James Blake has opened up on the stigma surrounding mental health in the music industry in the way of expressing his personal battles with anxiety and depression.
Speaking at the annual symposium of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) on a panel called You Got This: Managing the Suicide Crisis in the Arts Population, Blake went into detail on how he has suffered and dealt with suicidal thoughts and anxiety in the past and that the music industry has reached a critical point concerning mental health.
He spoke openly about the labours of touring at such a young age and the effect it had on him personally. “Your connection to other people becomes surface level” he explained. “If you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff…which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”
Blake also touched on the “myth” that anxiety breeds creativity and depression is often seen in geniuses. “I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create.” he said. “And I’ve watched it destroy my friends’ creative process too.”
He also explained how he came to manage his anxiety and depression, accrediting EMDR therapy, a positive relationship with his girlfriend who he lives with in LA, severing ties with people who negatively effected his lifestyle and changing his dietary requirements.
“I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” he explained. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.”
Blake also touched on the importance being open and talking about mental health in this industry, saying “we’ve reached a critical point… We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them. And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. So we, I think, have a responsibility to talk about it and to remove the stigma.”
This is not the first time James Blake has expressed his concern with the stigma surrounding mental health in music, and we hope it isn not the last and that others step up as well. In May he shared an open letter addressing his mental health after being categorised by some listeners as “sad boy music” following the release of his single Don’t Miss It.
Need to talk to someone? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, Headspace on 1800 650 890 or QLife – for LGBT+ persons – on 1800 184 527.
For advice and support networks for musicians and workers in the music industry, head to Entertainment Assist, Support Act Australia, Help Musicians UK or MMF and Music Support’s Music Managers Guide to Mental Health.