UK Music’s Jennifer Geddes On Why The Music Industry Should Care About Anxiety

16.05.2023: UK Music’s Communications Manager Jennifer Geddes takes a look at what anxiety is, how it can impact music businesses and what employers can do about it. 

Page actions

16.05.2023: UK Music’s Communications Manager Jennifer Geddes takes a look at what anxiety is, how it can impact music businesses and what employers can do about it. 

Mental Health Awareness Week (May 15-21) is a great opportunity for everyone in the music industry to look at what more we can be doing to create supportive work environments for everyone. 

I am someone who has had my own mental health issues. They weren’t severe but were bad enough to have an impact on my life some of the time. 

It wasn’t until a manager in a previous position spoke openly about mental health that I felt comfortable enough to disclose my own challenges, because I felt it was a supportive environment.  

Being able to ask to work from home on a day I was really struggling or say I need a break and go for a walk to get some fresh air was incredibly helpful. 

This year the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety, something I have personal experience of. At times my anxiety has been so bad that I have had panic attacks or been unable to leave the house.

Thankfully I’ve been able to access talking therapy and now my anxiety is minimal but I’m really grateful to that business for having that understanding around mental health conditions that enabled me to get the help that I needed at the time.  

In the music industry we can experience high pressure to perform, a lack of regular working hours, a lot of travel, with time away from family, a lack of consistency in employment, being dropped into new environments all the time, all of which can contribute to increased stress, which may develop into anxiety or depression.

What is anxiety?  

Anxiety is how we feel when we are worried about the future. It is a natural human response when we feel under threat. In the past, it helped us avoid dangerous situations, like being attacked by a bear. These days we might reasonably feel anxious in certain situations where we fear we might be in danger, but modern life is complicated and often we can feel anxiety at work due to a looming deadline, having to make a presentation, meeting new people, or just getting something wrong – either with our work or socially with our work colleagues.  

We can experience anxiety through our thoughts, such as “If I get up to speak and forget everything I want to say, people will think less of me,” or “What if I make a mistake in my work and my manager gets angry at me, I won’t be able to cope.” As creatives, the music industry presents it’s own challenges: “What if I mess up while performing?,” or “What if no one likes my song.” Thoughts like these when experienced frequently can lead to depression.  

We can also experience anxiety physically. Some people feel a tight knot in their stomach, others might feel light-headed, or shaky. Other people may feel their breathing increase. Some people experience panic attacks.  

In the music industry creatives are often put into situations that might make a lot of us feel stressed, such as performing live, or being interviewed by the press, but as a creative they may feel they have to do these things to get ahead. People may use unhelpful ways to manage their anxiety such as drugs, alcohol, excessive or controlling food issues, controlling behaviour, or removing themselves from public situations. This can be the same for the people working behind the scenes are well.

If your anxiety is impacting on your life every day, then you can speak to a doctor or an organisation that helps those with mental health issues to gain access to support. Some of these organisations include; Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness or Mental Health UK.  

In the music industry we also have a lot of self-employed workers and there is the issue of a lack of obvious support mechanisms for them, so it’s fantastic that there are some great music-specific organisations, such as Help Musicians and their Music Minds Matter service, Music Support, Tonic Music, Back Up Tech, and Stage Hand

How does anxiety impact on workplaces?  

The UK is one of the safest places in the world when it comes to work, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more we can be doing. 

Poor mental health is the top cause of work-related ill health according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).   

When something like work-related stress is prolonged it can lead to the development or aggravation of pre-existing longer-term mental health issue such as anxiety and depression.

The latest data from the HSE says there were 914,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22 and in the same year 17 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.  

The total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019, according to a report from Deloitte, costing UK employers up to £56 billion a year. 

Increasingly we are hearing of artists cancelling tours due to mental health issues. It’s a positive step that the industry is recognising the needs of artists, but is there more we could be doing to prevent them reaching burnout in the first place? And our we doing enough for those working behind the scenes as well?   

By creating supportive work environments we can reduce sickness absence and help improve productivity by boosting morale.  

What can employers do?  

Just a small amount of knowledge can make a huge difference. The mental health charity Mind have a fantastic range of resources for line managers and HR professionals, about creating mental healthy workplaces, which can be found here and include easily implementable advice such as leading by example and ensuring line managers model healthy working habits such as taking proper breaks. This could also be applied across the industry to environments outside of the office.   

Mental Health First Aid Training can help employees spot the signs of people experiencing poor mental health and give them tools in how to support those people, including having conversations and signposting to appropriate support. If you’re a creative do you have someone on your team who has been trained? 

As part of an organization’s risk assessment, you should include work-place stress and put in place steps to mediate this risk. The Work Right campaign has a tool kit you can use specially for mental health risk assessment here, and includes advice such introducing a work/life balance policy. Again, a lot of the suggestions can be applied to studio and venue environments.

An increase in understanding and small adjustments can make a huge difference. 

The information in this piece should not be considered a replacement for professional legal or mental health support.  

Back to news