Everyone always says “Oh, you just have to think about something else. You’ll be fine!”. But they know nothing about depression. It’s does not necessarily happen because of a specific event. It can be, but not always. Sometimes it just creeps in without even asking for permission. Music is full of situations where artists have taken their own lives because they could no longer bear the pain. But why are musicians always depressed? Or rather, why are musicians more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression?
A UK study from Help Musicians shows that around 69% of musicians admits to having suffered from depression at least once in their lives. 71% said that they had anxiety issues usually manifested in the form of panic attacks. But why? The main culprits seem to be:
- Poor work conditions
- Difficulty sustaining a living (aka low funds)
- Anti-social working hours
- Inability to plan their time / future
Besides the obvious causes, other sources also suggest that depression might be related to drug abuse. For example, this 2010 article from The Guardian raises an interesting point:
“Drugs and alcohol have featured in the lifestyles of so many performers for so long that sometimes it’s difficult to tell if depression is the symptom or the cause.”
Additionally, the need for acceptance, love, affirmation and even perfectionism can be considered as potential triggers for depression and anxiety. As musicians, especially those who create, most of us have probably already felt that annoying fear, anxiety that makes us ask ‘are people going to like my song? Am I good enough?’. It’s tough. The public is who feeds you, so this fear in musicians is naturally amplified and leads to overthinking. Overthinking is often a way to depression and anxiety.
“I think what people don’t realise is that if you have a career that has like zero safety net, isn’t really recognised by any union, is kind of mocked by family and peers as a kind of a hobby, and ‘what are you doing with your life you big loser, you’re always in debt,’ that’s probably going to have an effect on your mental health.” — Jen Cloher, Milk Records
Getting Through It
It’s a real problem that way too many have to go through without really knowing where to turn to. If you have no money, how are you going to seek treatment? If people refuse to pay for concerts, a streaming subscription, or if labels keep cutting down royalties, how can you not fall into debt? Entities like PRS Music and Help Musicians are already tackling these issues, trying to support musicians as much as possible through mental health care and financial aid for retirement. Hopefully others will follow in such efforts. In the meantime…
…support your fellow musicians!