Musicians and mental health – four ways to look after your wellbeing

It’s no secret that the music industry is a pressured environment for artists and that many musicians struggle with the challenges of looking after their mental wellbeing.  Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th May) we look at how the pandemic has exacerbated the strain on musicians and suggest some positive steps that we have found helpful.

Recent news reports have highlighted how Covid-19 has accelerated a mental health crisis amongst young people, and musicians are far from immune. A survey by Help Musicians earlier this year found that 87% of musicians said that their mental health had deteriorated since the start of the pandemic; yet 4 in 5 of those experiencing mental health problems said they had not yet received a diagnosis, making it hard to secure professional help.  It described the factors that have caused stress: financial worries; a lack of certainty about the future; not being able to perform; having no purpose and the impact of Brexit on the music industry.  Indeed a Musicians Union survey last year found that more than a third (34%) of musicians were considering abandoning their career in music.

We’ve heard similar stories in our experience of working with musicians over the past year or so.  Our founder Jennie Cashman Wilson says:

“We know that lots of musicians have been struggling with their wellbeing in one way or another – feeling overwhelmed and drained; worrying about finances; wondering if they need to get another job and not focus on their music right now; juggling lots of things to make ends meet and stressing about how slow things are.

“However many musicians have also developed great resilience and creativity in learning to pivot and expand their income streams and skills in a variety of ways, for example as educators, to build portfolio careers. And that’s something we’ve been supporting artists with through our Career Development Programme.”

So, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, here’s four small things you can do to  look after yourself when times are tough:

  • Connecting with and talking to people who are supportive and positive, including those who have similar experiences and understand your world, can really help.  If you need professional support, some organisations offer this for free – resources are listed at the end of this blog.
  • Stepping away from your phone – using social media to connect, find inspiration and stay up to date is a positive thing, plus it’s a necessary part of audience-building for musicians. But when you find yourself losing hours to mindless scrolling, it’s time for a break!
  • Understanding what’s happening to your body and recognising physical signs of stress, anxiety or depression – exercising and learning techniques like breathing exercises can help you feel calmer.
  • Exploring different avenues for your creativity – the benefits of playing an instrument or listening to music are well documented, but having other routes of creativity like painting, swimming or cooking can offer a welcome alternative form of relaxation and space.

Please donate to the Abram Wilson Foundation to help us support up-and-coming musicians build sustainable careers – through our career strategy and coaching sessions with industry experts, plus showcase opportunities. 

Where to find mental health support 

Help Musicians 24/7 helpline for everyone in the music industry 0808 802 8008.

Music Support helpline for support with mental health and addiction 0800 030 6789 (9:00 am – 9:00 pm on weekdays, and 10:00 am – 8:00 pm on weekends).

Black Minds Matter connecting Black individuals and families with free mental health services.

Photo credit: @NappyStock