A Musician’s Mental Health
The mental health of a musician has been rarely looked at or acknowledged over the many decades of music. The topic is relatively under-researched, yet we’ve seen many cases of mental breakdowns and behaviours that sometimes seem odd or bizarre to the rest of us. Could these bizarrities be coping mechanisms? Potentially. When living in a world of fame, some behaviours and processes are not considered within the ‘norm’. They could be attributed to coping with media and the demands accompanying the role of being in the public eye. The side we are more familiar with is the musician who aspires to a career embodying fame and fortune. The musician who wants to ‘make it’ can spend many years trying. Yet, it is a lottery-type business that promises nothing leaving the artist with no guarantee or acknowledgement. My interests in musicians’ mental health cover various topics and levels of musicianship; the established celebrity and upcoming artists.
My research is underway with the University of Brighton to provide more knowledge within the field of health sciences. Information will be explored through the broadcast in my podcasting venture Facing Mel’s Music.
A Musician’s Resilience
Musicians are resilient beings with a strong sense of duty and responsibility towards their audiences. Regardless of how a performer feels at the time of a show, it takes quite a lot of convincing for a performer to stop the show at a time when they probably should take a break. Often a musician will do whatever they can to create or get into the mood and vibe of their audiences. A performing artist has to be on the same ‘feelgood’ page as their audience for a successful show, if not surpass it.
The Show Must Go On
It is only much later, potentially years later, that a musician’s suffering comes to light. Often we don’t know what’s going on in a musician’s personal world. Famous musicians have suffered mental breakdowns due to internal strains held for lengthy periods of time. Such scenarios have proven that musicians suffer in silence and carry on regardless, but at what cost?
Whether for fear of being ridiculed, belittled, or the fear of losing the spotlight, the reality of difficulties only lives behind the mask of the performer. The performer conceals all sufferings to please their audiences and maintain a professional image.
Keeping up the facade of a well-established artist is at the core of maintaining success, yet such efforts can be catastrophic. The reliance often depends on reputation and image, particularly with reference to maintaining their fan base and status within the limelight. Being seen as having mental health problems could seem like a weakness to many, but in fact, it is the very opposite. There is an inordinate amount of resilience involved in being a performing artist.
Acknowledging the qualities of being human with realistic limitations can be appealing. How an artist connects with their fan base can set them up for a lifetime of ‘audience/performer’ relationships. Fans generally move with an artist; fans are loyal and compassionate, especially when famous artists display honesty with their needs.
Regardless of whether musicians are famous and playing at Wembley Stadium or simply the local pub in Wembley, there are mental health considerations to understand from the perspectives of performing artists’ and their lives. A multitude of complexities come into play when pursuing the rocky road of music. From image and identity to social and cultural capital, it all depends on the endeavours of the artist and the desired goals or aspirations. The higher the aim, the higher the potential fall. If gigging local pubs and clubs is your thing and making a humble living, your place is safer. Generally, musicians with higher aspirations are more likely to feel the industry’s pains. Musicians with high aspirations will likely require emotional and mental health support to accompany them on their journeys. At the other end of the spectrum, the performer with fame also needs support and assistance to maintain their groundedness and cope with the demands. Either way, it is essential to self-care as a musician and seek professional assistance when needed.