In the last few years we noticed more and more people in the music business struggling with an illness nobody is protected for.
I'm speaking about depression and other mental diseases.
We spoke to Sagan Amery of Hail Sagan about that topic to figure out why people in the music business struggle with those kind of disease and what we can do about.
- Why do you think are depression and other illnesses such a taboo topic in the society?What we can do against that?
I think it’s the idea that other people will think that you’re crazy if you admit to having depression, or another type of mental illness. Back in the day, people were institutionalized for anything that remotely resembled this sort of thing, especially women. So it’s scary territory to admit that your mental health may be compromised. The irony is that everyone seems to have dealt with depression, anxiety, or other illnesses at one time or another, or at least have had people close to them who have. Based on that, it really think it should no longer be a taboo. I think having open discussions such as this will help to lift the veil of fear associated with having mental illness.
- Would you describe yourself as healthy regarding mental diseases?
I’m very lucky I do not suffer from any serious mental diseases. I’ve had general anxiety my entire life. There were times where it was very difficult to deal with, almost impossible really, and sometimes it was the same type of anxiety that everyone seems to have. Now it’s at a tolerable level, and I don’t have to rely on medication, so I am very grateful for that. But I will never forget when it was at its worse, so that keeps me humble, and makes me want to help other people. You cannot experience something like that and just walk away being okay and say, screw everyone else who is suffering. At least I can’t. Social anxiety is another story, ha. I don’t think I’ll ever figure that one out.
- Has your mental health status influenced your musical career? And if so, in which way?
I mean, I’m an artist, I’ll always have a level of rebellion and angst that is above average compared to regular people. But I think there is a real danger in labeling someone as being mentally ill, just for the sake of explaining why they act different than what is considered average. I can be moody like anyone else, and sometimes I’ll fall into a profound sadness that is painful. Is that depression? Probably not. Because there is always a reason for how I feel, and depressed people are typically sad for no reason at all, and can’t help how they feel. I can write a song and feel better, or watch a comedy and move on with my day. People suffering from depression cannot usually remedy it with a smile. We have to learn to differentiate between a normal range of emotions versus mental illness. The other thing is that sometimes physiological problems can mimic psychological problems. An example, someone with minor valve issues of the heart may be having anxiety symptoms that are unrelated to mental illness. Or certain blood pressure medications can make people feel depressed. This is why it’s important to see a doctor whenever something doesn’t feel right.
- For you personally, what is the most difficult or worst thing to life with a mental illness? From the people who I’ve spoken to about it, and what I’ve seen personally, it seems like the most difficult thing is proper treatment. There is not enough access to appropriate mental health programs and treatment. What works for someone with depression, won’t necessarily work for someone who has anxiety, or even something like schizophrenia. You can’t put all of the mentally ill people into one box and throw the same treatment at them, but that’s what’s happening right now. And many therapists are typically relying on talk therapy, which may work for depression, but does very little for someone who has say, maybe PTSD or panic disorder. I had to take a few psychology classes in college, and I remember writing a research paper on “Talk Therapy vs Exposure Therapy for Agoraphobia” and despite clearly finding that talk therapy doesn’t work for agoraphobics (people who have a fear of open spaces, and public places and who panic while in those situations), therapists were not using exposure therapy to treat these people. The idea behind exposure therapy is to slowly expose the agoraphobic to being in the public places they fear and to learn to stop panicking. But this would require therapists to get off of the couch and out into the field, but they just weren’t doing it. I found that to be both shocking and sad.
- What is the main reason, in your opinion, why more and more people in the music business are diagnosed with mental diseases?
It’s a tough business that can test even the strongest of people, so if one manages to become successful, he or she probably does not get there unscathed. The music industry is very predatory and many artists are fearful of being used or exploited, so it will definitely increase, or possibly create, feelings of anxiety, or depression. If you are already suffering, being a part of the music industry can add to the stress. But music is a catharsis, so anyone who is prone to mental health issues, but is also drawn to arts and entertainment, will probably use that as a way to deal with symptoms. Music is a universal healer so it’s no wonder people are drawn to it.
- As a singer in the metal world, you met a lot of people and experienced much. What would you like to tell people who are struggling with depression or any other psychological illness? Do not lose hope, there are many ways to tackle your issues, so if what you have been offered by way of help has not worked, there is always an alternative. Take charge of your mental health if you are able to, and if you don’t have the strength to do so, ask a trusted person who will. Get creative, think outside of that box everyone is trying to put you in. You are worth fighting for. You are worth life, that is why you are here. And if you find your way, pass it on and help someone else. My band Hail Sagan supports the You Rock Foundation which is doing a lot to help people who are suffering from mental illness, feelings of suicide, and the stigma that goes along with it. Suicide is not an answer to problems, and there is no way of knowing if it is an easy way out, since no one knows what death truly is. It’s a risk I would not take, and there is no going back from such a permanent decision.
- Does it makes sense to you to get help from a psychotherapist in general?
Depends on the problem. Some people need more help than others. Therapy did not work for me, but I know people who owe their life to it. If you just need someone to talk to who won’t judge you, then psychotherapy is a great tool to have and is nothing to be ashamed of. There are some situations where a person may need a psychiatrist because medication is called for. And some people prefer group therapy over individual therapy. Meditation is awesome and there are tons of apps and websites that offer free, guided meditation which can aid in relieving a host of issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about an important topic: Depressions and mental diseases in the music business.
Please support her band as well as her as a person!