One of the positives that came out of the COVID pandemic was a collective comfort with admitting that there is a national mental health crisis. The stigma associated with mental health issues is slowly getting peeled away and more people are openly discussing their struggles. Individuals are more apt to reach out for help. 988 (Suicide and Crisis Hotline) is averaging 300,000 calls/texts/chats a month since transitioning to their new, easier-to-remember number.
Musicians of all genres tend to be open about their mental health struggles. Lyrics act as a window to their mindset, often serving as a way to help digest their personal battles. As therapeutic as making music can be, some aspects provide added stress, ultimately becoming a detriment to a musician’s mental health.
While some bands have a garage or basement to practice in, that is not always the case due to space, location, and noise issues. There are a few local spaces for bands to rehearse, assuming the members can afford the rent. Jam Stage is available for hourly rentals while the Music Complex has monthly and hourly rentals. Musicians without a place to create may be left scrambling to find a way to let their ideas loose to the world.
“Having a place to go with other people to make music, hang out, watch bands play and create art helped people keep going,” says Rick Scianablo, former owner of Studio Blue, a now-defunct artist commune that provided a creative space for 15 years. Since Studio Blue’s closing, one former resident attempted suicide while another committed suicide. “Artists are damaged maniacs. They need a place to let it out and let it go to make it through the week.”
Not having a place to perform or rehearse can have a huge negative impact on a musician. Musicians thrive on creativity, with most working best with their band of peers. While band practices may be enhanced with substances, the use can increase with idle time.
“There are kids struggling to find a place to rehearse,” Scianablo adds. “The amount of time you can spend with idle hands and free time is dangerous.”
Musicians are generally night owls, with nights ending well past 2 am. This can be a difficult time to finish work – there aren’t a lot of options for things to do in the middle of the night. There is usually an abundance of energy with artists trying to chase the high from ‘Post Gig Syndrome’ (Don Culp discussed this in last month’s article). Not having a productive place to go due to the time of day can lead to people succumbing more easily to damaging vices.
“No one wants to do bad cocaine,” Scianablo says of the nightlife. “They want to stay up and hang out, but they’re exhausted from the day and want to stay up. We want to devise a solution so people don’t have to do drugs, or do less drugs.”
Scianablo expresses that his hope is for musicians of RI to come together and pool their resources to advocate and assist their peers in need. His idea is to form a committee with people, including politicians, that are business-minded and economically responsible, to help improve the mental health of musicians. He is currently looking for a location or unique way for musicians to hang out and be creative with each other either after hours or without having to go to a bar.
“There are kids struggling to find a place to go,” Scianablo adds. “Kids get bored and turn to drugs. You can’t do too many drugs if you have to play an instrument or do a project. The solution is to have a community place for people to go. Without it, we’re losing the artists of the present and potential artists of the future.”
“I’m trying to promote anything that gives people a chance to become and stay creative,” Scianablo concludes. “We need a more supportive community for everyone. We’re [people] fighting for the right to be who they are.”