Alongside World Mental Health Day (October 10th), the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) released a guide created to spread awareness, and provide support, solutions, and information about mental health issues including stress, anxiety, depression, substance and alcohol abuse, and more that directly affect the electronic music community.
The Electronic Music Industry Guide to Mental Health is an invaluable source, readily available and free of charge to all members of the community and beyond. It’s clear community and support are at the core of this guide, “looking after yourself and those you work with” written on the front cover.
Regardless of your role in the industry, be you an artist, manager, or engineer, what unifies and drives the vast majority is their passion for the music. Passion often outweighs the negatives such as extremely late nights, hectic schedules, low pay, and high demands. Those on tour may be away from friends and family for the better part of the year, which can be quite isolating.
So, looking after one another is paramount. But also, it’s important to look after yourself. First and foremostly, AFEM wants to break the stigma surrounding mental health and let it be known that it is okay and encouraged to talk about mental health issues.
The Electronic Music Guide to Mental Health
The current guide is an updated version of the Music Managers Forum (MMF) Mental Health Guide that was written to support music managers who may be struggling with mental health issues. This guide was created for managers as their role is essentially caregiver to the artist. They are responsible for the artists’ wellbeing as well as being accountable for all administrative and communicative aspects and negotiations. This can be extremely taxing to have to look after another person(s) and yourself with no relief from HR or the possibility of sabbatical. The AFEM took the guide and expanded on it to make it more inclusive. Regardless of your position in the industry, the support and information are relevant. The guide is also backed by Music Support and Help Musicians, two foundations dedicated to providing support for those in the music industry.
The guide is extremely comprehensible, divided into chapters of potential struggles. Beginning with depression and anxiety, it leads to alcoholism and substance dependency, followed by stress management, imposter syndrome, codependency, and the importance of sleep. Each chapter provides a description, relevant statistics, and comforting reassurance. A list of signs and symptoms is followed by suggested ways to help yourself and help others. Recommended literature for further reading and education always closes out the chapter.
A Community in Crisis
The release of this guide could not be more crucially relevant than it is right now. Barely a week can go by without someone of note in the industry falling victim to overdose or taking their own life by suicide. This issue is not new news. The music industry has always been notorious for demanding work, little rest, high-stress work schedules, late nights, party lifestyles, and substance abuse. However, in the past, it has been taboo to openly discuss the mental repercussions of the aforementioned job requirements.
It is only recently that DJs and artists have been brave enough to admit that they need to take a break from their careers to focus on their mental health. In 2017, Ben Pearce spoke out about his anxiety and depression. In 2018, Carnage pumped the breaks and admitted through social media that everything was getting to be a little too much for him. Mentioning his own friends who struggled in silence before passing away, he decided that he couldn’t follow that dark path. Tim Bergling’s (a.k.a. AVICII) untimely death in April of 2018 was a huge wake-up call for the industry. The fact that this world renown and beloved man could be struggling so deeply and unable to find the support he needed really affected the community and a wave to bring a stop to this ensued.
DJSounds put out a documentary in 2017 titled Slaves to the Rhythm that goes into realities of what it’s like to be an artist on tour and constantly creating and how it takes a toll on mental wellbeing. With cameos from countless big names, it’s a glimpse into what an outsider may deem as a glamorous life but is truly the straight and narrow to death.
From big benefits like The Avicii Tribute Concert in which all proceeds from the star-studded concert were donated to the Tim Bergling Foundation in support of mental health awareness, to wellness centers like ARETÉ that provide resources and counselling to those struggling, to smaller acts of heroism like the Chilean-Swiss DJ Luciano simply speaking out, publicly about his struggles so that maybe someone out there struggling can feel less alone, the community is stepping up and trying to combat this epidemic.
It is so important that we break this vicious cycle and the stigma surrounding mental health. This guide, although created for the electronic music community, stretches beyond that. The guide is a tool that can be used regardless of your chosen career path or the kind of music you like to listen to. It is an invaluable resource that unfortunately is so necessary in this time of crisis and shows that we are moving towards a future with less dark paths, less isolation, and more support.
Check out these women that are working to make the electronic music industry of tomorrow a little brighter.