When drummer Mark Richardson isn’t on tour or in the studio with Skunk Anansie, he can be found splitting his time between The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM), where he is a Student Well-being Advisor, and his charity Music Support. Having been sober from drugs and alcohol in 12 step recovery since 2002, Mark now dedicates a huge amount of his time helping other musicians who find themselves in trouble. As it’s Mental Health Awareness week, we caught up with Mark to get his top tips for practicing good mental well-being on the road…
As someone who has experienced mental health issues within the music industry first hand, the work that I do at ACM and Music Support is incredibly important to me. Practicing good well-being and keeping good mental health should be on anyone’s agenda, but for musicians it’s even more important because we are three times more likely to develop a mental health issue. I’ve shared my top tips on how to practice good well-being when on the road so that if any problems do arise, you can find a way to tackle them before they get out of control…
- If you do drink, do it in moderation. Try not to make the big nights out every night. If you are a sober musician this is often where relapse can happen, especially in the absence of your 12 step recovery group, so keep safe. If you need to leave because it’s too much temptation, just leave.
- Call your friends and family regularly. Don’t underestimate the power of talking. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at times, but just talking about it often lightens the load.
- Get plenty of sleep. Touring is both mentally and physically draining so make sure you get enough sleep to ensure you have the best start.
- Stay to meetings, even on tour. If you’re in 12 step recovery, check ahead to see if there are meetings on your day off. Make sure to stay away from mind altering chemicals to keep yourself on track.
- Eat well and regularly to keep your body fuelled.
- Exercise to keep your body fit and gig ready.
- Stay plugged in to your recovery group, sponsor and/or therapist. Use online meetings and Skype, there is no excuse now to miss your sessions and meetings.
- Practice mindfulness for anxiety and non-clinical depression. Breathing well can be a huge help. If you struggle with meditation like me, there’s some fantastic free apps and lots on youtube to help guide you.
- Take time out to relax. Read, have a swim, sightsee or go to a museum on your days off. There will always be those who mock or spend every day off boozing, you can choose not to. Remember where it takes you and how you feel at the END of a binge.
- Speak to your band mates if you are facing difficulties – let them help. If they are no help, ask management and/or your tour manager and/or the record label. Never be afraid to ask for help – it’s one of the bravest things you can do. You will be surprised at the reaction.
We think that is pretty sound advice. So, if you – like many other musicians – struggle with your mental health on tour, why not give some of these techniques a go.
You can find out more about Mark’s story and get more information on Music Support here.
Feature by Mark Richardson
More about ACM
ACM (The Academy of Contemporary Music) is the UK’s leading music industry education provider. ACM has been training artists, musicians, producers and entrepreneurs for careers in the music industry for over 20 years. With their state-of-the-art facilities, world-class faculty and extensive connections within the music business, ACM offers music programmes that develop students to their maximum potential and instantly immerses them in the music industry.