How to Preserve Mental Health in the Music Industry

Lack of sleep, burnout, anxiety and depression are all things that people in the music industry face on a regular basis (written as I almost fell asleep on the subway due to going to sleep at 2 am thanks to a website redesign). Luckily — and gratefully — A2IMIndieWeek put on an incredible panel Wednesday afternoon with kickass women in the music industry to smash the stigma of mental health.

Moderated by Jennifer Leff (Recording Academy MusiCares), the panel included Kathryn Hummel (Hummel Entertainment), Ava Trilling (Subpop Musician, Full-time student, and Fader journalist), Jess Caragliano (Terrorbird Media),  and Dr. Ying Zhen (Business Professor at Wesleyan College).

“Emotional awareness of how you are, what you’re feeling, the decision to step back from something … the ability to know where you stand emotionally and mentally, and being able to put yourself [your health] first in situations.” –  Ava Trilling

Maintaining mental health is difficult when you’re constantly going on tour, or answering artist phone calls at 3 a.m. — that is something that no one will disagree with. But there are certain things that you can do to take your mental health into your hands:

  1. If you’re in PR or Marketing, or another full-time music role, work with your manager to organise a role that potentially cuts back on hours, or allows you to take vacations, or work from home if your health requires it. Jess from Terrorbird is a G at this — and has been able to sustain and grow over the years with an approach of openness and transparency.
  2. Put your health and wellness first — whether you’re managing your own company like Kathryn Hummel and working 100+ hours a week in the beginning or a touring musician — there’s always time to eat, and sleep, and finding healthy food options
  3. Learn to set boundaries + know what your limits are
  4. Say no. If you feel overwhelmed by tours, interviews, International festivals, etc.,  remove yourself from the situation and pressure proactively.
  5. If you’re experiencing discrimination or sexual harassment (whether it’s causing mental health or not), reach out to your support system, and press (like us) who can surface those issues. And, if you need a good therapist in NYC, give me a call.
  6. Discover coping mechanisms that work for you — and reach out to MusiCares for resources
  7. Find a therapist that understands your lifestyle, and is available/understands your time constraints (i.e. a phone session at 10 p.m. after a show)

If you’re like Ava Trilling, who while touring across the country with Forth Wanderer’s and faced a nervous breakdown and ended up canceling the rest of the tour, do yourself a favor and notice the pressure you’re putting on yourself, and get treatment/help if you’re experiencing these issues proactively.

Remember, finding your passion and working hard to succeed is something ingrained in us in the music industry (call us crazy) — but there is a fine line between being ambitious and diligent and barreling towards burnout.

For health and services, including grants for basic living needs, grants for addiction and recovery (including detox and psychiatric care), workshops on preventive measures, and mental health, visit the MusiCares website.

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