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Hannah Brinley, Music Support’s learning & development specialist, is part of the charity’s delivery team for Mental Health First Aid. Having spent much of last year training peers at all levels in the music and events industries, Hannah is calling on events professionals to be each other’s best source of support.

Mental health issues are incredibly common. Research indicates that one in four people experience poor mental health every year, with anxiety, depression and conditions associated with the use of alcohol and drugs being most common. I frequently speak to people about mental health and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been touched by mental ill-health in some way, whether their own experience or that of a friend, colleague or loved one.

At Music Support, we believe in change through education, learning and practice. Knowledge, new skills and a change of attitude towards mental health, including how we talk about it, how it is viewed in our industry and how we support those experiencing mental ill-health is vital if we are to thrive. We have trained more than 450 industry peers in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) since 2019, with more people than ever accessing our courses in 2022.  With employers and freelancers recognising the need to promote better mental health in the music industry as we move out of Covid, our ambition is that every place of work and tour has a mental health first aider.

We spend so much time with our peers, meaning we can be each other’s best source of support (if we know how). Often people are concerned about someone, but don’t have the confidence to approach them, worrying they might say the wrong thing or make the situation worse, and hoping that it will just go away. Sadly, this is rarely the case. The majority of mental health conditions do get better, but people are more likely to recover and see improvements faster with the correct help.

Our MHFA alumni are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of someone starting to experience poor mental health, and have been equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to approach them and offer initial help. This may include encouraging them to seek appropriate professional treatment, but it’s also working together to find other forms of support. With the NHS in crisis, waiting lists to see GPs or get referrals can be long, but there are many charities, peer support groups and self-help tools that can make a huge difference to mental health if accessed early enough.

We encourage peers working in music and live events to support one another and build a resilient community. A 10-minute conversation with someone able to listen, without judgement, can, at the very least, improve someone’s day but it may even save their life.  A simple chat over a cup of tea or a walk around the block might be the start of someone’s recovery journey and the difference between them burning out and leaving the industry or staying in a career they love.

All of the above means that I am incredibly hopeful about the years ahead working in this industry. People are talking more openly about mental health; fighting against the stigma that used to mean we didn’t share our struggles and learning how to support one another so we don’t lose any more people due to illness that could have been prevented if it had been caught earlier. I can’t wait to meet some of you in the training room!