Mental health

Musicians Speak Up about Mental Health

Posted by Cassandra Popescu on February 01, 2019
black and white photo of guitar player

Content Warning: This article contains potentially triggering content, including mentions of mental health challenges and suicide.


January 30th was #BellLetsTalk Day, an annual day in which millions take to social media to publicly share their experiences with mental health. Messages of support, challenges, hope, and recovery flood our timelines in efforts to raise awareness about important mental health issues. We want to keep the conversation going and have asked members of our music community to share their experiences. Here’s what they had to say.


microphone with overlay text reading "let's keep talking"


How has mental health affected you?

X ARI, Musician/Mental Health Advocate

"Mental illness has impacted my life greatly. Mental illness runs in my family and I personally have struggled with ADHD, anxiety, OCD, depression, bipolar, and psychosis. As someone who's not only survived, but thrived despite many mental health challenges, I feel a deep responsibility to empower others to know that healing and recovery is possible."


Amanda Rheaume, Musician

"In 2002, after realizing I was gay and finally coming out, I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I spent a few months not being able to leave the house and sought out counselling. I also started taking an SSRI. Since 2002 my mental health has been up and down, struggling with depression and anxiety at different times over the years. At times I used to find the simplest of tasks difficult: returning emails, answering the phone, seeing friends.

The difference now is that I have a greater understanding of what helps me and what hinders me. With some great cognitive behavioural therapy and EMDR I have acquired knowledge and skills that help me deal with my thoughts, feelings and emotions in a much more balanced and loving way."


Carmen Elle, Musician/Mental Health Advocate

"I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD as a child. It has affected every day on earth since then: my relationships, my physical health and my ability to finish projects. As a musician, some of my main fears have made it difficult to tour and play shows. It has affected my career in that I have turned down a lot of opportunities I didn't feel I could handle and have experienced some real grief and shame over that."


Mike Schwartz, Musician/Wellness Coach

"I have battled depression and anxiety for over 5 years...It comes and goes at certain times of the year but I am constantly getting better at reading the triggers that put me into a tailspin.

I now spend my time educating and empowering others in the music industry. As a Certified Health Professional, I give them the tools, the encouragement, and the confidence to better take care of their health and wellness. When I see someone make that switch and rewrite the story they’ve been living all their lives, it’s truly inspiring."


From left: Bill Bell, Carmen Elle, Wali Shah, ARI X
From left: Bill Bell, Carmen Elle, Wali Shah, X ARI


Wali Shah, Rapper/Spoken Word Artist

"As a high-school student, I looked for a way to fit in. I felt alone and socially isolated. Of South Asian origin and as a Muslim, I never really had any role models that I could identify with. I grew anxious and depressed. I also noticed that many other young people struggled and that they dealt with these issues in different ways: some turned to smoking, drinking or drugs, and others sadly took their own lives."


Florence K, Musician

"Seven years ago, I suffered from a major depressive episode, which lead to auto-mutilation, two psychotic episodes and a suicide attempt. I was hospitalized and treated, both medically and with therapy on a long-term basis. I have recently been diagnosed with bipolarity type II and, although it took a few months to find the right balance of medication, I now feel more balanced than ever and know myself enough to foresee any red-flags of a potential episode. In my case, talk-therapy was also key to my well-being."


Bill Bell, Musician

"It’s shown me how fragile we all are and that we’re all connected. Everyone can be affected. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how much money you have, it affects everyone."


From left: Amanda Rheaume, Florence K, Dan Tait, Mike Schwartz
From left: Amanda Rheaume, Florence K, Dan Tait, Mike Schwartz


Dan Tait, Musician

"Mental health has never been more important to me than it is now. As I was growing and developing as a professional performer, I was privileged as a cisgender male - and so I felt invincible. But it wasn’t until the past few years of my life that I realized I had to take care of myself and maintain good mental health habits. The arts and performance industries are taxing on all folks involved, and if you aren’t careful many things can over take you. I have pulled myself out of a couple dark places only because I was fortunate enough to recognize the importance of maintaining proper mental health habits.

Talking and listening is important, but we need to make sure that proper care, counselling services, and mental health resources are accessible to our community."


How can we help our community?


In a study focusing on the mental health of music professionals, 2,200 music-makers were asked about their wellness. 71 percent believed they had suffered from panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety, and 69 percent reported they had suffered from depression. Out of these respondents, 57 percent indicated that they did not receive treatment and 53 percent reported that it was difficult to find help.


Unison has helped over 500 individuals and their families, and demand keeps increasing. As we continue the conversation, more people are beginning to ask for help when they need it.


In order to ensure help is readily available for all Canadian music professionals, we require the support of music lovers and our community. With your donations, music workers in crisis can count on someone to talk to, and somewhere to access resources.


Donate today to invest in the health and resilience of the Canadian music community.

The Unison Benevolent Fund provides counselling for Canadian music-makers in need of help. Register with Unison and call 1-855-9UNISON to access counselling. For more information about the help provided, please visit our Counselling & Health Solutions page.