What do the musicians in the picture above have in common apart from being excellent at their work? They all suffered from depression or mental illness. A few months back, Music Plus published an article about mental health among music industry professionals.
On this mental health awareness week, Music Plus approached several members of the music industry for a FREE mental health engagement activity for their employees. The engagement would involve a leading psychologist, who would educate and interact with the audience regarding mental illness and maintaining a good mental health.
Right from labels, streaming services, collection societies to radios. At first we were met with a positive answer from them all. However slowly all of them went incommunicado. Whatever might be their reason, this does not augur well for the industry as a whole.
Mental illness is not limited to the international spectrum. Indians are as much susceptible as others. In fact the lifestyle we lead makes us more prone to it. The constant pressure of not missing the boat can weigh down the strongest of individual. Anxiety, depression, addictions and suicidal tendencies are growing at an alarming rate among Indian musicians and the music industry professionals. Addictions are usually considered synonymous with a musician. But the reason behind it is overlooked.
A music industry executive also deals with similar pressures. If a musician is expected to churn out hit songs, the executives are expected to ensure the song reaches the masses and is already a ‘hit’ before it is released. The monetary factor plays its role too. A hit song leads to gigs and concerts which in turn bring home the money. Being a celebrity is not easy and managing one is equally tough. One could never guess which celebrity is depressed or whether his manager is suffering from some mental illness.
We are all prone and gullible to mental illness. Sadly these issues are still considered a stigma and are often overlooked. There are individuals waiting to be reached out to. Maybe they are not aware of their mental health status or are not able to seek help. As a society we have to except the reality that mental illness exists and is treatable. The person suffering from it is ‘not mad’ or has ‘lost it in life’.
Recognising and accepting
The best bet of ensuring this is by educating the people about it. Not only the musicians and music industry executive but their families and friends as well.
“Being in the field of education, I believe there is a dearth of awareness about what a mental illness is or what it entails. Sadly a lot of people still hold judgements against mental illness. So I believe the first step to understanding what a mental illness is and that it is like any other illness that you would go to a doctor for is through education,” asserted Kanchan Daniel.
Apart from being the lead vocalist for her band, Kanchan Daniel and the Beards, Kanchan is a qualified clinical psychologist and also a professor of psychology. She is one of the few who witnesses both the sides. Kanchan has been on the forefront of raising mental health awareness through her initiative ‘Mental Harmony’.
Depression can drain an individual physically and mentally. To cope with it, one has to get mentally tough. It is a paradoxical situation as the mind and body are not keen to follow your thoughts. People have and do come out of this hole. Self-help can do wonders.
The first step would be acceptance and recognising the problem.
“Recognising the difference between mental health and mental illness can sometimes be easy to spot. However a lot of times it can be tricky to distinguish between the two. Thus often it becomes quite difficult to distinguish mental health from a mental illness because there is no easy or single test to point out that something is wrong. Each mental health condition has its own signs or symptoms,” quipped Kanchan.
A burden shared is a burden halved
Reaching out and surrounding yourself with positive people can be of immense help. Isolating one’s self is easy and the most dangerous thing to do. Be shameless. Talk to people about your condition. Write a song about it, if it helps you feel better. Avoid people who are unwilling to recognise your condition. Talk to your band mates, sound engineer, arranger or anyone with whom you have a positive ecosystem.
As family and friends we need to be out there for our ilk. It is not always easy to understand what one is going through mentally. Often a victim of mental illness comes across as completely normal, at times even jovial. The mask they wear is difficult to penetrate. Most victims are not willing to speak up fearing social stigma to loss of livelihood and even getting ostracised by their family.
“One needs to understand that it is not easy going through what the patient might be going through. You have to build the same patience that you would have with some who would be fighting any other kind of serious illness,” said Kanchan.
Musicians are blessed with one of the natural healer, music. Depression, stress or mental illness can cause you to disconnect with the world. Music can help you reconnect with your emotions. A song can relive your memories. Even as babies we connected with music through lullabies. Music is known to help reduce stress, anxiety and keep negative thoughts at bay. It provides a getaway to express your inner thoughts which, maybe, one cannot in a daily conversation. Penning down your feelings, redirecting your angst into a melody or just listening to it can help. For centuries people have used music for their meditation and chanting. The positive effects of which are out in the open.
“Music is therapy in itself. For those suffering, it can be a form of cathartic expression. This allows us to release our emotions, experiences and tensions that we would normally bottle up and hold on to,” explained Kanchan.
Ensuring mental illness awareness
Depression and mental illness is no laughing matter. In some cases it can be treated with positive thinking and developing a healthier lifestyle. If you have reached a chronic level it is best to seek professional help. As a society, we need to ensure that no precious life is lost due to depression. This may seem far-fetched but every step in this direction is welcome.
As for the music industry, it needs to start looking beyond the musician’s artistic capabilities and understand them as individuals. The executives who run the show, from behind the stage, are one of the spokes in the wheel. Without even one of the spokes, the wheel might not move forward.
The Indian music industry needs to frame a policy which ensures that mental illness and health is not overlooked by the entities. Losing a talented musician also means losing out on some good musical work. For an industry struggling for good and fresh content, this is not what one can afford.
On this mental health awareness week, we take a look at the stigma surrounding mental illness and welfare in the Indian music industry. Read More