“The better educated those initially apprehensive of mental illness are, the more willing they will be able to have an open and honest conversation about mental health. And I think that starts with us, those struggling with mental health, being honest with ourselves.”
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
In 2017, the music industry faced great losses to suicide including Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. The push to end the stigma on mental health and open the discussion of resources and aids for those suffering has increased since then.
The suicide rate in the United States has risen 25% in the last 20 years.
“Generally speaking, a misconception is that because we can’t see it, it can’t hurt.” said Elizabeth Wilder, music and event coordinator for To Write Love on Her Arms. “We always say at TWLOHA when you break a bone, you go to the doctor. When you have a fever, you take medicine. The same should go for mental illness. When your brain isn’t feeling well, you deserve to get the help needed to make it feel better.”
To Write Love On Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Since its start in 2006, they have donated over $2 million directly into treatment and recovery and have answered over 200,000 emails from over 100 countries. TWLOHA has one of the largest online audiences of any non-profit on social media.
“More often than not I see a lot of people reacting to people’s mental illness, more specifically self-harm, as “attention-seeking” or “just a phase”. Sometimes mental illness isn’t taken seriously when it needs to be the most.”
TWLOHA was present throughout this summer’s Vans Warped Tour. The organization worked to provide information and answer questions people had on mental health.
“Our goal is to be able to meet people halfway no matter what. The first step in spreading awareness is educating. We have to be willing to teach and listen to the questions and concerns people have about mental health.” said Wilder, “Awareness grows from education. Once we’re able to give the tools to those fighting against the aforementioned stigma, that’s when progress can occur.”
Tedd Turnwald, guitarist of Detroit based band Gold Route shared his personal experience on touring.
“Aside from being away from friends and family, there are a lot of challenges I can face day to day. I believe your mindset is a huge contributing factor to how much the road can effect your overall mental health.” he said. “Things get very hectic at times on tour, but for me, one of the most important things is knowing when to relax and catch up mentally with everything going on.”
Turnwald’s time spent touring is only a fraction of the time that some national acts tour for. Long tours take a toll on an artist’s mental health. Wilder shared with us what artists can do over long grueling tours, such as Vans Warped Tour, to help their mental health.
“You really have to practice some serious self-care throughout Warped Tour. When to rest, and when to play. Being in tune with how you’re feeling at any given moment is so incredibly important.” she said. “There are ample opportunities to be social on Warped Tour, so take the opportunity to stay in when you can. Read a book, call a friend, just take time for yourself because you’re surround by your bus mates and people at your tent all day. Take a breather.”
Ending the stigma on mental health is just one step in raising awareness of suicide prevention. This year, TWLOHA has created the #TomorrowNeedsYou campaign for National Suicide Awareness week.
“The better educated those initially apprehensive of mental illness are, the more willing they will be able to have an open and honest conversation about mental health. And I think that starts with us, those struggling with mental health, being honest with ourselves.” said Wilder. “I’ve been able to witness people having an ‘aha moment’ about mental illness and how it may be directly impacting them without them even knowing it beforehand. We have to patience for those who are questioning mental health, always patience.”
Please remember, if you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations, seek help. The National Suicide Hotline is available 24 hours 1-800-273-8255.
*Photo by Alexis Backus