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Photography Adam Bentley, via Unsplash

UK musicians see a rise in depression and anxiety due to coronavirus

Charities have reported increasing calls from people facing unemployment and apparent indifference from the UK government

In September, a survey by the Musicians’ Union revealed that one third of musicians in the UK – facing employment uncertainty, financial hardship, and a lack of clarity over support amid the coronavirus pandemic – have considered abandoning the industry. Now, several charities working within the industry have reported a rise in depression and anxiety among the country’s musicians and road crew.

While these organisations continue to provide and campaign for support, they have also been dealing with a rise in people getting in touch to register concerns about their mental health. 

Eric Mtungwazi, the managing director of Music Support – a charity that supports anyone in the UK music industry “suffering from mental, emotional and behavioural health disorders” – tells NME that over 1,000 people have accessed the charity’s services in the months since coronavirus lockdown began. “The numbers that we’ve seen in such a short time show that there is a real and concerning, emerging pattern of people reporting anxiety and depression.”

“Around 50 per cent of people are coming to us with anxiety issues and 35 per cent are dealing with depression at a moderate to severe level,” he adds, citing: “a great deal of grief and helplessness in not knowing when the end will be in sight.”

A 25 per cent rise in people reaching out with mental health issues related to the pandemic has also been reported by the UK charity Help Musicians, according to Liam Hennessy, Head of Health and Welfare at the organisation. Due to the fact many musicians and others in the industry are self-employed, he says, factors such as the cancellation of events meant that “income streams dried up almost completely and almost overnight”.

In July, over 1,500 artists including Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Dua Lipa, Skepta, Nick Cave, the Cure, Jamie xx, FKA twigs, and J Hus signed an open letter, warning the UK government that without further aid the future of the UK’s live music industry “looks bleak”. Many have also criticised the insufficiency of the Tories’ £1.57 billion ‘cultural recovery’ programme to support the creative industries, along with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s seeming indifference to the fate of the sector as he suggested that those affected should simply retrain.