Dr. Kamran Ahmed on the causes of high rates of mental illness in the music biz
Kamran Ahmed is a psychiatrist, film-maker, and founder of electronic music platform Rave Reviewz, a Sydney-based publication which aims to bolster the local underground electronic music scene. He also launched “Music on my Mind” to raise money for mental health charities.
In a recent piece for The Guardian, Dr. Kamran wrote about how to silence the negative thoughts that emerge during COVID-induced lockdown.
“If you’re struggling with [solitude] during the lockdown period, ironically you’re not alone,” he wrote. “One study from psychologists at Virginia and Harvard universities found that many would rather give themselves an electric shock than be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.”
In the interview below Dr. Kamran details the idiosyncrasies that cause anxiety in the music industry, his tips on how to cope, advice for those who are struggling, and much more.
1. So Kamran, you’re a psychiatrist and you also run Sydney’s house & techno platform Rave Reviewz. How did you get in to that?
Well I first visited Sydney back in 2011. The nightlife was great here back then with plenty of fantastic music on offer. I had such a good time that I decided to move here, but arrived just after the lockout laws were introduced in 2014!
I’ve always been really into music and was pretty frustrated that the lockouts were killing nightlife, so started Rave Reviewz to promote and support electronic music here.
2. You also run music and mental health campaign “Music on my Mind” through Rave Reviewz. What was the inspiration behind that?
When I started working in music, I realised how tough it was and how high the rates of mental illness are in the industry. Entertainment industry workers have 10 times the rate of anxiety, 5 times the rate of depression and double the rate of suicide attempts sadly.
I wanted to do something to help and realised music is a great way to raise funds and awareness for mental health, so launched Music on my Mind. Over the past two runs we’ve raised $37,500AUD for mental health charities through our fundraising raves and reached lots of people with our online content to raise awareness.
3. What do you think causes those high rates of mental illness in the music biz?
There are lots of things that make it challenging… like the disrupted sleep patterns, performance anxiety, hectic touring schedules, easy access to alcohol and drugs and the uncertainty around income.
The industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic too – venues shut down, events and tours cancelled and thousands of jobs lost.
Support Act, the charity for music industry professionals that we fundraise for, saw a 52% increase in calls to their Wellbeing Helpline in April to June this year. That figure looks set to increase further unfortunately.
4. How have you been coping since the pandemic hit? Any advice, hints or tips?
2020 has been a tough year for everyone, especially in music. Our activities with Rave Reviewz have slowed down a lot since there are no events to cover, but Music on my Mind has kept me and the team busy. I feel very fortunate to have a job in healthcare right now too. It gives me a sense of purpose to try and help with the situation we’re all in.
In terms of tips, it can be helpful to do the things that we know are good for your mental health – like sticking to a routine, sleeping well, exercising daily, eating healthy and staying in touch with friends and family. It’s also worth learning how to challenge your negative thoughts so they don’t get the better of you.
5. This year’s Music on my Mind is a little different due to the pandemic of course. How can people get involved?
Yes we can’t do a fundraising rave this year, so we’re teaming up with some of Sydney’s best house & techno crews for a livestream fundraiser from Club 77 on World Mental Health Day, Oct 10th. 50% of all proceeds will go to the charity Support Act and the rest will help with the costs of Music on My Mind, now and in the future.
Should be a lot of fun, so I hope people can get their mates together (max 20 people), dress up, dance and donate! We’ll be sharing lots more music related content to raise awareness of mental health through our social media channels in October too.
6. What advice do you have for anyone from the music industry who is experiencing mental health problems and wants some help, but doesn’t know where to start?
It can help to open up to a friend you trust, you’ll usually be pleasantly surprised at how supportive they are. Another option is calling Support Act’s wellbeing helpline on 1800 959 500, where you can speak to a trained counsellor. You can also see your GP to get their advice and get a mental health care plan to see a psychologist for 10 sessions.
The Music on my Mind starts on October 1st
Donate to support the Music on my Mind campaign HERE
Check out the Music on my Mind: Stream for Mental Health event HERE
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.