Abbey Road talks to Dr Claire Renfrew for World Mental Health Day

10th October 2018

Dr Claire Renfrew is a Music Psychologist who works closely with musicians, composers and songwriters. Dr Renfrew has a particular interest in musical identities and the lived experiences of professional musicians.

Wednesday 10 October 2018 is World Mental Health Day. This day provides an opportunity “for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide”. This years theme is young people and mental health in a changing world. We at Abbey Road have decided to focus on musicians and their mental health in support of this day.

Musicians have become more vocal regarding their opinions and concerns of how the music profession impacts them as individuals. Musicians such as Stormzy, Olly Alexander from Years and Years, Zayn Malik and Selena Gomez have opened up about their own personal struggles that they have encountered while working within the music industry.

Previous academic research has outlined the numerous psychological issues that musicians can encounter in this pressurised and complex career. Issues such as anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and social isolation. Individuals working within the music industry are often expected to work anti social hours and often find it difficult switching off from their career and constantly view other elements of their lives (ie. personal relationships) through their ‘professional lens’. This in turn can sometimes inhibit individuals from maintaining and a healthy work and life balance.

It is important to recognise the unique nature of this profession as it is one that can often consume an individual’s identity and music is a fundamental human construct that we all encounter within our lives. Additionally, a musician is rarely viewed as separate from their ‘musical identity’ and are seen as not just a music creator but as an entertainer and often a role model with a social responsibility for their fans.

Recommendations for maintaining a healthy work and life balance as a musician are; maintaining quality sleep, stress management, self-reflection, exercise, mindfulness, meditation and sharing experiences (both positive and negative) with others. BAPAM and the Musicians Union take a look at further steps that can be taken.

Discussions surrounding this issue are being communicated now more than ever before. A 24 hour support line was put in place by Help Musicians UK in 2017 to offer around the clock advice to both amateur and professional musicians. For more help or information, visit the link here.