How MTV Music Week Helped Tackle The Stigma Around Mental Health

Jun 17, 2019 | Events, Featured, Organiser Spotlight

Mental health as a whole has rightfully taken front of stage in recent years. With an increased focus on mental wellbeing alongside physical health, we’re beginning to see a social change in attitude towards mental health and we’re starting to remove the stigma that goes with mental health issues.

The music industry has a reputation for being “volatile and competitive”. A recent survey found that around 80% of musicians suffer with stress, anxiety and depression. Whilst the music industry offers many brilliant opportunities and once in a lifetime experiences, there’s often been a struggle to balance the positives and negatives within the industry, with musicians finding they’re subject to massive highs as well as deep lows.

However, there’s also an increasingly powerful movement to help support those having a less positive experience or struggling with mental health issues in the business. MTV hosted the event – A State of Mind – during their celebration of the music industry, MTV Music Week 2019 in Plymouth. The event focussed on the increasing pressure to succeed and stand out in the music industry, with artists offering their insights into managing the highs and lows of the business.

This event featured panelists who are striving to create a more balanced experience in the industry, including Danny Angove – Red Light Management & One on One, Joe Hastings – Head of Health & Welfare, Help Musicians UK and Pete Falloon – singer-songwriter, and co-founder of Sound Mind Sessions.

Sound Mind Sessions are a new live acoustic music and mental health project that Pete Falloon and Pik Rawlings formed in 2018. The sessions aim to provide beautiful original music in stunning Devon venues, raise awareness of mental health issues in the music industry and raise funds to support places for musicians on mental health first aid courses.

Pete’s goal for Sound Mind Sessions is to “help develop a more resilient and supportive Devon music community and to fund future events and roll out the model across Devon.” They’re doing this by opening by the conversation around mental health in the South West.

Pete explained the logistics of running the platform, “As well as funding the Mental Health First Aid course places mentioned above, we provide flyers and cards on Music Minds Matter and the Help Musicians helpline at our shows. We regularly repost and share mental wellbeing related materials on our social media channels, and have great links with local press, radio and news websites who share our stories and news. Most of our support team who work with us in putting on Sound Mind Sessions shows are also trained Mental Health First Aiders, and able to provide support to those attending our concerts and more widely.”

The music industry is an incredible one, but not without its challenges. These challenges can make or break aspiring artists or those looking for another route into the business. Pete has witnessed these challenges first-hand and how they can affect mental health.

“Anxiety and depression are not uncommon, and often related to the nature of the job. Performing can be an emotional rollercoaster: great when it’s working well, terrible when it’s not, and sometimes the big ‘high’ that comes from a great gig can end in a big ‘low’, too.”

These emotions can stretch far beyond how it feels to perform, as there can be far greater challenges out of individuals’ control that can affect mental health and leave people in the industry needing greater levels of support. Pete says, “Job security is a very real challenge and puts financial pressures on musicians, and the working hours can be exhausting and difficult for relationships and family life. While social media and the rapidly connected, online world provide great opportunities for sharing music and promotion, there are also issues associated with that, and many musicians struggle to get recognized.”  

We spoke to Pete further about how speaking at an event like MTV Music Week opens up the topic to a larger audience for discussion. He believes “it’s critically important that big music institutions like MTV promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing. What we are trying to do with  Sound Mind Sessions is very much grassroots, at the level of performers, and new and emerging acts. But the music business is led by the big institutions and music companies, and most musicians would be aspiring to improve, grow and develop towards wider exposure, airplay, contracts, sales, streams, live opportunities and so on. So we need a top-down recognition of mental health issues at a high level, and an understanding of the pressures and challenges that musicians face, as well as the support needed.”

Pete was clear that these events can really make a difference when it comes to helping people in the industry with their mental health. “Absolutely yes! It’s widely recognized that simply talking about mental health is a major step towards supporting those who suffer mental health issues. Talking brings it out in the open, and makes it feel safer for others to talk about their issues too. We’ve found that songwriters performing at Sound Mind Sessions are often happy to talk about their life experiences and what’s behind their songs as part of their performances. In turn, this has created a safe environment where members of the audience have begun to discuss challenges in their lives. The other side, of course, is simply awareness raising, which both Sound Mind Sessions and the MTV event are doing a great job of!”

Pete is one of three panelists speaking at the State of Mind event and he’s thrilled to be involved. “It’s a real honor to be asked to take part in something put on by such a music giant, and at the same time to be able to talk a bit more about something I  am really passionate about, and hopefully to be part of a growing solution and support network. On a personal level, many of my musical heroes played MTV Unplugged shows, so it’s just fantastic for me to be involved.”

We asked if more events like these were held at larger events and festivals, would this help those struggling with their mental health. Pete said,

“Totally yes – the more widely these kinds of events are held, the more mental health issues in music will be recognised and understood, and hopefully we will learn how to work towards a more resilient, understanding and supportive future!”

Running an event like this during MTV Music Week opened up the subject to a wider audience and helps to remove the stigma around mental health. In May many businesses and industries recognized Mental Health Awareness Month to help their employees know where to find support if they need it. However, if we’re ever going to break the stigma, mental health needs to be recognized throughout the year, and that level of understanding and support for those are struggling needs to be maintained.

Charlotte Allkins | Marketing Assistant

Charlotte is the Marketing Assistant for Helm, coming from a design background she loves creating all types of content. Discover more of her blogs, as well as, many others here!

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