As mental health awareness week comes to an end, I got the opportunity to talk to Ollie Hayes, singer, guitarist and song-writer for The Half Eight about his experiences with mental health and how it has impacted his music career.
It has been reported that roughly 69% of musicians have felt depressed at some point yet only 30% of these have or would be very likely to seek help. Although most musicians find solace and escape in their music writing and performing, the industry can be tough and trying to balance long stays away from home with touring, as well as constant attention from fans and critiques and a pressure to appear in control can be hard work.
Speaking to Ollie he admitted that he has had ups and downs himself and he finds it difficult to know what is normal when it comes to mental health. He enjoys writing songs but interestingly said that when he has been in the middle of his tough times he couldn’t write because he felt “too numb” so instead he writes about his experiences from memory when he is feeling better. Looking back at his struggles isn’t hard for him because he said that it is satisfying to realise that he is no longer in that place but in a better one and moving forward.
It is estimated that 71% of musicians suffer from high levels of anxiety or panic attacks, which can be surprising as they are regularly putting themselves on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of fans. It can be easy to forget that they are just ordinary people who want to make a career out of something they enjoy. It is always a shock when stories surface of celebrities refusing autographs or photographs with fans receiving criticisms for ignoring the people who “put them where they are today”. However, fans must remember that musicians also need their space and their time alone and that there is a time and a place for attention.
Ollie spoke about how he isn’t a fan of social media due to how “fake” it is. He regularly takes breaks from it and doesn’t enjoy the attention that it provides. He even said that he doesn’t particularly like being photographed either. Before The Half Eight performed their headline Rough Trade gig they all felt sick, but when they got on stage they got a kick of emotions. Ollie described it as having different sections to his life with different personalities, there’s one that’s the performer you see on stage, but when he wakes up the next morning it’s different person who doesn’t want to be in the limelight.
It’s important to recognise when you are struggling with mental health problems and need help which can be difficult with the pressures and commitments in the music industry. Therefore, it is vital to look after your mental health as best you can as you go and not forget how important it is. Ollie praised the support he receives from his friends and the rest of the band, as well as the fans. He said that he doesn’t always look after his mental health in the best ways and some of his coping mechanisms aren’t ideal, but when he writes he hopes that his music can help others and bring people together. He said that music and mental health “go hand in hand” as a form of expression as well as help for all that need it.
Mental health is being spoken about more and more with well known and influential figures talking about their own struggles to reduce the stigma. Anybody can suffer with mental health issues, but it is especially important to consider how those in the public eye are in a unique situation that can impact their mental health differently to others. As fans, we need to appreciate that musicians are people too and need space, respect, and privacy just as much as us. If everybody shares this attitude of respect (which most people already do) then we help to provide the foundations of a support network for the 39% of musicians that do not want to seek professional help.
Photos courtesy of Artifex Studios/Ash Stanley
Statistics from https://www.musicmindsmatter.org.uk/the-study