Society as a whole is only just opening up about the realms of mental illness, and even though most would heavily promote the idea of looking after your own mental health there's a big difference between creating a dialogue and implementing active strategies to minimize the effect that depression and anxiety can have on your wellbeing.
That being said, there's almost a different take when we put that lens on the life of an active touring musician. A little over the year ago, the music industry worldwide mourned the death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington who opted to take his own life. Now, Linkin Park is by no means a small band, and it seems like being on stage playing your own songs to crowds full of people would be a great definition of success, so why do musicians still struggle with their own personal demons?
Let's picture the life of a touring musician. Constantly on the road playing shows with very little in the way of proper nourishment, sleep or hygiene is sure to put anyone in an irritable mood after a few days. Now let's add to the fact that musicians as a whole are desperately undervalued as people, can make or break fans' expectations with a single song, and generally speaking get paid diddly-squat for what is, in essence, a full-time job.
To top it off, the life of an active muso is probably one that is surrounded by drugs and alcohol. In fact, the culture in some ways practically thrives off illicit substances, combined with the peer pressure of your colleagues and tour buddies, it's easy to say yes to something that's probably being shoved in your face by everyone. This is not to demonize drugs and/or alcohol, but under certain circumstances, these can most likely exacerbate preexisting conditions.
Mental health is very common these days, and while I can empathize with victims of suicide, it's always felt like a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The other issue that plagues mental illness is the necessity for the individual to seek help themselves. If they or someone close recognizes they have a problem, it's up to them to take the initiative to seek treatment.
The best way we can combat the stigma is to be vulnerable and confident in our own mental health issues. Reach out and check in with somebody if you think they've not been themselves, and build your own support network of people that you can be open with. If somebody demonstrates that they don't listen to or devalue your emotions, then it's probably for the best to place your relationship with them on the back burner.
One of the sneakiest tricks mental illness pulls on you is convincing us that we are alone in our suffering. We are not.
Having a hard time on yourself?
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- QLife on 1800 184 527