The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health are yet to be seen in full, but the evidence we have so far makes for grim reading. The Centre for Mental Health predicts that as many as 10 million people will need additional mental health support in the UK in coming years.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, went so far as to claim that the pandemic presents the greatest threat to mental health since the Second World War. Many people have suffered from poor mental health because of a loss of income, brought on by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
Those working in the music industry have been hit especially hard by the loss of work opportunities and many have subsequently experienced a dip in their mental wellbeing. A survey carried out by the Musicians Union in September 2020 found that a third of British musicians were considering leaving the industry because of employment uncertainty and financial difficulties.
The Centre for Mental Health predicts that as many as 10 million people will need additional mental health support in the UK in coming years
Up until recently, there were no mental health centres that catered specifically towards the needs of those working in the music industry. But Rachel Jepson, a counsellor and performer, has put that right by opening one in Stockport.
The Centre for Mental Health In The Music Industry opened in September 2020 and formed as a result of Jepson’s own struggles with mental health. While researching the available resources available for those in the music industry, Jepson found there was not a lot on offer for people who were struggling.
“There are charities like HelpMusicians and MusicSupport which are amazing, but they don’t have a centre. If there was a centre – as there is now – people could come along and meet others to share ideas on how we can all improve things”.
When discussing mental health issues in the music industry, Jepson has a few ideas about their origin. She pinpoints the high levels of drug use within the industry as a key factor in poor levels of mental health.
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Jepson said: “It’s down to this lifestyle of going on tour and getting up on stage, where everybody’s drinking and doing drugs. It’s almost like another world and then you have to come home and try to fit back into family life”.
“Not many industries have that type of lifestyle.”
Touring affects mental health. Jepson points to the long periods of time spent away from family as a key contributor towards feelings of anxiety and stress among musicians.
She also notes that the irregular working lives of musicians, whereby some can go for months without work, also builds pressure.
I’m really proud that I have started the Centre and that it is in Manchester. I’m always an advocate for the area
As a hypnotherapist and personal counsellor, Jepson says that she does not change her approach too drastically with her musical clients – but they do bring unique problems to her that would not affect others.
She said: “Because of my experiences, I can relate to them. That’s why people in the music industry seek me out. Some people find it frustrating having to explain to therapists what the industry is like”.
“They don’t like having to spend half the session explaining the industry, but because I understand, I can offer that understanding that other therapists may not be able to.”
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Although she’s been providing support online due to lockdown restrictions, Jepson is looking forward to doing face-to-face consultations at the centre. Among other things, she is providing conflict resolution for bands and workshops for students.
“University establishments generally don’t prepare music students for what the music industry is going to be like. I don’t want to use those workshops to warn people away from entering the industry, but I just want to flag up things that I wish I’d known about.”
People find it frustrating having to explain to therapists what the industry is like
Greater Manchester is known throughout the world for its music, and Stockport – which widely advertises itself as ‘Home of The Blossoms’ and boasts a series of notable record stores, such as SK1 and All Night Flight – plays an important part.
Jepson said, “I’m really proud that I have started the centre and that it is in Manchester. I’m always an advocate for the area and I’m always telling my kids how proud they should be that they live here.”
“When people see that the centre is based in Stockport, hopefully they will draw that connection to Manchester being known around the world for its music.”
Anybody who is looking to seek help through the centre can find out more at the Centre for Mental Health in the Music Industry.
Ben Thompson is a freelance journalist living in Stockport, Greater Manchester. He is a recent Modern History graduate, who often writes about politics and social issues that influence political discourse. Follow Ben on Twitter @BOThompson98.