Mental Health Awareness Week 2022: Matt Thomas, Music Support Co-founder and Chair, guest blog

11May, 2022

Music Support, the charity that helps those who work in music and live events affected by mental ill-health and/or addiction, recently conducted a recent industry-wide survey to understand our peers’ mental health challenges during the pandemic and beyond. The results were concerning, including 77% who said they felt regularly lonely or isolated.

In my experience loneliness has come in many guises, shapes and sizes. It’s been pervasive, insipid, deceptive and destructive. It’s also been the catalyst for change when confronted with kindness and human connection.

The isolation of active addiction, the loss of family and friends, the terror of anxiety, the despair of depression, the catastrophising of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the overwhelming burden of shame, the fear of being caught and even worse - being seen – are all deeply lonely places to exist from. And even my early recovery felt lonely; the looks and whispers and apparent lack of understanding, the feeling that I was somehow defective grating against the desperate need to belong, and the seeming impossibility of finding my place again. Was I the only person in the music industry experiencing this?

The answer, of course, is no I wasn’t. But it can really feel like it at the time. Meaningful recovery – from addiction, from mental health issues – from the human condition – is all about connection with others, or in my case, re-connecting. Understanding that we are not alone in our experiences, feelings and thoughts. And that’s still a leading principle for Music Support – that no-one should have to go through mental ill-health or addiction or recovery on their own. Our mission is to create a sustainable and inter-connected community of wellbeing, wellness, recovery, awareness and best-practice. It’s reassuring to know that in a recent survey, 85% of our beneficiaries told us that our support helps them feel less lonely.

It's also important to recognise that loneliness doesn’t need to stem from acute conditions, addiction or mental ill-health.  Work related stress, lack of communication, unexpressed uncertainty and fear can all create loneliness, and it’s easy to feel isolated in a room full of people. It’s also all too easy to over-work, surrounding ourselves with people and things, in order to avoid being physically alone. Loneliness in all its forms is the gift that keeps on giving.

Two  years of pandemic generated loneliness, fear and financial insecurity has left its mark on the industry. A different kind of loneliness is prevalent.

One thing that I have learned is that in any area of my life, if I attempt to be stoic and think that I can either take it on the chin, or tackle my problems alone, I’m setting myself up for trouble. I need to acknowledge and communicate and connect with others. And there is nothing greater or more powerful to ease loneliness than meaningful connection with another human being.

So please let’s not forget to stay connected and support each other. Let’s remember the commitments we made, both personally and collectively, during the pandemic for a more meaningful and caring industry. And if you’re struggling, Music Support is there for you.

Matt Thomas

Co-founder/Chair of Music Support.

For further details on Music Support please visit www.musicsupport.org or contact us on [email protected]. 

If you would like to make a donation to support our crucial work, please visit bit.ly/MSMHFA22