An introduction to mental health

Research suggests that artists and performers are seven times more likely to experience poor mental health. This in-depth and comprehensive guide aims to raise mental health awareness amongst performers and musicians, promote healthy practices for mental wellbeing, offer useful tools and resources, and suggest helpful charities and support organisations that may be particularly useful to musicians.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is an essential part of general health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

They go on to define mental health as a state of wellbeing in which an individual can:

Essentially, mental health is not simply the absence of any mental health conditions.

Mental health charity Mind notes that a quarter of people will experience some kind of mental health problem each year.


Numbers per week

Mixed anxiety and depression

8 in 100 people

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

6 in 100 people

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

4 in 100 people


3 in 100 people


2 in 100 people

Obsessive compulsive disorder

1 in 100 people

Panic disorder

Fewer than 1 in 100 people

It is worth noting that people’s diagnoses can change throughout their lives.

Mental health and musicians: statistics

The largest known study into mental health and the music industry was carried out by the University of Westminster and MusicTank, and commissioned by the charity Help Musicians.

Music Minds Matter found the following:


said they had experienced depression.

of respondents believed they had experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety.

of those who reported these experiences said they would be very likely to, or had already asked for help.

believed there were “gaps in the provision of services for musicians.”

Respondents suggested that the following reasons contributed to poor mental health.

2. A lack of recognition

4. Being a woman in the industry

3. Physical issues

1. Poor working conditions

The arts in the UK often have their funding cut, leading some to argue that the importance of the culture sector is underestimated.

Examples include anti-social working hours, locations such as old theatres with problems like mould and damp, and the unpredictability of work making it difficult to plan ahead.

From Repetitive Strain Injury, to hearing loss, to musculoskeletal and respiratory disorders, being a musician can impact physical health as well as mental health.

Sexist attitudes and and sexual harassment can occur. There are also the issues women across all industries often have to deal with, such as balancing work with caring responsibilities.

The second part of the same study also uncovered some information about how musicians see themselves:

  • Their relationship to their work is part of how they define themselves.

  • They can be very self-critical, as being a musician involves constant feedback, whether you’re playing solo, in an orchestra, or in a band.

  • They want to appear as if they’re in control, even if they’re struggling.

As a result of this, the study proposes changes across education and best practice, as well as a mental health support service for musicians and anyone else working in music.

Wider studies around mental health in the workplace have found mixed results.

In a 2021 survey:


said they felt under pressure to put on a brave face at work

of respondents wanted their employers to help them with their mental wellbeing

said their mental health was very well supported at work

On a positive note, the proportion of people in senior roles who have employee wellbeing on their agenda has risen significantly (75% in 2021, compared to 61% in 2020).

However, 46% of workplaces do not have a formal strategy or policy when it comes to mental health, taking an ad-hoc approach instead, which can lead to uncertainty. And employees are worried about discussing their mental health openly. In another survey, 64% of respondents admitted they were scared of being judged by their managers if they talked about their mental health. Reasons they gave included:


I fear my employer would fire me


I fear it would make me look weak

I fear my employer would judge me

My employer doesn’t understand mental illness

I fear it would jeopardise my chance at a promotion

My employer isn’t very supportive

I fear my employer wouldn’t believe me


The same research showed that 46.1% of professionals have considered leaving a job because it impacted their mental health, suggesting that businesses are more likely to retain staff if they take their wellbeing into account.

Creating a better working environment

There are multiple ways an employer can be more accommodating of its employees and their wellbeing.

Avoid stigmatising mental health in the workplace

This can be done by talking openly about it and raising awareness so all employees are equally informed.

Provide training for employees so they are better equipped to talk about mental health at work

People are more likely to bring up issues if they know they’ll be dealt with in a sensitive manner.

Recommend mental health services

Although scheduling one-to-one catch-ups where employees can discuss any issues will help, sometimes someone will need to seek professional help. Have some recommendations to hand.

Recent mental health statistics

Global events appear to have had a significant impact on the population’s mental health, with the latest survey showing that 21% of adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021. This was an increase from the previous quarter (19%), and over double the amount reported before the pandemic (10%).

Of the respondents:

  • Adults aged 16-29 were most likely to report experience of depression (34%)

  • Women were more likely to experience depression, across all age groups (43%, compared with 26% of men the same age)

  • Adults of mixed ethnicity were more likely to experience depression than white adults (35% compared to 20%)

  • Disabled adults were more likely to experience depression than non-disabled adults (39% compared to 13%)

Particularly concerning is that those in more precarious economic positions or burdened by existing inequalities – young people, women, clinically vulnerable adults, disabled people and those living in the most deprived areas of England – have been disproportionately affected,

said Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, in response to these figures.

This suggests inequalities in our society have worsened as a result of the pandemic.