Mental Health in the Music & Creative Industries

mental health carnably street

In June, I was delighted to be part of an evening discussing Mental Health in the music and creative industries.

The event, at Platform London, Carnaby Street, was part of the Soho Music Month and aimed to consider the myth of the “Creative Genius” and the causes and role of mental dis-ease in creativity.

I joined the organiser, psychotherapist and writer Dawn Estefan, DJ Jumpin Jack Frost, spoken word artist Nego True and others, to be part of a panel discussion with an audience of creatives.

Primarily, we considered how large a part emotional upheaval can play in the creative process (evidenced by Adele’s break up songs, Vincent van Gogh’s painting and Virginia Woolf’s writing), and what that might mean to someone, whose career relies in part on melancholic expression of this angst, when they feel more content.

Attendees talked of the ‘commercial success’ selling of sadness or anger over happier themes and the pressure this placed on an artist to re-produce projects that resonated with audiences in this way.

We also considered the fickleness and fragility of a career in the creative industry, how the unpredictable ebb and flow of  cash accompanied by the trappings of fame (drugs / adoring fans / inauthentic relationships / time away from home) often provides a perfect breading ground for poor mental health – perhaps resulting in time off for ‘exhaustion’, going into rehab or even suicidal ideation.

Many in the audience felt that mangers, agents and record companies could do more to prepare and support artists to manage this better. They described how a small army of people involved in the management of talent may be financially reliant on an individuals ongoing success and how this structure can discourage taking time for self care and healing.

We shone a light on the help that was already available to people in need and also the things people can do to maintain a robust and resilient mental health regime, warding against times of stress or trauma. And one panellist also spoke about a help-line she runs specifically for workers in the creative industry.

I was delighted to see so many people there talking with honesty and vulnerability about this subject. As this kind of event demonstrates, this subject is growing in prevalence and importance. The more we can talk, without shame, about the issues that face us as individuals or the groups we identify with, the quicker we can chip away at the stigma and other barriers that prevent us from getting the help and support we need.