Mental Health Awareness Week – Help Musicians UK: Joe Hastings, Head of Health & Welfare
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, we are running a series of guest blogs focusing on the role of music in mental health from some of the initiatives we work closely with including the BRIT School, Nordoff Robbins, Music Support, Key4Life, Help Musicians & more.
Musicians’ challenges can be many and various and Help Musicians has offered support to musicians for nearly 100 years. We are an independent charity, which aims to make a meaningful difference to the lives of musicians. Our Health and Welfare team offer structured person-centred support to musicians experiencing health or welfare challenges, alongside delivering new preventative interventions to improve the overall wellbeing of music professionals. This Mental Health Awareness Week, Help Musicians’ dedicated, around the clock listening ear service for the music industry Music Minds Matter has been serving musicians for nearly a year and a half and has positively impacted on hundreds of lives
As the Head of Health & Welfare at Help Musicians, myself and the team are on the front line in understanding and addressing the urgent needs of musicians. Our research shows that musicians can face unique challenges that leave them particularly vulnerable. Through our research, we have gained valuable insights in to these challenges, which has enabled us to shape services to reduce the impact of mental ill health and deliver and preventative support – Music Minds Matter is a key example of this.
Our approach is person-centred and tailored to the varied and complex needs of a musician and their unique circumstances across career and life-stage. Collaborating throughout the UK with partners to support musicians, we want to ensure we can respond to the ever-changing wellbeing needs of musicians and in our field of work we have observed a distinct shift in how music professionals are opening up about their mental health.
Anecdotally many of the thousands of music professionals that we engage with throughout the year are communicating more openly about their experiences of mental health challenges than before. In 2018, Help Musicians made a record number of Health & Welfare payments to nearly 7,000, growing by 38% from last year, so it’s clear there is still a huge need among musicians.
The charity has actively promoted conversations, alongside organisations that we collaborate with such as the British Association of Performing Arts (BAPAM) and Music Support, to gain more insights into the needs of musicians, share knowledge and best practice, with the aim of influencing and improving working conditions for musicians and ultimately affect positive change for musicians and their mental wellbeing. Through the preventative support that Music Minds Matter provides, there is an opportunity for anyone working in the industry who is struggling to cope and needs a listening ear of support, to talk, not just about their career in music, but the struggles of everyday life.
From professionals working in the mental health sphere, to individuals who make the brave decision to open-up about their experiences of mental health challenges; I have seen first-hand the positive impact of responsible and insightful conversations around mental health through our Health & Welfare and Music Minds Matter services and we should endeavour to ensure we remain reflective and respectful of the realities of those that we seek to support.
For many of the collaborations, panels and events that we have been involved in since the launch of Music Minds Matter, we have promoted efficacy through our growing network of mental health professionals and accredited specialists, many of these also offer health interventions to musicians and where appropriate – you can see a list of specialist services in this area on our directory https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/get-advice/health-wellbeing/general-health-services.
I have observed and engaged over the past two years a huge amount of progress in how people working in music are developing their understanding and knowledge of mental health challenges I would like to encourage conversations that reflect on the many compound issues that contribute to mental ill health. Help Musicians UK are aware that complex challenges are commonplace in musicians’ experiences: Lifestyle challenges, physical health issues financial and relationship issues alongside the precarious nature of working anti-social hours, often in freelance capacities create unique difficulties.
We hope that the breadth and scale of HMUK’s health and welfare offer in the music community will encourage people to access the support available to them, by collaborating to engender a healthy approach to working in the industry and more sustainable, healthy careers for musicians.
If you work in music and are finding things tough, or know someone who is, talk to us. You can contact Music Minds Matter on 0808 802 8008, or by emailing MMM@helpmusicians.org.uk.