World Mental Health Day 2017

Picture from the Foundation45 Facebook page

Mental health: those two words have been thrown around a bit the past few weeks.  The news media tosses those words out every time there is a mass shooting like the one last week in Las Vegas.  The problem is that unless the public’s attention span significantly increases, or there are more such tragedies, the issue of mental health will once again be swept under the rug.

So on today, World Mental Health Day, I feel the need to address this topic.  Yes, mental health issues may lead some to commit violent and even evil acts against others.  Such cases, however, are the outliers.  The majority of people who wrestle with this disease are not evil people, and if that person is a danger to anyone, it is most likely his or herself.  These forms of illness can express themselves in a myriad of ways.   Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are only a few of the ways the disease manifests itself.

These are issues that can be found in the general population, but it seems a problem that those in the artistic and creative communities are more prone to experience.  I have seen the effects in those I know and care about.  It’s the musician who takes one too many drinks not out of celebration, but a desire to numb the pain.  It’s the performer who abuses drugs as an escape from the depression.  And yes, it’s the friend who simply cannot endure the pain any longer, and only sees one way to end the hurt.

Frankie 45 and Adam Carter of Spector 45.  Brian Alguire of Crazy Ivans.  Krissy Arnold of Mercury Rocket.  These are but a few of the names that ended their lives because the pain was too much.  Their deaths have left scars on the hearts of those fortunate enough to have known them.  The impact of these suicides has left its mark on the local music community.

One musician that knows the pain that suicide brings to a community is Anthony Delabano, the lone surviving member of Spector 45.  He helped establish Foundation45. a non-profit organization designed to help individuals struggling with mental health issues.  As a friend of Frankie and Adam’s, it’s an organization that I hold near and dear to my heart.  It’s why The Ghosty Awards is designed to benefit this organization.  Mental health issues do affect everyone, but it feels like a problem that is especially felt in our local music community.

So on this World Mental Health Day, I want to shed light on organizations like Foundation45 that can help.  There’s the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  In addition, dialing 211 directs your call to Texas Health & Human Resources, which can help callers connect with needed services, including mental health services.  As for those dealing with alcohol and substance abuse, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are important resources.  The most important thing is for anyone struggling with such issues to reach out for help.

Finally, I leave you with some words from local musicians who have struggled with various mental health issues.  The courage these individuals display in revealing their stories helps shine a light on an issue many of us struggle with.  Through their honesty, perhaps it can help others come forward and deal with their struggles, and most importantly, receive help.

Ryan Hamilton (ex-Smile Smile, Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors)
“I’ve been very public about my struggles, and family history, when it comes to Mental Health. Speaking up, and speaking out has resulted in some extremely cruel responses from uneducated trolls. All the more reason to educate the masses. This issue is not only important to me and my family, it’s an issue that deserves so much more attention and support. The whole “get over it” attitude when it comes to mental health, needs to go away. This is a real problem that deserves real attention.”

Sean Kirkpatrick (Nervous Curtains)
“I have struggled with alcoholism and depression. I am 9 years sober and am involved in a 12-step recovery program.  As for depression, I take anti-depressants.  I exercise regularly and general healthy eating habits to help. I’m trying to develop a regular meditation practice to get better at calming my mind and being less prone to following my thoughts down dark alleyways. I’m struggling with the discipline to make this a regular practice, but I’m trying.”

Art Fernandez (aka Artemus)
“I speak a lot about my struggles with mental illness in my music. Some songs are more overt about it than others. However I haven’t really spoken much about it outside of my music. I’ve suffered from depression my entire life, my earliest work in bands like Another Year Colder reflecting my own journey of understanding what it was to live with a mental illness (before I even realized that I was in fact living with mental illness) as well as coming to terms with the sudden passing of my mother, who also suffered from depression. Music has always been my therapy, my way to speak up when I can’t seem to find any other way. It’s something only my closest friends know about, the ones who have seen it first hand. The ones who have had to walk me through the streets of Deep Ellum during my weakest moments. But it’s something I want to try and be more open about, not only for myself, but for others who need to hear ‘You’re not the only one’. I’m hoping that my songs can speak to those who not only live with depression and mental illness, but to hopefully provide a better perspective for those who don’t have to live with it everyday. We have to be able to have those conversations without fear of judgement, because not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a musical outlet for their voice.”

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