Wonderland.

Men, Music & Mental Health

The men speaking out about mental health.

It’s widely understood that musicians face constant pressures to look a certain way and never stop performing the tracks from their biggest album despite, understandably, wanting to create new music. But how does non-stop tour life and the barrage of selfie requests really affect them?

With suicide as the biggest killer of men under 45 years old and a study from charity, Help Musicians UK, revealing that people working in the music industry are three times as likely to experience anxiety and depression, we look at the men who are breaking the stigma and sharing their own mental health stories.

It’s widely understood that musicians face constant pressures to look a certain way and never stop performing the tracks from their biggest album despite, understandably, wanting to create new music. But how does non-stop tour life and the barrage of selfie requests really affect them?

With suicide as the biggest killer of men under 45 years old and a study from charity, Help Musicians UK, revealing that people working in the music industry are three times as likely to experience anxiety and depression, we look at the men who are breaking the stigma and sharing their own mental health stories.

Zayn Malik

Pulling out of his appearance at the London Capital Summertime Ball last year, ex-One Direction sweetheart, Zayn Malik, has frequently spoken out about his mental health struggles. Citing growing anxiety as the reason behind his absence at the Wembley event, this isn’t the only time the singer’s mental health has affected his performances. Despite this, the 24-year-old’s self-titled book reveals he doesn’t want to sugar-coat his struggles, “I want to tell people what’s going on, and I’m not gonna be ashamed of what’s happening.” Having been advised by Robbie Williams to “just be brave, mate,” Malik is still working hard to overcome his anxiety but told ES Magazine that he wants to help others. “I speak about it so that people understand that it doesn’t matter what level of success you have, where you’re from, who you are, what sex you are, what you do – you can still experience these things.”

Kid Cudi

In October last year, Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab to tackle his depression and suicidal urges. The rapper posted to his Facebook page explaining why: “I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions every day of my life. There’s a ragin’ violent storm inside of my heart at all times.” Congratulated by many for breaking the stereotype of hyper-macho hip-hop, Cudi then faced stigmatisation from Drake in diss track “Two Birds, One Stone”. The song references Cudi’s struggles with his mental health along with drug addiction. Despite the lack of support from certain members within the music industry, Cudi’s candid honesty about his own experiences inspired Dayna Lynn Nuckolls to start the #YouGoodMan hashtag. The Twitter movement aims to encourage black men to speak out and support each other through mental health issues while trying to break the stigma surrounding it.

Matty Healy, The 1975

Flamboyant frontman of The 1975, Matty Healy hasn’t shied away from discussing his impulsive personality and various obsessions in the past, even going so far as to confess to Rolling Stone, “I’m not that mentally stable, if I’m honest with you”. The singer has written about depression in different forms; from examining the postnatal depression his mum, Denise Welch (TV star and ex-Loose Woman) experienced after he was born in “She Lays Down” to the introspective “The Ballad of Me and My Brain”. In the latter, Healy attempts to locate his ‘brain’ amid the constant barrage of responsibilities and pressure musicians face. But despite the darker side to The 1975’s glam pop rock world, the music itself has proved itself to be a remedy. Speaking to Stereogum Healy explained, “That’s why I’m very lucky to be able to do it because it’s still a pursuit of enjoyment for me and genuine catharsis. I kind of need it.”

Olly Alexander, Years & Years

Olly Alexander’s anxiety and depression started early on in life with the actor and singer experiencing night terrors at a young age before being bullied in school. The results of this involved the Years and Years frontman suffering with eating disorders and turning to self-harm. The endearing singer has spoken out about how he didn’t fit the expected image of how to be a ‘man’. “Most of my close friends were girls and I didn’t feel like I identified in a way that you were supposed to as a guy,” he explained to the Guardian. Throw in trying to work out your sexuality and Alexander faced a glut of pressures and expectations to deal with, all while trying to be a teenager. Since then, he’s found help through therapy and medication – things that remain important to him today in keeping a hold on his mental health. The singer also frequently speaks out about the state of mental health care in the country and how we need to encourage further discussion about the subject. As part of Radio 1 and Radio 1 Extra’s ‘My Mind and Me’ campaign, Alexander encouraged people to speak out more. “The more we can share our experiences, the more we can help each other out.”

Dan Smith, Bastille

During their 2016 Glastonbury slot on The Other Stage, Dan Smith experienced an anxiety attack mid-show, not that you’d notice anything was amiss with their packed-out crowd. The Bastille singer has frequently spoken about his performance nerves, something he’s suffered with since he started making music back in university. Answering questions on Reddit, he describes singing on stage as a Russian roulette, saying “Sometimes I’m completely fine, but at some shows I get very anxious.” Smith has even gone so far as to say that he has been unable to enjoy certain performances as a result of his anxiety. Speaking to NME, he explained that playing live doesn’t come naturally to him. “I’m definitely not as crippled with anxiety and nerves as I was at the beginning but if you’re not an extrovert and you’re not someone that just desperately wants attention, being up on stage in front of people that you don’t know – and doing something as ridiculous as singing fucking songs – there’s something really, like, anxiety-provoking about that.”

Frank Turner

Get Better – A Film About Frank Turner was released in December of last year and documents a year in the life of Frank Turner, Britain’s hardest working musician. Used to playing hundreds of shows each year, the documentary reveals how Turner took to being thrown off the tour bus amid record label disputes over the new album – spoiler, he didn’t take it very well. Facing a sudden downward spiral, surrounded by drugs, alcohol and a lack of routine, the folk punk singer is shown candidly discussing his brushes with depression and addiction. Through it all, music is the thing that forces Turner forward, speaking to mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) he revealed that there are certain albums that “keep my head together”. “I actually have no idea what I’d do without music as catharsis. Both in terms of writing, which is a great outlet for my pent-up frustrations in life, but also just in listening.” The singer has spoken out about depression and male suicide as subjects that need further discussion. On his latest album, Positive Songs for Negative People, he features a live track written and dedicated to friend Josh Burdette, who took his own life.

Harley Alexander-Sule and Jordan Stephens, Rizzle Kicks

Harley Alexander-Sule has suffered with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) his whole life but in recent years, his mental health has affected band life. Struggling with his wellbeing while in the spotlight led to Rizzle Kicks cancelling an upcoming tour and losing several months of promotion for the new album. Speaking to the BBC, Jordan Stephens explained that “when you’re in the public eye and you’re young, the expectation upon you is incredibly difficult to handle”. As a response to his bandmate’s difficulties, Stephens began working with the NHS and YMCA to break the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness among young people. #IAMWHOLE has gathered support from the likes of Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran. He wrote song “Whole” with the hope he can help others struggling.

Words
Meaghan Spencer
Men, Music & Mental Health

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