Musicians' Mental Health Challenges Revealed In New Poll

By David Konow 10/24/17

Nearly 70% of musicians polled said they have battled depression.

silhouette of musician with guitar at sunset field

A large number of musicians who took part in a recent survey about their mental health have confessed that they've struggled with anxiety and depression.

As Billboard reports, this survey was conducted by Help Musicians UK (HMUK), one of the top music charities in the United Kingdom. In the first part of the study—called "Can Music Make You Sick?"—71% of the musicians surveyed admitted that they had battled anxiety or panic attacks, while 69% said they suffered from depression.

Of the respondents impacted by mental health issues, 57% did not receive treatment, while 53% said it was hard to find the treatment that they needed. 

Over 2,200 musicians participated in this survey, reportedly the biggest poll about musicians' mental health issues to date.

The second part of the study broke down the variety of factors that contribute to musicians' mental health struggles in the modern age. Twenty-six independent artists were interviewed for this portion of the survey. They highlighted reasons such as having to deal with record label pressure, criticism on social media, and working other jobs to stay afloat, something which today’s musicians have to do more than ever in the era of fans downloading music for free.

Musicians must also deal with sexual abuse, bullying and discrimination, "as well as antisocial and unsympathetic working environments," Classic FM reports.

As Christine Brown, an executive at Help Musicians, told Billboard, “I’ve heard several conversations in the past where the main concern was how to make sure artists can ‘thrive’ in a sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle. While that lifestyle certainly exists, if we as an industry are endorsing that lifestyle, we clearly aren’t looking after the health and wellbeing of those working in music the way that we should.”

As Classic FM reports, Help Musicians is also developing a 24/7 service where artists can get help called Music Minds Matter. “Through the new Music Minds Matter service, we are closer to providing the crucial support, advice and education the music community desperately needs,” Brown told M Magazine.

This survey has come at an important time when several high-profile musicians ended their lives this year. Many have used these tragic events as a call to arms to raise mental health awareness among artists, and to reduce the stigma against mental health issues.

Brown adds, “We believe we can be the catalyst for joining the dots between all these different organizations in the music industry, to build something sustainable and meaningful.”

In addition to getting artists the care that they need, Help Musicians also wants to help the people who work for bands that don’t share the spotlight.

Richard Robinson, the CEO of Help Musicians UK, said, “If you think about a Coldplay tour, there are several hundred people working behind the scenes on production alone. They’re just as likely to suffer from fatigue, anxiety and other health issues as any member of any band... We’re trying to ensure that whether you are Adele or Adele’s stylist, you are given the same support.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.