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Music and Depression campaign launches to address mental health in pro musicians

Generic musician mental health Photo: Marina Young Photo: Marina Young
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A major new campaign dedicated to tackling mental health issues among professional musicians – including those working in the West End – has been launched.

The campaign is driven by charity Help Musicians UK, which is also carrying out the first ever academic study into mental health problems within the profession. This follows a 2014 survey, which found that almost 60% of musicians working in all areas of the industry had suffered from depression or other psychological issues.

Of the respondents to the survey, 13% worked in musical theatre and 15% in opera.

HMUK chief executive Richard Robinson said the increasing profile of mental health issues within the media had been a reason to launch the new campaign and research, adding that mental health problems within all cultural professions was of growing concern.

He told The Stage: “There is a long-held belief, which we are not looking to prove or disprove, which is that those within the creative industries are more susceptible to mental health issues. Whether or not that is the case, the stigma of mental health or emotional wellbeing is still more than apparent. What we are trying to do is break down barriers here, to ensure that people are talking about it.”

The campaign, called Music and Depression, aims to start conversations about depression and other conditions linked to mental wellbeing, reducing the number of people who suffer in silence.

Robinson said Music and Depression was an opportunity to deliver real change for performers and that the move represented a “new strategic direction” for HMUK.

He went on to say that the charity’s own survey, as well as an increase in the number of people contacting its help and advice department with mental health-related queries, had prompted the campaign.

The academic research, carried out by the University of Westminster, will explore how the music industry can have a negative impact on the mental health of those working in it.

“We’re not just doing it to raise the profile [of the problem] in the music industry, but we want to build a service. Part of it is that by 2017, we would like to have a service dedicated to musicians’ mental health and emotional wellbeing. We are using this academic survey to help us shape what that service will be,” Robinson said.

Robinson added that in the meantime, the charity was looking to create a mental health task force – which would be the first of its kind – to explore the ways in which support can be offered.

It comes as the effects of working in cultural professions on an individual’s mental wellbeing is increasingly discussed.

A 2015 survey launched by The Stage, Equity and Spotlight found that one in five people working in the entertainment industry had actively sought help for mental health issues, while 46% of the 5,000 respondents described their state of mental wellbeing as either poor or average.

Contributing factors identified included financial pressures, lack of control over careers and a shortage of work.

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