Mu­sic stars are deal­ing with their demons by com­ing clean about de­pres­sion and ad­dic­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - JIM CAR­ROLL

If you stick around long enough, you can wit­ness some won­der­ful changes in how we hu­mans op­er­ate and deal with life. A cou­ple of years ago, for ex­am­ple, you rarely came across peo­ple talk­ing about men­tal health or men­tal ill­ness. Now and again it would hap­pen, but it was the ex­cep­tion rather than the norm.

It’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter to­day. Strong, re­silient, re­mark­able char­ac­ters talk openly and can­didly about their men­tal­health prob­lems and how they have dealt with them. Their hon­esty en­cour­ages oth­ers to talk be­cause these are of­ten peo­ple you wouldn’t imag­ine hav­ing to deal with the black dog.

This knock-on ef­fect is huge when it comes to those viewed as role mod­els. Hear­ing sports­peo­ple and ath­letes in par­tic­u­lar dis­cuss how their men­tal health has suf­fered be­cause of stress, strain and pres­sure is some­thing cited as per­suad­ing many oth­ers to seek help.

Like sports, mu­sic is an area where talk­ing about men­tal health has be­come more com­mon than used to be the case. From Cold­play’s Chris Martin and Biffy Clyro’s Si­mon Neil to The Bl­iz­zards’ Niall Bres­lin and Years & Years’ Olly Alexan­der, mu­si­cians don’t hes­i­tate to speak about the days when they strug­gle to deal with the dark­ness.

Over the past few months, Vice’s Noisey pub­li­ca­tion has been run­ning a fas­ci­nat­ing se­ries about men­tal health and the mu­sic business in as­so­ci­a­tion with Help Mu­si­cians UK.

Detri­men­tal ef­fect

The more pieces you read, the more you re­alise just how the work­ings of an oc­ca­sion­ally dys­func­tional, of­ten-ruth­less and al­ways-de­mand­ing business, sup­pos­edly about art and cul­ture, can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on the men­tal well-be­ing of those in the lime­light as well as be­hind the scenes.

With mu­si­cians, it is of­ten the de­mands and pres­sures brought on by record la­bels, ab­nor­mal ex­pec­ta­tions and re­lent­less tour­ing cy­cles which bring men­tal health is­sues to the fore. Those who may al­ready be cop­ing to an ex­tent with health prob­lems find ev­ery­thing changes when the in­dus­try steps in and their ca­reer goes to the next level.

But it’s not just those on­stage who find that the mu­sic business is of­ten the worst place to be when these prob­lems ap­pear or are am­pli­fied. There is no es­cap­ing the fact that de­mand­ing jobs, chal­leng­ing work con­di­tions and a fail­ure by em­ploy­ers to un­der­stand what peo­ple are go­ing through don’t help.

Of course, this ap­plies to many in­dus­try sec­tors, but the mu­sic in­dus­try seems to be par­tic­u­larly ahead of the curve when it comes to pro­mot­ing and oc­ca­sion­ally even cel­e­brat­ing un­healthy con­di­tions.

Al­co­hol in­dus­try

For many, the only way to deal with over­work and pres­sure is through self-med­i­ca­tion. That the mu­sic in­dus­try is one of the very few work spa­ces which op­er­ates with al­co­hol prac­ti­cally as part of the fur­ni­ture and fit­tings doesn’t make things any bet­ter. Drink is seen as the an­swer for keep­ing up and get­ting ahead, but it doesn’t solve any of the un­der­ly­ing pres­sures a per­son might be deal­ing with.

The ques­tion now is, what comes next? It is fan­tas­tic to see mu­si­cians join­ing the ranks of those talk­ing about men­tal­health prob­lems, but there is a press­ing need for more aware­ness through­out the in­dus­try about what causes these prob­lems, and the sup­ports re­quired to help.

There’s also an onus on la­bels, pro­mot­ers and the other em­ploy­ers to see what’s go­ing on and pay more than lip ser­vice to the prob­lem. Oth­er­wise, you’re just go­ing to end up with a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple take the big step to talk out, but ab­so­lutely noth­ing is done about it.

From Cold­play’s Chris Martin to The Bl­iz­zards’ Niall Bres­lin, mu­si­cians speak about the days when they strug­gle to deal with the dark­ness

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