After reaching out on Facebook and asking for local artists who would like to be involved in an article about anxiety and depression, my inbox was flooded in about 30 minutes. People that, to me, seem the most confident in themselves were telling me about their inner struggles – I was shocked at first, but not surprised. I’d like to thank everyone that reached out – obviously, I couldn’t feature everyone but I do appreciate the courage it takes to be open about these issues.
A 2016 study by Help Musicians UK into mental health in the music industry, called ‘Can Music Make You Sick?, found that 71.1% of respondents believed that they had experienced panic attacks or high levels of anxiety and 68.5% said that they had experienced depression – with only 30% claiming that they had sought help for these issues. Their findings suggested that music industry pressures, such as the difficulty of staining a living, anti-social hours and the constant scrutiny and criticism of themselves and their work – to name but a few – is affecting the mental health of many individuals that work within the industry, from musicians to managers.
With this study in mind, I spoke to a number of musicians from across the North East that are currently fighting to climb that industry ladder. I wanted to find out firstly how common these problems are and secondly, how they affect that artist’s music in terms of practicalities and creative output.
Newcastle rapper J Smirk, having just released a track titled ‘Depression’, is trying to channel his mental health issues positively through music. “Suffering from depression and anxiety has affected my career both positively and negatively,” said J. “Music has been a positive outlet because it’s allowed me to access those feelings and translate them into something creative. Anything in between is dark. The lack of security that comes with being an independent musician with a constant flow of rejection, fear of not succeeding as well as keeping things consistent, can all have a huge impact on me. There is a big, bright red, shiny self-destruct button deep inside every creative and the second that you’re triggered to press that button, you’ll find that you start to press it more frequently.”
“Music industry pressures, such as the difficulty of staining a living, anti-social hours and the constant scrutiny and criticism of themselves and their work – to name but a few – is affecting the mental health of many individuals that work within the industry”
J’s use of his music to address his issues was reflected by many of the artists I got in contact with, although there are others that prefer to keep it out of their music as best they can.
Well established Teesside producer and rapper Naughty40 suffered from extreme bouts of anxiety before finally seeking advice from his doctor, which led to him beginning to manage it. “For me, dealing with anxiety is a daily struggle,” said 40. “Although, thankfully it’s not as hard now as it used to be. For this reason, I rarely address these issues in my music; I spend enough time and energy coping with it, I don’t want to give it even more of my time by making music about it.”
Regardless of whether the respondents were for addressing these issues in their music or not, they virtually all agreed that anyone dealing with anxiety or depression should talk about it in some capacity – whether that be to a friend, parent or doctor.
“Suffering from depression and anxiety has affected my career both positively and negatively”
Co-host of the Milk The Cow Podcast, James Budd, decided to put his career as a DJ on hold earlier this year due to his struggles with depression. However, opening up to people about his situation helped him immeasurably: “Don’t be afraid to talk, especially lads,” said James. “This ‘bottle it up’ mentally is f-ing bull**** and literally ends lives. Your mates are your mates: they don’t like you because of the happy facade you put on, they like you for you. Friends, you need to look for signs too because sometimes it’s not the easiest to tell someone you’re having a s*** time.”
Our very own editor, Lee Allcock, has also been open about his struggles with anxiety on social media: “For about three years now I’ve suffered terribly from anxiety and it makes it difficult for me to even do my job at times as things such as reviewing a gig or interviewing bands become a battle against your own thoughts (it’s going to be crowded, I’m going to pass out etc.) and you tell yourself that it’s not worth doing, so you’re battling with your mind at all times and it becomes extremely tiring. The best thing to do though is to speak about your issues, find coping methods, and to meet your fears head-on rather than hiding away from them.”
If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, it’s important not to just bottle it up. Seek help and advice and don’t be afraid to talk about it. There are a number of mental health charities in the North East including Men Tell, Mind, Mental Health North East and more that are there to support you, so don’t delay – Google them and get in touch now.