Exploring the Complexities of Mental Health in Music: Insights from a Counselor

As musicians pour their hearts out on stage, it’s easy to forget the pressures they face behind the scenes. From self-doubt to creative blocks, the music industry can take a toll on mental health. In this interview with a seasoned counsellor, Sharon Mohlala from Cognicare, we delve into the complexities of anxiety, self-belief, depression, and other mental health-related topics that may affect musicians.

Music Therapy Techniques

Music has the power to heal and transform lives in ways that we least expect. Mohlala talked about a patient who had meningitis and a stroke. The patient was 13 years old, and our interviewee used music therapy to help her gain confidence and inner peace.

At the beginning of the sessions, the patient couldn’t speak, hence, the interviewee wrote down different genres of music and artists to gauge her musical interest. After that, she started playing music, and over time, the patient became more calm and started being more responsive. This not only improved her condition but also helped boost her confidence and belief that she could heal.

Composition is a powerful technique used to help individuals struggling with self-doubt, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. By writing music to express their anxiety or mental health problem, it is possible to release and vent in a healthy manner. Receptive therapy is also an effective technique where individuals can listen to music that speaks to their soul and respond through art.

Performance Anxiety

Moving on to performance anxiety, our interviewee had some excellent advice to help musicians overcome stage fright. First and foremost, one must believe in oneself and ask why music is essential and for whom it’s being done. Then focus on breathing and remain calm. Instead of seeing an audience as something bigger, think of them as people who are just as anxious as you. It’s important to look above their heads and choose boldness, and before you know it, you’ll be performing with confidence.

External Validation

In the highly competitive music industry, external validation is a crucial factor in building self-esteem for musicians. This was a topic covered in a previous write-up by Mohlala, where she touched on how artists can mitigate the negative effects of negative feedback. While external validation is important, it is equally important not to allow it to define oneself. There’s a thin line between making room for external validation and allowing it to become a part of one’s identity.

It is not necessary to give heed to all critical reviews but to be discerning and pick out what is relevant. Negative feedback should never be taken as something that defines an artist or is personal. Instead, it should be looked at objectively and critically to improve their music, performance, and presentation.

Mindfulness and self-care

When asked how to encourage artists to prioritise their mental health and well-being, the answer was simple yet effective: mindfulness. Practising mindfulness at least twice a week can help artists live in the present moment and alleviate pressure and anxiety.

But what other strategies or tools exist outside of music therapy that musicians or music lovers can use to boost their confidence and mental health? The answer is self-care and mindfulness. “Reading and listening to motivational and spiritual podcasts can also be a great way to boost mental health and confidence.”
When it comes to creative blocks or burnout, taking some time off and changing the environment can be key. Stepping away from a situation, even for a brief moment, can give the mind a chance to reset and recharge. Doing something new outside of the music industry can also help spark creativity and alleviate burnout.

Supporting mental health in the music industry

It’s important to recognise the importance of mental health in the music industry and to encourage artists to prioritise self-care and mindfulness. By taking the time to focus on mental health and well-being, artists can produce better and more authentic work.

As we were concluding the chat, the question arose of how musicians can identify when they may need to seek therapy or other mental health support. The answer was clear: negative changes in behaviour, relationships, and finances are warning signs that should not be ignored.

But it’s not just up to the musician to recognise these warning signs. Music industry professionals, such as managers and agents, must also do their part in supporting the mental health of their clients. They can do so by raising awareness in the workplace and introducing regular wellness programs. Encouraging musicians to partake in these programes can make a world of difference.

However, it’s not just about individual efforts. The music industry as a whole must also work towards creating a more supportive and inclusive environment for individuals with mental health challenges. Running mental health campaigns on a regular basis and hosting platforms for mental health-related discussions can provide a safe space for individuals to seek knowledge and support.

It’s clear that mental health in the music industry is a complex issue, and there is much work to be done. But by recognizing warning signs in individuals, implementing wellness programs, and creating supportive environments, we can begin to make progress towards a healthier and more inclusive music industry.

Cognicare is a private counselling practice established for YOU, to help YOU overcome mental health related challenges through mental health support.