The Music and Mental Health Series started back in January without much direction beyond encouraging musicians having a mental health struggle to reach out for help. Examples were given and resources were discussed; all hoping to give those musicians the courage to seek help to improve their mental health. Making the decision to reach out is incredibly difficult, but it is an important first step to self-reflection and improvement. The therapy process itself can seem like an overwhelming, unknown task, which could serve as a deterrent.
“Mental health is health,” says Morgan Johnston, a local singer-songwriter and board-certified music therapist who runs the Musicians Support Group, which started in February 2023. “While we have the tendency as a society to place physical health over mental health, they are intrinsically connected.”
Johnston, whose songs cover a variety of mental health topics, understands that reaching out for mental health services is daunting, with the stigma around seeking help creating a major hurdle. She says, “There can be sadness in accepting that one’s mental health has gotten to the point where it won’t fix itself.” She adds that “some may feel that seeking help can falsely feel like giving up.”
“Then there’s the hit to one’s pride that one cannot just ‘fix it’ on their own,” she includes. “It’s no wonder we think this when no one around us growing up is talking about mental health, only physical health.”
Johnston says that there are logistical barriers in addition to the emotional barriers. She says that “mental health services are customized to the individual needs of the person,” and can include a combination of any of the following:
- Seeking a therapist to speak to
- Attending weekly or monthly group therapy sessions
- Medication management
- A hospital program where the individual will be seen by both psychiatrists and therapists and take part in group therapy sessions. The program can be a partial day program, or inpatient.
Everyone should know they can go to the nearest emergency room if they are feeling unsafe. In addition, call or text the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline to talk to someone in real time.
“I do want to recognize that when you’re dealing with mental health issues it isn’t exactly the time when you’re feeling most driven or moved to reach out to someone so don’t forget to rely on your friends, family, and other people around you for support through this process,” Johnston includes.
Johnston’s Musicians Support Group started because she understands the highs and lows that a creative person deals with on an artistic and psychological level. She says, “People who create are drawn to creating for a reason, the reason of which could very well be a heightened sensitivity that just so happens to make for great music.”
The group meets weekly on Sundays during the Fall and Spring semesters from 6 – 8pm at the Music Mansion in PVD. She came up with the idea upon realizing the healing power that everyone has. Reflecting on her struggles, she had a simple thought: “If I need support as a musician then maybe others do too.” The first session had 15 participants, confirming her hunch that this was much needed in the local music scene.
“With the arts already being a source of healing for artists, it follows that the problem could also be the solution, with arts being able to address issues of living an artistic life like vulnerability and stability,” Johnston says. “The vision was essentially a space for musicians of all levels, ages, training, and more, to support each other, culminating in a showcase destigmatizing mental health.”
The Musicians Support Group received a grant from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts, making the sessions free for all who attend. Johnston wants people to understand that the Musicians Support Group is a community resource and is not intended as a substitute for therapy. She hopes that the group enhances everyone’s mental health journey.
“In the same way that writing a lyric that is personal ultimately makes it more universal, this group that started from a personal place took on a life of its own as the members took ownership of it,” Johnston exclaims, adding that the response from members of the group has been “incredible.”
Johnston ultimately wants everyone to feel comfortable reaching out for mental health services. She knows that the journey can be difficult, but knows that the extensive inner work will be worth it in the long run.
“You may even feel worse before you feel better,” Johnston admits. “Getting help can be scary and sad and just plain confusing. That said, you don’t have to feel this way and you, as much as me, are worthy of feeling better.” •
For those in need of immediate help, or who are in crisis, please dial 988.
For more information about Musicians Support Group, go to morganjohnstonmusic.com.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and to apply for the Trouble No More program.