isolation guidance from Grammy-award winning record producer Mike Exeter.
“These are scary, surreal, stressful and anxiety-provoking times,” reads a statement by MITC. “As the live music industry steps into unchartered waters, it’s unsurprising that many of us have fears about the current crisis and what the future holds.”
A collective of psychotherapists and coaches, each member of MITC has previously worked in the music industry before retraining in mental health. MITC works with professionals and musicians at all stages of their careers – from emerging artists to household names, tour managers to major label execs.
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Global biz backs World Mental Health Day 2019
Several initiatives aiming to improve the mental health of the international music industry have been announced in the run-up to World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2019, which takes place worldwide today (10 October).
The Music Industry Therapist Collective (MITC), launched earlier this year by a collective of industry psychotherapists, has revealed that its 300-page Touring and Mental Health Manual is now fully funded – having smashed through its £21,774 goal courtesy of a donation from Live Nation’s president and CEO, Michael Rapino.
“Artists and crews spend their lives on the road, bringing shows to life for fans around the world. But that dedication can come with sacrifice,” says Rapino. “It’s critical that we provide support to ensure that everyone can maintain sound mind and body while on the road. Live Nation is proud to join the Music Industry Therapist Collective in providing new resources for mental health and wellness for the behind-the-scenes heroes who make it all happen.”
“As clinicians working with artists we witness a wide range of psychological difficulties that can occur on or as a result of touring, including loneliness, performance anxiety, band conflict, addiction and dependency, post-tour depression, relationship difficulties and burn-out,” adds Embleton. “This manual will provide practical, clinically sound advice on how to identify, approach and cope with these, and many other, difficulties, helping artists and crew to have healthier, more sustainable careers in the live music industry.”
“It’s critical that we provide support to ensure that everyone can maintain sound mind and body while on the road”
Also launching a guide, targeted at those working in its sector of the music industry, is the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), which published its new Electronic Music Industry Guide to Mental Health today.
The publication, which updates the Music Managers Forum’s Guide to Mental Health, is produced by Afem alongside Help Musicians UK and Music Support. The guide covers key mental health issues that affect those working in the electronic music industry, including anxiety, depression, alcohol, substance abuse/dependency, work/life imbalance and lack of sleep.
Sleep coach and mental health ambassador Tom Middleton, co-chair of Afem’s health group, says: “This guide represents a clear shift towards responsibility, accountability and duty of care within the industry, with expertly curated top-line actionable prevention and self-care advice and signposting to professional mental health support.”
The guide also contains a directory which lists key contacts for those needing help, which Afem will expand to cover all 25 countries in which it has members.
MITC’s Embleton, also the new Afem health working group co-chair, adds: “Working in the electronic music industry can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Job insecurity, shame and demanding work schedules can act as barriers to individuals realising that they need help. I hope that this guide can support those working in the industry by helping them to identify signs and symptoms of when someone is struggling, so that they can better support themselves and those around them.”
“Working in the industry can be deeply rewarding, but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic”
Music Support’s World Mental Health Day 2019 also sees it partnering with the Event Safety Shop (Tess), the UK-based event safety specialist, to support its work, which includes an emergency helpline, training workshops and ‘Safe Hubs’ at music festivals, where backstage staff can speak to mental health first-aiders.
“With three decades working in live events, I have too many personal experiences witnessing people suffering with mental health issues without adequate support,” says Tess director Simon James. “We work in a pressured environment and we’re very proud to do what we can assisting Music Support in bringing empathetic, professional help into the music industry.”
Music Support MD Eric Mtungwazi adds: “Music Support is delighted that Tess has chosen to support the charity in helping industry peers affected by mental ill health and/or addiction issues.
“Tess is a leader in the field of health and safety needs, and we see this partnership as a significant industry step forward towards putting mental and physical health agenda on more even footing for the wellbeing of the community we serve.”
“We work in a pressured environment and we’re very proud to do what we can assisting Music Support”
In the US, LightHopeLife, a suicide prevention and awareness charity, has launched Tour Support, a non-profit service offering mental health support for the touring industry.
Backed by the likes of Live Nation, WME and artists including John Legend, Steve Aoki, José González and My Morning Jacket, aims to provide touring professionals (artists and crew) with support when they’re on the road.
Tour Support’s first initiative is a partnership with online therapy provider BetterHelp, which will allow tours to purchase a plan that makes professional counselling available anytime, anywhere, via text, phone or video chat, to everyone in their organisation.
BetterHelp has additionally gifted $250,000 worth of services to new and independent artists.
“Online counselling is a great solution to people on-the-go and those with hectic schedules, so it’s a natural fit for musicians and the people who work with them,” says BetterHelp founder and president Alon Matas.
“Tour Support’s initiative can be life-changing for so many people, and it aligns perfectly with our mission to make professional counselling accessible anytime, anywhere. We’re proud and excited to partner with an organisation that proactively addresses the mental health needs of their industry.”
“Tour Support’s initiative can be life-changing for so many people”
Tour Support also counts Vicky Cornell, widow of Chris Cornell, as a supporter, with her Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation coming on board.
“Tour Support’s trainings and resources will specifically help support the music community that Chris will always be a part of,” she explains. “I’m honoured to be a part of their efforts to raise awareness, educate and support our extended families on the road.”
WMHD, created by the World Federation for Mental Health, has been observed annually since 1992. World Mental Health Day 2019’s theme is the prevention of suicide, which kills 800,000 people every year, and is the leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.
Find out how the music community marked last year’s World Mental Health Day here.
A High Cost: How the biz is fighting back against mental illness
People in every profession and walk of life struggle with maintaining a healthy mind, and in an increasingly fast-paced and over-stimulated world, problems including anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction and burn-out affect all corners of society.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Tragically, almost 800,000 lives are lost to suicide each year, equating to one death every 40 seconds. Mental health-related issues, then, are certainly not unique to the live music industry. However, many of the factors that contribute to problems – such as intense stimulation, irregular sleeping patterns, substance abuse, high pressure and loneliness – are often encountered by those within it.
The “competitive, turbulent and stressful” nature of the live entertainment industry, as well as “long working hours, poor boundaries between social and work life, and easy access to drink and drugs” pose many challenges to those working within it, says agent-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton.
The pressure to gain and maintain success at one end, and job precarity and financial pressures for those starting out in the industry, or working in low-level backstage positions, at the other, can also increase the risk of harmful behaviours.
The specific demands and pressures thrown up by touring present further challenges to those working at all levels and in all sectors of the industry. “Live performers often have issues with loneliness,” states Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) regional manager Tristan Hunt, referencing the abrupt emotional comedown experienced after performing to a fan-filled venue.
“Acts can also struggle with the demands of performing multiple times in a short period, or experience things like performance anxiety,” continues Hunt. “This is combined with access to substances to alleviate those pressures.”
A recent study into musicians’ mental health, carried out by Swedish digital music distributor Record Union, revealed that 73% of artists surveyed had suffered from mental health issues. Those working behind the scenes face similar issues, too. “Artists normally have management and a support network, but the people around them are under immense strain, too,” Andy Franks, co-founder of mental health charity Music Support, tells IQ.
“The doors always have to open, and the show always has to go on. There’s an incredible amount of pressure and euphoria, and when it’s over there’s quite a void in your life,” says Franks.
“Once shared, the problem gets smaller”
A rising awareness
Conversations surrounding wellbeing within the industry have cropped up more and more in recent years. The tragic, high-profile suicide of Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, in 2018, and the death of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint earlier this year, shocked and saddened many and thrust mental wellbeing into the spotlight.
Backstage, professionals attending the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) in March spoke of the “sad reality” of losing friends and colleagues to suicide, discussing ways in which working conditions could be altered to prioritise the welfare of staff.
Support has sprung up in a variety of forms, from documents detailing modes of best practice, to scientific study into the mechanisms of a healthy mind, and music industry specific helplines to offer a friendly and knowledgeable voice to those in need.
Lina Ugrinovska, international booker at Macedonia-based Password Production, was public about a 2016 burn out. “When I shared my own story, and every step of the way afterwards, I realised that talking about it really does makes a big difference,” she says, “I’m really pleased to see that many initiatives and support centres have been built, and personal stories have been shared.”
Perceived stigma around mental health can often prevent individuals from speaking out, accentuating feelings of isolation and exacerbating the severity of issues. “Once shared, the problem gets smaller,” says Ugrinovska, who began her own initiative, Mental Health Care in the Music Industry, last year. Since then, she has been an advocate for mental health at international conferences across Europe and also formed part of the first decentralised Ni9ht H3lps workshop in Prague.
However, in Ugrinovska’s native Macedonia, as well as the rest of the Balkan region, she says there is “nothing” to support music industry professionals struggling with mental health issues. “The market here is really small and so is the number of people involved in the industry, but we are also facing the same struggles and people do not know who they can turn to,” says Ugrinovska.
The focus on mental health in panel discussions, expert talks and workshops at major industry conferences and events is a good step towards disseminating information about available services, as well as normalising and destigmatising the taboo. “People are hungry for information [about mental health and wellbeing], and they are also keen to find out about it in a slightly more dynamic way,” says Jenni Cochrane, co-founder of Getahead, a 24-hour “festival of the head.”
Fusing education and entertainment, Get Ahead shines the spotlight on employee wellbeing, informs people of where to get help, and celebrates life, according to Cochrane. “There’s no real understanding of the damage mental health issues are having on musicians and other staff, too,” she states, “but collectively, we are all becoming more in tune with it.”
“Peer support is an incredible thing”
Raising awareness and stimulating conversation is one way of removing stigma and encouraging people to voice their struggles. However, complex specificities continue to govern the culture of silence in many parts of the industry, as Lori Rubinstein, executive director of US-based Behind the Scenes Foundation, explains.
“People who are used to being on tour are not used to speaking out – they are the ones who solve the problems,” states Rubinstein, whose foundation provides grants to production workers unable to work due to illness or injury. Being on the road, says the Behind the Scenes executive, means individuals are away from family and friends and often working in a temporary team of colleagues who are unlikely to pick up on changes in behaviour.
The transitory and highly specific nature of touring also complicates the establishment of a relationship with a regular therapist, or other medical professional, who may be sensitive to the situation at hand. To combat these issues, some music industry professionals have taken matters into their own hands.
Music Support came about from the desire to create a service that was “fine-tuned” to the needs of those in the music business, says co-founder Franks. Having suffered personally from addiction issues and finding himself “at a loss” as to how to tackle it, he wanted to prevent others from having the same experience.
The 24/7 helpline offers industry-specific advice and guidance for music industry professionals struggling with mental illness and points them in the direction of appropriate medical help. The initiative has set up backstage areas known as “safe tents” at major music festivals across the UK, including Download, Reading and Leeds Festivals and British Summer Time in Hyde Park, to offer people an “escape” and a space to get some respite and information.
The spaces also host Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings for those struggling with addiction on the road.
“Peer support is an incredible thing,” says Franks. “We don’t necessarily have all the solutions but we can let people know that this is not something they have to suffer alone.”
Offering a clinical perspective is the Music Industry Therapist Collective, a group of psychotherapists and counsellors with a background in the industry. The collective, based in London and Los Angeles, works in person and online with individuals and bands, as well as offering workshops and group therapy. The collective is also working on a best practice guide, the Touring and Mental Health manual, to tackle issues including performance anxiety; relationship difficulties; addiction; stress and burn-out; trauma; and post-tour depression.