Mental Health Awareness Week – Help Musicians UK: Matthew Leone, International Artist Liaison Executive
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 14-20th May, we are running a series of 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.
Today we are featuring a blog from Help Musician’s International Artist Liaison Executive, Matthew Leone.
Through my 13 years as a career musician as bassist of Madina Lake, I have navigated the highest highs and lowest lows of the biz, and I’ll be the first to admit that the gift of making music comes with an equally valued toll. My labour of love continued when I made the move last year from LA to London to work more closely with HMUK.
Having toured with Linkin Park in 2007, the news of Chester Bennington’s passing last summer engendered a sobering and palpable effect on the music community, and those effects are still being felt now as we lose more talented souls, Avicii being the most recent, tragic passing.
My band Madina Lake were signed in 2005, and through three subsequent album cycles, we toured the world. We had a single on heavy rotation on radio and MTV, we supported Linkin Park in the US, blew up in the UK after supporting Paramore, got invited to Australia to headline, then went onto Japan and Europe.
Writing, recording, releasing music, then hopping on a tourbus with your best friends on a global tour, sounds like heaven, right? Our most treasured, intimate, painfully vulnerable creations, which we’ve generously shared is heralded by millions, entertaining, stimulating, giving meaning to so many. We were the luckiest people alive, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t hard.
This is the moment when Toto’s curtain-pull busts the myth of the rock star, the highs can invariably turn into lows.
I’ll never forget leaving the studio in Los Angeles, with the record in the can and the label loving it, we started touring, driving 2,000 miles at a time from stop to stop. A painful silence screamed throughout the van by day two, when we realised we weren’t going home to our friends, families and girlfriends, for a long, long time. The crowds and the press hated us on that first tour. Suddenly, it’s not just that we’re not someone’s cup of tea, we are the bane of thousands of people’s existence. We are aggressively, animatedly, emphatically loathed. We were far away from home and the loving embrace of our partners, so it’s not surprising that the following eight years were a rollercoaster.
Being on the road can be one of the biggest and most arduous challenges an artist can face. But help is available and we can also access help within ourselves – so having a self-care toolkit to get you through it is a big part of that. When you take care of yourself, you replenish your reserves, so I will share with you the things I’ve learned about self-care on the road:
- Find coping strategies to replenish yourself and deal with the lows, lack of sleep, being away from loved ones, bad nutrition, the pressure and unhealthy lifestyle – go for a walk or run, yoga, meditate, swim, any form of exercise, go for a massage or another therapy, drink water, use an eye mask and earplugs, get some quiet down time to read or write, cook or make smoothies, practice mindfulness, talk to someone and stay in touch, phone home or at least ask for help if it gets really bad
- Start to understand your body and how it responds to stress and exhaustion – it is at war with itself, so you need to find the inner peace and calm in the midst of the chaos of touring
If you are on the road with someone who is struggling, there is also advice from HMUK’s partner at US charity Change Direction, who have produced a guide to recognising Five Signs. They are: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness.
Change Direction suggests that if you recognise that someone in your life is suffering, you connect, you reach out, you inspire hope and you offer help. Show compassion and caring and a willingness to find a solution when the person may not have the will or drive to help themselves. It may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering. If everyone is more open and honest about mental health, we can prevent pain and suffering, and those in need will get the help they deserve.
HMUK shares these concerns and is pledging to work across the whole industry to build a Mental Health Coalition or Taskforce to promote real advocacy within the industry regarding mental health, so we can sustain a healthy and successful music industry for all.
There is help and support via HMUK’s mental health service and support line Music Minds Matter, which is dedicated to the whole music industry, it’s free, totally confidential and available 24/7.
Anyone who gets in touch with Music Minds Matter on 0808 802 8008 or email@example.com will receive information, emotional support and signposting to additional services that may be of help. There is access telephone counselling, face-to-face counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and advice on debt, benefits and legal issues, as well as links back to Help Musicians UK’s grants.
Check out HMUK’s workshop at The Great Escape 2018: “Self-care and staying healthy on tour”, on Saturday 19 May, 1.30pm-3.30pm (Brighton Dome, Mezzanine), Free to those who register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/help-musicians-uk-presents-self-care-and-staying-healthy-on-tour-tickets-45722397923