The three most urgent problems affecting the mental health of modern touring professionals are limited access to therapists, a stigma attached to therapists and loneliness. The 1980s-style touring culture used terms such as “Man up,” “Don’t be such a girl” and “Only wackadoodles go to therapists.” Being “tough” was seen as strength and any emotions were seen as weakness. I can only hope that we have progressed since then. I’d like to take a moment to be vulnerable with my readers in an effort to address these three major problems and look at the resources available.
I’m currently suffering from a lack of a best friend. I have a solid family, respectable colleagues, trustworthy co-workers, adorable children, a loving wife, straightforward bosses, a collection of well-wishers and a community of stagehands around the world. What I don’t have is that one person who is always there for me to lean on when I feel weak. I used to have a few besties, but I moved away from my hometown. I moved again to a new country when I had kids. Nowadays, I travel too much to make a new bestie. I can’t make new besties at home because I will be leaving for Little Rock tomorrow, and I’ll be out of town and miss the football game that my daughter’s best friend’s dad invited me to. I can’t make new besties out on the road because, even though I’m a pretty huggable guy, I like to keep my work relationships professional. Besides, leaving a gig would feel like leaving a new bestie. This leaves me with a huge gap in my psyche. I have to rely on myself to pull my bootstraps out of the ruts of depression and circular reasoning. This leaves me constantly looking for someone to talk to and philosophize with.
Before you and I head to Facebook for mental support, I have found some beneficial resources and I want to share them with you.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org. If you are in need, or know someone who is, please put this article down and call (800) 273-TALK .
LightHopeLife, lighthopelife.org. LightHopeLife is building awareness of the crucial need for help for those in suicidal crisis. LightHopeLife is a website dedicated to recognizing the warning signs and risk factors of depression and mental disorders. The website stresses our responsibility to say, “It seems like you have been down lately.” “How are things with you?” and “How long have you been feeling this way?” It’s important to listen and support one another. Try not to instantly advise someone coming to speak to you. Listen first, and allow them to feel heard. Doing this for even five minutes can impact someone’s mood. Perhaps it can help her or him feel a little less stuck.
BetterHelp, betterhelp.com. BetterHelp is making professional counseling accessible, affordable, and convenient so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere. BetterHelp offers online access to licensed, trained, experienced and accredited psychologists, therapists, clinical social workers and board-licensed counselors. An extensive study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute found BetterHelp to be as effective as face-to-face counseling. After you sign up, they will match you to an available counselor who fits your objectives, preferences, and the type of issues you are dealing with. Even if you start the process and you feel your counselor isn’t a good fit, you can always find a new counselor without starting all over. Having someone to call at anytime can be pivotal.
Therapy on Tour, therapyontour.com. If you prefer an industry specific therapist, then Therapy on Tour is more suited to you. Owner Tiffany Hudson has worked in the entertainment industry for over 15 years, loading trucks and touring the globe. She knows the challenges faced by road crew and can relate. Taking a break from touring, Tiffany has been training as a therapist for the past few years. Her clients are in London and online until Spring 2020, after which she will return to the road and take therapy “on tour,” joining touring productions working to make therapy more accessible for musicians and crew. She is looking forward to be able to support those that need it, where they need it, when they need it the most. Your first call is free and I highly recommend you calling her to complain about your boss before you decide to call your boss to complain about your boss. Tiffany helped me put together this list of resources and practices.
Music Support, musicsupport.org [U.K.-based resource]. Music Support exists because of the experiences of their founders and trustees. Their founders are veterans of the music industry and are all in recovery themselves, from various mental health and addiction issues. Their mission is to make sure that nobody in the U.K. music industry is left to suffer alone with mental or emotional health issues or addiction.
Headspace, headspace.com. Headspace is an online meditation app. Meditation has been shown to help people stress less, focus more and sleep better. Headspace is meditation made simple, teaching you life-changing mindfulness skills in just a few minutes a day.
Crisis Text Line, crisistextline.org. Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. You can text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S., or 686868 in Canada, to text with a trained crisis counselor. Crisis Text Line trains volunteers to support people in crisis. With over 100 million messages processed to date, they’re growing quickly, but sadly, so is the need.
Breaking away from the pack once in a while is healthy, rewarding and soothing. Withdrawing from the entire tribe leads to isolation. Holing up in your hotel room and not leaving the sheets can lead to depression. We need to monitor our alone time. Reading a book is great but when we start to develop bed soars on our skin or entropy in our minds, it is time to reengage. If you have finished an entire Black Mirror marathon in one sitting, it is time to open the shades and talk to another human being. Try discussing the topics that you pondered while watching Black Mirror. Pick any one of your co-workers and go for a walk. Go anywhere. Talk about anything. Just do it.
Like all facets of life, our industry is built on relations and mutual respect. We all require interaction, trust and camaraderie for our careers and for our personal lives. But we don’t need to be a slave to the party schedule of our jobs. We do need to attend the organized dinners and receptions with the crew, but we don’t need to feel obligated to drink to excess, take illicit drugs or deprive ourselves of valuable sleep to appease our social contracts. Remember to invite people to the group functions even if you know they are not able to come, it is always nice to be asked.
The number one thing you can do is building your communication skills. Identify if and when you need help. Ask for help when you need it. Say what is on your mind. Say it loud if you need to. Remember that we are united in our objectives…wanting to put on a good show!