Errin Williams is a Nova Scotia-based clinical therapist who oversaw the East Coast Music Association’s survey on mental health in the music industry and ran mental health workshops for musicians during East Coast Music Week 2019. She is also a co-founder and former artistic director of the Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women & Song in Lockeport, NS.
What affordable resources would you recommend to musicians to care for their mental health?
- Find a local therapist with whom you can build a strong relationship. This person may need to be flexible with schedule and case planning to accommodate a touring schedule.
- Reach out to your local community mental health and addiction services department attached to your province’s health department.
- See if your local university’s psychology or social work departments have a counseling center open to the public.
- Work with your family doctor to help them understand what is happening in your life.
- Attend peer-led groups such as AA, NA, or ones for people experiencing a variety of mental health concerns. Usually, you can do an internet search for peer support groups for your city to identify which one might work best for you.
- Self-help books – some people find self-directed self-discovery works well for them. You can find many at your local library.
In terms of simple lifestyle changes, what would you recommend to musicians that could help their mental health?
- Mindfulness! Engaging in mindfulness activities like meditation can help to regulate emotions, increase control of thoughts (just because we think something doesn’t mean it is true), be present with those around us, and live life with intention.
- Increase physical activity and healthy eating.
- Develop a schedule for when you return home after touring, including things like exercise, meditation, hobbies, and plans with friends/family.
- Attempt to continue healthy eating patterns when you are on the road.
- Take alcohol off your hospitality rider. (If you like to drink, you can ask for one at the venue; a full bottle backstage may lead you to drink more than you intended.)
- See if your therapist is available to do phone sessions while you are touring.
- Nurture friendships and interpersonal relationships. The music industry will give you highs or lows, accolades or rejection, and rewards or losses; having people who care about you and who you trust and can confide in is important to weathering the lows and grounding you during the highs.
Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician