It's not every day that we feel the need to drop all of our music promotion work and to take on the role of a journalist to conduct an interview. However, if you weren't aware, this month the wonderful team at the charity organisation Help Musicians UK launched their new 24/7 phone service 'Music Minds Matter' offering a support line and service for the whole UK music community.
Whilst many may see the music industry as one of the 'funnest jobs going'... and a good chunk of the time it is... it can also be one of the most stressful and emotionally draining jobs out there. As many people in the industry are overly passionate about what they do and give their all to what they believe in... it's no wonder that many people in the industry find themselves drained, stressed and emotionally vulnerable.
We spoke with Richard Robinson, Chief Executive of Help Musicians UK about what Music Minds Matter meant for people in the industry, and what we can all do to support their efforts and raise awareness of these vital issues.
Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us about your charity. Obviously, it is something close to your hearts, what was it initially that got the charity started?
In 2014, Help Musicians UK carried out a Health and Wellbeing survey, inviting musicians to tell us about the stresses and strains of the profession. 552 musicians and music industry representatives responded from all genres of music and at all stages in their careers. Key themes and challenges included anti-social working hours, performance anxiety, repetitive strain injury and hearing.
As a direct result of this survey, the charity launched the Music and Depression campaign in 2016 and commissioned the world’s largest known study into mental health in the music industry. Authored by the University of Westminster and Music Tank, this was entitled Can Music Make You Sick?
The most striking of all of the findings was that musicians appear to be suffering from anxiety and depression in significant numbers – up to three times more likely than the public.
One of the key recommendations from the research was that musicians want professional and easy to access mental health services. They also want to talk to people who understand the unique challenges they face. This is why HMUK launched Music Minds Matter.
Who are the people you help? Is it only professional musicians? Is it only contacts in the UK?
In general, the Music Minds Matter service is open to anyone who works in the music industry. However, HMUK provides much more than Music Minds Matter and has been in existence for over 96 years. HMUK supports musicians at all stages of their lives. We can help those who are working or have worked in a related music profession, and they either have to be currently living in the UK, or have been a resident of the UK for a minimum of three consecutive years.
If someone was to call up your new helpline, what sort of help are they likely to receive through your charity?
Anyone who calls the support line will receive emotional support, advice, listening and signposting to additional services that may be of help. People may also be able to access counselling (telephone or face-to-face), cognitive behavioural therapy, and advice on benefits, debt, homelessness and legal issues. Callers can also be routed back to HMUKs grant-making services where financial support can be found for those in need.
Is the helpline only for people suffering themselves, or can people call up if they have a friend who needs help in the industry?
Music Minds Matter is a first for the British music industry, and anyone is welcome to call. The person who answers the calls and emails is a trained advisor who appreciates what some of the challenges of working in the music industry can be.
The additional services – counselling, CBT and links into debt, legal and welfare advice – can be accessed by those who meet the charity’s eligibility criteria.
Are there any key signs we can all look for to spot mental illness in each other, and even ourselves? Being in this industry can bring a lot of stress so how do you differentiate that from something more serious?
Mental health is a complex issue and is often impacted by other issues in welfare, relationships, physical health, employment and financial challenges.
Dealing with mental health challenges or concerns in isolation can be very difficult and is not always the most effective response. We recognise there is no one-size-fits-all approach or solution to such a complex subject. We can’t always immediately address a mental health challenge or concern but we can work with you to find appropriate treatment, care and support.
How much does it cost to run the charity every year?
The charity runs on donations and legacies and is completely impartial and independent from the music industry. In 2016 our charitable expenditure was £5.6m and it cost us around £1.3m to run the charity.
If anyone would like to get involved/help out are there any opportunities for them?
We’d encourage anyone in the UK music industry to spread the word about Music Minds Matter. This is a service for the entire industry.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention about your charity or the new service for our readers/bands/friends?
The most important point is to remind musicians or those working in the music industry that they can call Music Minds Matter on 0808 802 8008 or email MMM@helpmusicians.org.uk (please note a 48-hour maximum turnaround for emails) to receive help and support – 24 hours a day, seven days a week and free of charge.
Please show your support by following Help Musicians UK on their social media pages below