Composers and Mental Health

Hello everyone, it’s been a long time since I wanted to delve into this important topic concerning mental health, especially for us composers who work in such a creative yet stressful field. Finally, today I’ve decided to dedicate the right time and space to discuss a topic that is very dear to me and that I believe deserves more attention and awareness, especially in Italy.

As you know, this day is dedicated to the prevention of mental illnesses, and I believe there is no better time to talk openly about it. My intention is to shed light on the existing connection between psychological well-being, the compositional process, and the world of cinema. Before delving into the topic, I want to share some interesting studies and research that I’ve saved on my tablet to provide you with an initial overview of the issues we will address.

I don’t want to claim that all musicians and composers are to be considered “a bit crazy,” but the history of music presents us with numerous examples of great artists who have had to deal with disorders such as depression. Think of Mussorgsky, Berlioz, and Skrjabin, just to name a few; unfortunately, the list is much longer.

The point I want to emphasize is not about the label of the “eccentric composer” but rather a greater awareness of the particular sensitivity that distinguishes those who decide to pursue a career in the arts.

FEATURE | It’s Time To Talk About Classical Music’s Mental Health Problem

As a general premise, I would like to emphasize that (especially in Italy), we still talk too little about mental health, almost exclusively limiting it to news stories or emergencies. In our country, we tend to consider common issues as exceptions. If we paid the necessary attention to this important topic and normalized it as we do with dental hygiene or regular medical check-ups, we would undoubtedly benefit greatly.

Years ago, due to work-related stress, I experienced some significant revelations. I realized that we all have our weaknesses, and there is no shame in acknowledging them. I used to believe that stress was manageable and even productive, to the point of boasting about my limited hours of sleep and constant commitment. Unfortunately, this misconception, which is also common among many colleagues, especially on social media, only fuels a harmful myth that seriously harms our health.

I truly hope that many can endure the negative effects of stress for a long time. However, sooner or later, we will have to come to terms with our vulnerabilities, which manifest not only through psychological imbalances but also minor physical disorders, often underestimated in our society.

Now I want to share some interesting articles that have emerged in recent years, exploring topics such as “Anxiety and Depression Disorders in Composers” and “Mental Health of Film Composers.”

Anxieties and Depression Disorders in Composers’

Mental Health and Film Composers

According to reliable statistics, composers of music for cinema are ten times more likely to suffer from anxiety and three times more likely to have sleep disorders compared to other professions.

The Australian Guild of Film Composers has conducted research to better understand the causes of this vulnerability. Among the factors identified are often low and irregular income, little job stability, a highly competitive environment, and the impostor syndrome, so common in our industry. Not to mention the constant pressure related to tight deadlines and the fear of rejection.

Health And Wellbeing

In short, the profession of a composer is not just about being brilliant but also about being ready for opportunities and effectively managing stress.

We must be aware of our weaknesses and avoid being ashamed of them because mental health concerns everyone and does not indicate any personal fragility. If we feel in difficulty, speaking openly with friends, family, or an expert can be truly valuable. I hope that this reflection can help normalize a still too taboo topic, especially in Italy.

In the following article, practical advice is also provided:

1. “Play Instruments”
Play the piano, play the guitar, join a choir, play with friends, play alone. No matter what, we must play. It’s important to keep our skills up and remember to enjoy music. It doesn’t have to be just work; it can also be playtime.

2. “Awareness”
Being aware of oneself and others is an incredibly helpful skill. It’s worth reminding ourselves that we are human, and people are different. Not everyone will react the same way to things. Being actively conscious of this can make us more confident, proactive, and positive.

3. “Pilates”
Mental and physical health is a top priority. Eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep are essential. Regular exercise and attention to posture are also important.

4. “Outdoor Time”
We should try to get fresh air every day, even if it’s just taking out the trash. In a freelance career, we often take advantage of working all hours because we can and because we love our jobs. But we have to remember the positive effects of stepping outside in the fresh air.

5. “Dress Up to Go to Work”
Even if we work from home, dressing instead of staying in pajamas can have a positive effect on productivity. It makes us feel like we are going to work and can make it easier to go outdoors.

6. “Be Organized”
Being organized in every aspect of life can greatly help with productivity. We should plan our days, separate time for emails, time without emails, and dedicated time for composing. Categorizing files and thinking ahead are also important.

7. “It’s OK to Ask for Help”
We must reach out for advice if we need it. Whether we have writer’s block or need help with something, we must not be afraid to talk to people.

8. “Get a Routine and Be Focused”
Creating habits can free up mental space for creativity. Being focused can be facilitated by making notes on what’s cluttering our minds.

9. “Understand Structuring Downtime”
After a project, it’s important to plan downtime to avoid burnout. Taking a break, going on a holiday, or spending time with friends and family is essential for recharging.

10. “Prosperity Instead of Scarcity”
We shouldn’t compare ourselves to other composers. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and enters the world of media composition in different ways. Collaboration and growth can result from embracing these differences.

In summary, these tips emphasize the importance of self-care, awareness, organization, and seeking help when needed. They also promote the importance of balancing work with leisure and avoiding comparison with others to foster collaboration and personal growth.

Here is another article from PRS, the practice of Music and its enjoyment can certainly alleviate stress, a different story for those who decide to pursue a musical career:

A website dedicated EXCLUSIVELY to composers and their mental health:

I am very interested in knowing your experiences and opinions. Let’s continue this important discussion together.