Alex Stevens

Editor, Music Teacher

Mental health should be covered by music courses, says charity

11:21, 26th October 2017

Mental health awareness should be covered by higher education music courses to prepare students for an industry in which there appear to be high levels of depression and anxiety, according to a study published by charity Help Musicians UK.

The Can Music Make You Sick? report says that ‘the plethora of music education courses, both within higher education and elsewhere’ have a ‘responsibility as educators’ to ensure that students are aware of the challenges they might face in the music industry – ‘the potentially dangerous environment within which they seek to forge their careers’.

This responsibility should also be shared ‘within and by the institutions of the music industries’, says the report. ‘We must share findings such as those contained within this report and others in this newly emerging area, in order to stimulate a conversation within the music industries about the dangers those working within it face.’

The report also recommends the institution of a ‘Code of Best Practice’ for individuals and organisations, and suggests that a support scheme for musicians to talk about mental health – ‘something like Musicians Anonymous’, providing access to professional and peer-to-peer support – might be a useful service.

Help Musicians UK has already launched the Music Minds Matter campaign. This will fund a 24-hour mental health helpline and service for musicians, expected to launch later this year, which ‘will combine listening, advice and signposting with clinical, medical, therapeutic and welfare support for those who need it’.

The first part of the Can Music Make You Sick? report was published in November 2016, and is thought to be the largest academic study on the mental health of music industry professionals in the UK. Of its 2,211 respondees, 71% had suffered from panic attacks or anxiety, and 69% from depression.

Subsequent interviews suggested that musicians’ precarious financial positions, as well as various industry norms and working conditions, were central factors to poor mental health.

More widely, the government-funded Thriving At Work review, published today, says that each year 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs, and that the cost of poor mental health to the UK economy is between £74bn and £99bn.

Thriving At Work states: ‘We need to move to a society where all of us become more aware of our own mental health, other people’s mental health and how to cope with our own and other people’s mental health when it fluctuates. It is all our responsibilities to make this change. However in line with the brief we have been given by the prime minister, employers are perhaps able to have the greatest impact and scope to make an impact.’

The prime minister, who commissioned the report, said it showed ‘we need to take action’, and said that, in line with the report’s recommendations, NHS and Civil Service employees would be guaranteed ‘tailored in-house mental health support’.

‘It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone that we change the way we see mental illness so that striving to improve your mental health – whether at work or at home – is seen as just as positive as improving our physical wellbeing.’



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