May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health awareness should have a place in just about every industry and group of people, especially in the music industry. Each year, the month of May is taken to observe and reflect upon the stigmas surrounding mental health and raise awareness of these conditions and those who suffer from them. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are just a few of the mental health conditions at the forefront of this movement.
Research-based evidence suggests that those working in the music industry are more prone to mental health issues than those in the general population. When assessing factors like lack of sleep, the availability of substances, fame, and pressure from fans, it’s no wonder this group of people is pushed to the extremes.
Although musicians have historically always been prone to mental health problems exacerbated by their careers, it wasn’t until more recent years that society has attempted to shed light on the issue in hopes of change. The first step to making a change is to remove the negative stigmas associated with mental health issues. This narrative can be shifted by bringing absolute awareness to the problem and reminding those suffering that their struggles are valid and worthy of help.
Mental health awareness applies to the Twitch community just as it does in any other area of the music industry. Many viewers and streamers are fighting their own mental health battles, whether they’ve made the people around them aware of it or not. This month and every month, it’s important to remember that many people struggle in silence and that words can mean a lot.
Bringing awareness to mental health issues looks like thinking before saying things online. “Sometimes, words can be misconstrued, and people fall out over things said in the heat of the moment,” says British DJ Amber D. “I feel awareness means to be aware that if someone is being rude to you, they might be struggling. And instead of reacting, responding with kindness or at least just not feeding into it.”
Some, like DJ Amber D, have taken dedication to mental health to the next step. As a Mental Health Ambassador, Amber D is in a position to signpost individuals to seek assistance. Whether it be through therapy or a more intense treatment plan, there are paths to getting help.
“Sometimes this can be as simple as holding a space for someone to talk or advising on coping mechanisms and signposting to organisations who are qualified in specific areas to give more in depth advice,” says Amber D. “Although I am not allowed to help individuals on a personal level, I am qualified to help guide them and send them in the direction of help.”
According to Amber D, awareness can also look like open and honest discussions about what it’s like to be neuroatypical, something she views as a superpower when appropriately harnessed. It’s also a way to highlight people’s uniqueness as it relates to the way they think.
Someone who joins Twitch as a streamer, whether they have a history in entertainment or not, is bound to face new challenges with their mental health. Amber D suggests that this subset of musicians, in particular, may suffer from imposter syndrome, physical and psychological burnout, and lack of motivation and confidence, which can partially be due to reading negative comments in the chat. Twitch offers creatives a unique way of receiving instant feedback from fans, which might not always be a positive thing.
In some cases, streamers like Amber D have been targeted online, “I have had threats to myself and my family, and it’s unnerving. You just have to keep going, though. You can’t live in fear. Try to stay polite (even if they are not polite to you), and things will be alright.”
There are also concerns new streamers should mentally prepare for. “It’s very important if you are going to be a streamer to have your private life sorted out to the best of your ability as it will soon show on stream,” says Amber D. “If you try to pretend you’re okay, it won’t work. Get yourself in a peaceful mental headspace, and the rest will work out.”
She goes on, “be honest with yourself. Listen to the little voice that you keep trying to ignore. You already know what to do. If you have an addiction to something, then deal with that. Meditate. Drink lots of water and get lots of rest. Everything is easier to manage when we are well-rested.”
Amber D has been DJing and producing for more than twenty years and is a two-time winner of Mixmag’s “Future Hero” (Hard Dance Awards). She has struggled with depression and postnatal depression, as well as delayed grief from losing her mother at a young age which developed into an addictive personality.
“Since dealing with those things via spiritual awareness, CBT, NLP, and Ayahuasca retreats, my life has been a lot easier to manage,” she says.
Twitch can also have a very positive and healing effect on streamers. According to Amber D, it’s a place for being honest and sharing experiences. Twitch brings people together, gives them purpose, and allows them to express themselves creatively. As Amber D calls it, “a dopamine hit when you see new ideas come to life.”
Looking for resources? Check out this list of seven mindful mental health organizations for musicians.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (US), or contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK at 0800 689 5652 (UK). In a life-threatening emergency, always dial 911 (US) or 999 (UK).
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