Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, IDLES, Portishead and a number of other musicians appear in a new film about mental health called Man Down.
The film, which is directed by Gemma Jennison, founder of the Man Down Programme, focuses on men working in the music industry and looks at topics such as isolation, depression and suicide.
Jennison, a qualified mental health nurse based in Bristol, told BBC News that male musicians in particular were at high risk of experiencing serious mental health issues.
She launched the Man Down Programme after seeing a number of people she cared about struggling with mental illness and hiding their emotions. “I wanted to look at what the trends were and why men were struggling,” she explained.
“I decided that in order to do that music industries needed to be accountable or have discussions openly about what they did with artists or any of their staff about wellbeing.”
The documentary will be used to address the issues it discusses through training and support programmes.
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A number of Bristol artists including Gavin Thorpe, IDLES’ Adam Devonshire and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow feature in Man Down. It also features Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, who shares his experience of going on tour and the struggles he endured. “A lot of things changed very quickly,” he explains in the film.
Man Down will be screened in Bristol today (May 5) at the Cube Cinema. It’s dedicated to Sirplus, a Bristol MC and member of the Central Spillz collective who took his own life.
Last year, Help Musicians told NME that their helpline Music Minds Matter had seen a 25 per cent increase in musicians and people from the industry contacting them concerned about their mental health.
Around 80 per cent of musicians and industry workers surveyed said that the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown of the live events industry was having a significant negative impact on their wellbeing, especially with regards to financial problems – and how long it might take for their work to reach 2019 levels again.
“Linked to financial anxiety is mental health. That’s made worse for musicians by the inability to create, collaborate and connect through music,” Help Musicians’ CEO James Ainscough told NME. “Music isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s an identity. Take that away and they have to go through bereavement and grief.”
He continued: “Getting back to work will bring its own mental health challenges for musicians. Performance anxiety could hit people like a truck. They haven’t performed for a year and now every self-doubt and insecurity could come back even bigger.
“The mental hangover from the pandemic will be a long one, and there will be more bumps in the road as people readjust to working again. Our survey has showed that it’s triggered by real things like financial worry, but made worse by uncertainty for the future.”
Music Minds Matter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – offering “a therapeutic conversation with a trained counsellor at the moment you need it”. “That’s available to everyone in the music industry, not just musicians,” said Ainscough. “It’s not like they hang up if you can’t play piano!”