Seventy-three percent of independent musicians have battled stress, anxiety and depression, according to a Record Union report.
Behind the glamour of concerts and tours is a mental health crisis in the music industry, and several musicians are speaking out to lessen the stigma.
Joe Trohman is the co-founder and lead guitarist of Fall Out Boy, one of the biggest pop punk bands of the past two decades.
“Touring is a lonely job,” he said. “There’s so much time spent alone. I think people glamorize the idea of touring. Sure, the shows are fantastic. But that’s like an hour out of the day, maybe two. It feels great. I mean, it’s incredible. We’ve worked very hard to get to that point and we’re very grateful for it. But that’s surrounded by ten hours of nothing.”
In Trohman’s new memoir, “None of this Rocks,” he speaks openly about his struggles with depression and substance abuse. And he hopes his honesty can help lessen the stigma surrounding mental health.
“It came out of the pandemic,” he said. “It came out of just being lonely and not having other people to talk to and wanting to talk to other people about my depression and my recent diagnosis of bipolar type two.”
Seventy-three percent of independent musicians have battled stress, anxiety and depression, according to a 2019 report from the Record Union. And experts say that’s due to the isolation of touring, the stress of financial instability, substance abuse and the lack of quality mental health care in the music industry.
A 2018 report from the Music Industry Research Association found that nearly 12% of musicians reported having suicidal thoughts, which is four times the general population. That struggle was highlighted in 2017 by the high-profile suicides of musicians like Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
“It further hits home regarding musicians that have committed suicide in recent years, like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington,” Trohman said. “Cornell, specifically, was someone that just didn’t seem like — from the outside — didn’t seem like he had it. He was so busy, so active doing Soundgarden — again, never really seemed like he’s skipping a beat. And I’m not saying anybody failed those guys … But like, I think if there were more conversations, again, and there were more resources, maybe they would have gotten some help.”
There’s a sense of urgency now within the music industry to help musicians access mental health support.
Organizations like Backline.Care and campaigns like Music Minds Matter are connecting music industry professionals — including artists, managers, crews and their families — to a network of care providers and online support groups. In 2022, as many musicians returned to the stage, the Music Minds Matter phone service saw a 34% increase in calls.
“One conversation sparks another and that becomes larger and larger,” Trohman continued. “I don’t have any airs about whether or not I’m going to be able to do that. But if I can help, you know, one drop in the bucket is better than zero.”
If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.