True North: ‘Sound Minds’
Mental Health and Wellbeing for Musicians
by Anita Markoff
In the midst of a weekend filled with ethereal gigs and music, it was important to sit down and listen to the sombre reality of the struggles musicians face with their own minds. The ‘Sound Minds’ panel was composed of four speakers who were either mental health experts or worked in the music industry and had experiences of mental illness.
One of them talked seriously about the two difficult sides of a coin artists face: either you are a tortured genius, or you are wasting your life on something that is not a real job. He cleared up some stereotypes, explaining that an artistic tendency towards introversion means artists value feelings and intuition over logic and the empirical, not that they are incapable of socialising. He also discussed the harmful way in which the ‘tortured genius’ stereotype influences artists, making them believe that creative people must become neurotic in order to create, while the exact opposite is the truth. The musicians in the panel shared how in periods of depression they are unable to perform basic tasks like showering and going outside, let alone write an album. One of the speakers called it “romanticism at its worst – I work better when I’m not ill”, which sounds so logical it is difficult to see why the opposite narrative has been crafted. There was a warm and supportive atmosphere in the room, with one musician periodically making jokes to set us at ease and people nodding along to descriptions of struggles that matched their own experiences.
Ultimately, the message was clear. Even though problems with mental health have been destigmatized to a degree already, there is still so much work to be done. There were tears in the eyes of many when Scott Hutchison was mentioned. His death is still raw, especially among the music community. We were all encouraged to talk directly and openly to people we see exhibiting warning signs. Asking someone if they are depressed or thinking about suicide may be the one thing they need to open up and seek help. Artists need to protect each other from the mindset that the best art is produced while in a downward spiral. We can all create our own universes through different mediums; there’s no need for us to be sick for our art to be beautiful.