Why the Music Industry Needs to Take Mental Health Issues More Seriously

Over the course of my career, I’ve met more than a few musicians who were a little…off.  Not just artiste off, but off their nut entirely. Completely mental. And I honestly mean that with no disrespect. Some of these folks, I suspect, were genuinely mentally ill to some degree. When we parted, I’d think to myself “This person needs some help. I hope they can get it.”

Like in any other segment of social, the music industry has its share of people struggling with various mental illnesses. But because these situations and symptoms are often dismissed with a “Oh, he’s/she’s an artist. This is how they are”, many of these folks don’t get them help they require.  Outbursts and odd behavior are papered over.

Which brings me to this article in Noisey:

Back in January, footage showed Brian Harvey – previously a member of Britain’s streetwise, popular-in-the-nineties boy band East 17 – smashing a gold record commemorating the group’s sales. “That’s what I think of your fucking music industry”, he said. “Fuck you!”

It wasn’t the first time Harvey had been in the news. Ten years ago, he ate three jacket potatoes, leaned out of his car window to be sick, and accidentally ran himself over. In 2011, he filmed enforcement officers forcing the installation of a pre-paid electric meter at his residence – after he failed to pay his bills – and put the footage on YouTube. And last year he stood outside Downing Street with a folder containing evidence of “how much money the government had stolen from him” and demanded to speak to the prime minister. “You’ll all be dancing to my single at Christmas”, were the words he reportedly said, when quizzed by police officers. All instances were covered across the broadsheets to some degree of comedic incredulity. But framed with regard to mental health in the music industry, it’s a different story.

In an interview with Labour MP Simon Danczuk for London’s talk radio LBC earlier this year, Harvey talked about the problems he’d faced over the past decade: how each Christmas he hears East 17’s “Stay Another Another Day” repeatedly played over daytime radio, for which he receives no royalties, while he’s unable to afford Christmas dinner; how, five weeks before the interview, he walked out of a hospital during discussions with medics and considered killing himself; how “we need a walk-in centre specifically designed for when, in the middle of the night, someone thinks ‘I am going to hang myself” or “‘I am going to go to a forest and jump out of a tree with a noose around my neck’” – thoughts that Brian says he’s had when “desperation takes over”.

You really should read the rest of this.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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