SOUND CHECK: fostering a safe space for honest discussions of mental wellbeing in music
08.10.2020

SOUND CHECK: fostering a safe space for honest discussions of mental wellbeing in music

Adrian Eagle
Words by Greta Brereton

An initiative developed by Mushroom Group and supported by VicHealth, SOUND CHECK is facilitating open conversations around mental health and wellbeing in the music industry.

Trigger warning: mention of mental health issues, anxiety, depression, suicide, suicidal ideation

It’s been a rough year.

Everyone has been rocked by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has touched all of our lives in some shape or form. Unemployment is high, our uncertainty higher, and daily rituals like enjoying a sit-down coffee in your favourite café seem like more of a luxury than ever before.

We’re flooded with seemingly endless streams of bad news, death tolls, case rates and growth charts, constantly watching the numbers rise or fall and wondering what it means for the weeks and months ahead.

It’s a struggle for everyone right now, but there are some industries that have been statistically hit a lot harder by the crisis than others.

One of these is music.

As an industry that relies on people coming together, it’s not hard to see why the live music sector has taken a beating from COVID-19. Bands are losing money through cancelled shows, crew members and road teams are out of work, sound techs and stage crews are struggling, and everyone is just trying to make it through however they can.

This impact the pandemic is having on people’s ability to work, perform and make an income has brought another public health concern to the fore. While we’re doing what we can to keep coronavirus at bay, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are bubbling up to the surface.

The music industry is already known for having high rates of mental health issues among workers. Back in 2015, a study conducted by Victoria University found that music industry employees, whether that be artists, road crews or stage teams, were more likely to suffer from mental health issues and commit suicide than employees in other sectors.

With the baseline of these issues in music already high, the past few months have added more fuel to the fire. Government funding and events like Isol-Aid that directly support artists have been throwing a lifeline to musicians doing it tough, but we also need to be carving out safe spaces for honest discussions about mental health.

SOUND CHECK is an initiative developed by Mushroom Group, supported by VicHealth, and is set to encourage artists to do just that. The series aims to facilitate open conversations about the struggles faced by industry players, as well as the ways they’ve grappled with and grown from these.

For Perth singer Teischa Jones, known mononymously as Teischa, campaigns like SOUND CHECK are important “to start normalising open and honest conversations about mental wellbeing, especially within the music industry”.

Like most musicians, the pop artist’s work was impacted by the pandemic and subsequent restrictions, affecting her ability to create and collaborate with others.

“The biggest impact COVID had on me was the inability to travel,” says Jones. “Being from WA, we’re already naturally isolated from the rest of the country so I would travel regularly to the East Coast to connect and collaborate with people.”

“Lucky, within our world of technology today, it’s still possible to achieve these things with each other online, but I do miss the real life/in person connections.”

Jones is one of six artists who have stepped up to share their experiences with mental health and wellbeing and encourage others to do the same. She’s joined by fellow musos Merpire, Adrian Eagle, The Teskey Brothers’’ Brendan Love, Francoistunes and Jesse Teinaki, who’ll each be hosting an episode to discuss their journeys, learnings and the impacts COVID has had on their careers and mental health, as well as some coping strategies.

For Jones, the most difficult aspect of the past year has been the lingering uncertainty.

“I found it particularly hard to stay focused on ‘having a purpose’ when I wasn’t able to envision what anything looked like for me in the future,” she explains. “I’m definitely a little bit of a control freak so I love having a plan in place, and due to COVID had to throw most of them out the window and reassess what was possible and realistic.”

Jones isn’t alone in these feelings, with studies reporting that public anxiety levels have increased significantly since Australia’s first lockdown. A survey conducted by the Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales found that of the 5,070 participants, nearly half were concerned about loneliness, financial struggle and uncertainty. Even more were reporting feelings of psychological distress, with 62 per cent reporting increased feelings of depression, 50 per cent suffering from high anxiety and 64 per cent struggling with raised levels of stress.

But unlike a virus, mental health problems are something that should be shared, with close friends, family or professional mental health workers, in order to lighten your individual load. This is where communication comes in, and the importance of having a safe and secure support network.

Speaking of how he’s dealt with his low points this year, musician Adrian Eagle says, “Just by having a small group of brothers and sisters who I can express myself to”.

“Also social media – communicating with listeners, friends and family to hear how they’re feeling and expressing my feelings to my loved ones is important.”

Eagle, real name Adrian Naidu, says that conversations around mental health are important to not only reach out for help when you need, but to continue breaking the silence that often surrounds the issue.

“I feel like the stigma is melting away,” he says. “It’s only beneficial for the community at large and future generations for us to be having these types of conversations and sharing these topics in music is a powerful way.”

It’s not always easy to speak out, nor is it always easy to get better. For most, it’s a process and a journey of healing that can feel like a hard slog at times, but there are organisations like Support Act, Beyond Blue and many more, to provide resources and help you feel less alone.

There’s never any shame in asking for help and there’s never been a better time to make sure you’re checking in with yourself, being kind to your mind and staying connected to the people who care.

For Jones, part of looking after your mental wellbeing is remembering that “your thoughts create your reality”.

“Realising how powerful your mind is, then figuring out how to feed it the kind of thoughts that you want to become part of your reality,” she says. “Taking care of our mind, the same way we take care of our body.”

“The best advice is just to remember that we’re meat and bones on a beautiful rock in the middle of space and we’re on this ride together,” adds Eagle. “Our only purpose is to give love and look after mama (earth, ourselves, our family).”

“Be thankful for life and the ability to use our voice and bodies for good as best as we can.”

If this content has brought up any issues, you can reach out.

Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au

Stay tuned to Beat’s Facebook over the coming weeks to watch the SOUND CHECK video series come to life. 

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