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Crucial Mental Health advice from the world of music

It is critical as a society that we discuss mental health. A long stigmatised issue previously swept under the carpet, this reluctance to open up about our feelings has tragically been the cause of no end of pain. Everybody from every walk of life has been affected in some ways by the negative effects of mental health issues. Whether you suffer for yourself or a family member, friend or partner that’s struggling, mental health can be crippling when left unchecked.

One only has to account for the people in your own orbit or the number of celebrities that have taken their own life because of unresolved mental health issues. When you cast your mind back, the sheer quantity of the list is truly terrifying. However, this speaks volumes of just how pervasive and ground-shattering mental health issues are. In the space of a year, we lost Anthony Bourdain, Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell all to the black dog.

No matter where they come from, no one should ever feel that they are out of options. The endemic tragedy of suicide owing to the unseen incubus of mental health struggles is very real. Not only is it celebrities but it is students, professionals, old people, children. A non-discriminatory plague, the only way we can conquer it is through discussion, planning and action.

Attitudes are shifting from the quite frankly outdated and repressive ones of old. We are gradually learning to cast off the shackles of stubbornness and shame and realising that this is no trivial matter. Even some governments are slowly starting to wake up to the fact that the pressures of society, work, money, and the rest contribute to mental health struggles.

These issues are stoked by both environmental and biological factors. Thankfully, through discussion and raising awareness, the tide is slowly turning. These days, figures are using the platform in the media to aid this. Many of our favourite actors, musicians and even sports personalities have used their stature for good. Through their platform, they’ve helped everyday folk realise that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and that no one is alone, even if they truly feel that way.

As it is World Mental Health Awareness Day, we have collated a list of five pieces of sage advice from some of the most respected musicians out there, helping to show just how our attitudes are changing and aid any of you out there who may need it.

As someone who has had their own struggles, pieces like these really provide you with the mental embrace that you sometimes need. Fear not, friend, and heed some vital advice from some of the best around.

Mental Health advice from musicians:

Bruce Springsteen

Where else to start than with ‘The Boss’? A legend who has been very open as of late about his struggles with mental health issues, Springsteen has clearly shown the impact music can have on healing them.

He told PBS News Hour: “I realised that the only time I felt complete and peaceful was while I was playing or shortly afterwards. It was the first way that I medicated myself, so I always went back to it. The root of that determination came out of a hunger to find a safe and peaceful place, even though it was in front of thousands of other people, which most people wouldn’t consider to be a safe place.”

He powerfully concluded: “I walk on stage, I play, I perform, I create, I write, and that’s sort of where that peace comes over me.” There is a lot to be learnt from Springsteen’s assertions, and they speak volumes of the healing power of song, whether as a musician or listener. 

Lady Gaga

Another iconic advocate of the discussion around mental health issues, in 2016, Lady Gaga revealed that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In an open letter she penned on her Born This Way Foundation website, she explained: “I have wrestled for some time about when, how and if I should reveal my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After five years of searching for the answers to my chronic pain and the change I have felt in my brain, I am finally well enough to tell you.

She concluded: “There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.”

Gaga’s input is incredibly vital as she has echoed the fact that there is always hope, and recovery is always a possibility.

Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys founder and mastermind was one of the earliest figures in music to discuss mental health issues. Diagnosed with depression and schizoaffective disorder, a bipolar type, at one point in his life, Wilson started hearing “voices”. The severe issue began when he was only 25 years old, and Wilson revealed that it could be traced back to the unresolved anxiety attacks he suffered, aged 14.

Echoing Springsteen’s sentiment about the power of music as a healer, Wilson said: Lots of the music I’ve made has been my way of trying to get rid of these voices… When I walk into the studio, music happens, and the voices stop happening. It’s kind of a magic.” 

Heed Wilson’s word, next time the voices reappear, why not blast some of your favourite tunes to exorcise them?

Tom Morello

The Fender Telecaster-toting Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello, has long been a campaigner for righteous causes. Discussing the tragic suicide of his former Audioslave bandmate, Chris Cornell, on his Dark Matter podcast with Dave Navarro, Morello treated us to some crucial wisdom.

He said: “The lesson is that there is help, there are friends, there’s family, there are loved ones, and professionals who can help. If the arm is broken, you go to the doctor. You can do the same thing, and get real help that will save your life, and change your life, and definitely make it better.”

Morello’s incredible use of the analogy is one we could all do with remembering.

The Fender Telecaster-toting Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello, has long been a campaigner for righteous causes. Discussing the tragic suicide of his former Audioslave bandmate, Chris Cornell, on his Dark Matter podcast with Dave Navarro, Morello treated us to some crucial wisdom.

He said: “The lesson is that there is help, there are friends, there’s family, there are loved ones, and professionals who can help. If the arm is broken, you go to the doctor. You can do the same thing, and get real help that will save your life, and change your life, and definitely make it better.”

Morello’s incredible use of the analogy is one we could all do with remembering.

James Blake

Appearing as a guest speaker at the Performing Arts Medicine Association’s talk in California in 2018, electronic master James Blake opened up about the “suicidal thoughts” he has often suffered whilst on tour.

Speaking of how diet can impact your mood he said: “I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts.” He continued: “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing, and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”

Blake then discussed how we are different from our parents’ generation and that we don’t have to subscribe to the tragic trope that many of our favourite figures fell into.

He concluded: “We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them… And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. So we, I think, have a responsibility to talk about it and to remove the stigma.”

Blake’s highlight of the relationship between diet and mental health is a key one. His advocacy for discussion is also critical as it serves to show us that we can be kind to ourselves and that often, it goes a long way.

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