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Mental Health in Brass Bands Report based on a Survey Developed by Tabby Kerwin of Mode for‌ www.modefor.co.uk July 2019


Index 1. Overview 2. Introduction 3. Background 4. Existing Statistics 7. Survey Sample 11. Survey Findings 12. The Real Issues 16. Music is a Therapy 24. The Need for a Mental Health Provision 26. Demand for Changes 28. Conclusions 29. Implementing Findings 31. The Next Step 32. Other Research & Articles 32. Report Details 32. Help & Resources 33. Final Results


Overview This survey was designed to give an overview of the effect that being in brass bands can have on mental health. The survey was completely anonymous and results have been collated in this report with a view to a greater understanding of the current position of the mental health of musicians in brass bands and to see if there is a need for a mental health provision in the brass band movement for dealing with issues from nerves and anxiety to panic, pressures and depression. The research has stemmed from a 2016 survey into the effects on mental health in the wider music industry, an interest based on my own personal experiences of being in the brass band movement, the effect this had on my own mental health, my coaching work surrounding performance techniques and anxiety, my training as a Mental Health First Aider, combined with a general population wide rise in mental health issues. The invitation to complete the survey read: “Thank you for helping with this survey into mental health in brass bands. The survey is designed to give an overview of the effect that being in brass bands can have on mental wellbeing. The survey is completely anonymous and results will be used in our research to see if there is a need for mental health provisions in brass bands for dealing with issues from nerves and anxiety to pressures and depression. It will also be used as a basis for more published works from Mode for... Publishing. The research has stemmed from an interest based on my own personal experiences of being in the brass band movement, coaching work surrounding performance techniques and anxiety, combined with a rise in mental health issues. If you feel you would like to share any particular experiences or chat more about the issues that surround the subject, please do not hesitate to contact me at modeforpublishing@gmail.com No data or contact details will be collected from this survey. Many thanks and best wishes. Tabby Kerwin Director, Mode for...�

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Introduction Help Musicians UK is the leading independent charity for musicians in the UK. As part of its MAD (Music and Depression) campaign, in 2016 the charity commissioned Sally Anne Gross and Dr. George Musgrave, MusicTank / University of Westminster to conduct a study into the mental health issues faced by musicians and the wider music industry. However, whilst this covered a wide demographic of 2211 musicians it did not specifically focus on the medium of brass bands. Of this survey sample, 71.1% of the survey respondents believed they had suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and 68.5% reported they had suffered from depression. Based on the data collected from the Office for National Statistics between 2010 and 2013 in their reports on ‘Measuring National Wellbeing’, it is suggested that, of those over the age of 16 in the UK, nearly 1 in 5 of the population suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Therefore, the survey conducted by the University of Westminster and MusicTank suggested that musicians may be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to the general public. The intention of this survey was to see if musicians specifically in the brass band movement suffered the same mental health issues as musicians in the wider music industry and to see if the statistics correlated, with a view to implementing necessary information, support and mental health provisions into the brass band movement.

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Background Music has a very positive effect on health. It slows the heart rate, reduces stress and is a well-used therapy, calming and healing tool. There is no question as to the emotional and mental healing powers of music. However, what is in question is the volatile & competitive nature of the music industry and in the case of this data, specifically the competitive nature of the brass band movement. Competition in this context can be defined in many ways, including:  the brass band contest scene  relationships between personnel, officials and musical directors  the need for personal and group improvement Comments from our survey respondents were a clear indicator that music, and in many cases the lifestyle of being in the membership of a brass band, has had a very positive effect on the mental health of respondents. However, the data captured reveals that there is a higher percentage of brass band musicians suffering with nerves, anxiety, panic attacks and depression as a direct result of playing in brass bands than the currently measured national average of the general public suffering with mental health issues. The data and statistics captured in this survey does correlate with the findings of the 2016 University of Westminster and MusicTank survey, showing us that the brass band movement does fit within the general music industry trend towards heightened mental health issues.

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Exisiting statistics Findings of Help Musicians UK’s MAD (Music and Depression) campaign 2016 survey undertaken by Sally Anne Gross and Dr. George Musgrave, MusicTank / University of Westminster. A study conducted into the mental health issues faced by musicians and the wider music industry.

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Survey Sample 328 musicians in brass bands responded to our survey between March and May 2019. This is a unique survey aimed specifically at mental health in the brass band movement. Respondents were invited to participate via social media channels and brass band press, as well as word of mouth. The demographic of the respondents is as follows, with the majority (53.7%) of contributors being in the 41-60 years age bracket.

It was a fairly even male / female gender split of respondents with 48.5% being male and 51.5% female.

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As was anticipated, the vast majority of respondents were located in England (83.5%) with other respondents from Wales (7.6%), Scotland (6.1%), Northern Ireland (0.3%), Scandinavia (0.9%), Australia (0.6%) and New Zealand (0.9%).

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When asked in what capacity respondents were associated with brass bands, the majority (92.7%) were players with conductors (12.8%) and management and committee roles (29.9%) sharing the greatest dividends. Other associations with brass bands included contest organisers, composers and arrangers, parents of young players, former players, temporarily retired players and librarians.

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Respondents were also questioned about their general level of health and lifestyle with 79.3% saying they were health conscious.

Only 18.3% did not exercise regularly.

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The Survey Findings At this stage it should be noted that in all answers, respondents have selfidentified as having mental health and wellbeing issues and none of the collected data has been medically verified. Respondents also self-identified their roles within brass bands and their general level of health and fitness. Further to this, all quoted comments are the anonymous personal comments and experiences of respondents. These have not been verified in any way and represent what we believe to be the honest personal views of the survey respondents. The major initial findings of this survery were that there is a very real problem of mental health issues in brass bands and whilst music itself is a healer, the volatile and competitive environment of brass bands is an issue and there is a need for more provision for mental health information, understanding and support in the brass band movement. This survey was designed to find out the effects that being in a brass band can have on mental health and though the survey questions did have a bias towards the negative effects on mental health from being in a brass band, it did ask for information on the positive effects on mental health from playing in a brass band. Only 12.8% said their experiences in brass bands have only ever been completely positive and stress free.

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The Real Issues In the same way that the 2016 Survey by University of Westminster and Music Tank into the mental health of musicians told us that the problem of anxiety and depression was real with 71.1% of respondents across a broad base of musical genres claiming to have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, the primary findings of this survey told us that respondents suffered from nerves (79.6%), anxiety (53.8%) and panic attacks (15.2%) as a direct result of being in brass bands.

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According to the mental health charity ‘Mind’, Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. This therefore suggests that people in brass bands could be up to three times more likely to suffer from a mental health issue as a direct consequence of being in a brass band compared to the general public; a statistic which is wholly in line with the research and survey into musicians and their mental health in 2016.

Of the respondents, half (50%) confessed to have suffered from depression, with another 10.1% unsure of their status with regards to depression. 13


22.6% also claimed to have suffered from other mental health issues.

Of those respondents who reported mental health issues, around half (48.5%) have sought professional medical help or treatment. 14


Music is a Therapy‌ but there are Issues with the Banding Environment 15


The potential for confusion and misunderstanding comes from the fact that music is a well-known therapy and healer for many mental and physical health conditions, which tells us that it is not music that is the issue, but the environment our brass musicians are working within; in the case of this survey, the brass band movement. People that play in brass bands come from a wide demographic in terms of age, social, personal and professional backgrounds and therefore have a wide and diverse range of medical and psychological tendancies. For many of the respondents, playing in brass bands has been hugely positive on their mental health and life and their membership of a brass band greatly enhances their personal wellbeing. “Best thing for someone with social anxiety ever.” “A few times in my life I think brass bands have saved me from potential mental health issues. Music is healing and having people around you like a band in difficult times can really help.” “Generally speaking, I find playing and banding an enormous positive in terms of mental health. It relieves stress massively. However, sometimes the associated duties (finding deps, dealing with personnel issues etc) have been overwhelming for me, and it’s within this context I’ve answered this survey.”

“Brass banding has actually helped rather than cause anxiety and provides a sense of comfort without expectation. Anxiety from working professionally in music has had a spill over effect into performing in brass bands (performing from champ section to non-competing bands).” “Brass band is the place I go to maintain my mental health. It has been my sanctuary during the difficult periods of my mental wellbeing.”

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“I have had many more positive experiences and happiness with bands than problems. I have many times attended a rehearsal initially not wanting to be there, but by the end I have been much happier and pleased I made the effort. There is definitely something soothing to the soul about shutting everything else out, and concentrating on reading and playing the music.”

“I have experienced depression and loneliness due to having a baby and breastfeeding it meant that I couldn't leave the house. Band is my lifeline and is the main reason I moved to formula feeding my baby, simply for my own mental health. I used to sit and cry because I felt so lonely stuck in the house. It didn't matter to me where I played, banding is such a great group that I knew I would make friends and get on with people in any band. It massively improved my mental health. I'm not sure what I would do without band in my life at the moment.”

“It was band that kept me going after I lost my husband 32 years ago. It gave me a focus and something to get out of the house for, and it still does!”

“People in brass bands tend to be the kindest and most genuine people I know. I have amazing friendships with bandspeople and have received incredible support with various things over the years.”

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What was clear from the comments section of the survey is that whilst music itself and playing in brass bands has a calming and healing effect on respondents to this survey, the volatile and competitive nature of the movement has a detrimental effect on many, with the greatest anxieties coming from the contesting scene, with 62.2% of respondents to this survey suffering with nerves or anxiety on a contest stage. “The pressure of contesting stopped me from playing for several years before I joined a non-contesting band. Now I re-joined a contesting band in a lower section.”

“I think contesting can produce a relationship with performance that isn't entirely healthy. I do come out of major contests feeling really wiped out physically and mentally.”

“Becoming too emotionally invested in the success of contest performances and success lead to me developing symptoms of anxiety that were frightening initially and have taken years to subside to a manageable point. I don't necessarily feel it on stage but during the build-up and after. I now try to distance myself from getting too hopeful as I find not caring about what happens too much the only way to stay healthy about it, which is a shame but the right approach for me.”

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Pressures on time, commitments and standards as well as the pressure of offical management duties and relationships with peers gets a significant mention from respondents in the comments section of the survey.

“I had a situation with the band sergeant when my mental health became quite bad which ended up in me having a complete breakdown directly from brass banding because of the pressure and bullying I had from him. Despite complaining, no action was taken, nothing was said and it was allowed to spiral to the point where I stopped playing completely and have only recently been able to bear playing again.”

“I don’t know if it was because I was in a contesting band or not, but it felt very much as if they wanted me to go because of my health. The lack of action about the bullying (despite being able to show messages to the people I was reporting it to) really enforced this feeling and made it harder and harder to play well, which of course added to the spiral of pressure which ended quite disastrously. It felt very much as if everyone on the committee just cared about results.”

“I was a manager of a relatively successful championship section band and the pure stress of it drove me to give up playing for a time as I wasn’t well mentally. Pressure from the MD and also pressure because of a selfish set of bandsmen and women who were too lazy to do anything. The sheer and utter laziness of a lot of players in our movement is astounding. No one has to get involved with everything but even finding your own dep seems to be too much. It spoiled the pleasure for me.”

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Brass band conductors have a major role to play in both the positive and negative effects on the mental health of musicians in brass bands and whilst some try to create a supportive and caring environment whilst striving for musical excellence, to many the volatile and competitive nature of the movement makes them more focussed on the potential results and rewards of the competition as to the process of developing their band and musicians and being responsible for the mental wellbeing of the musicians around them. “Band ethos and leadership styles (especially those of conductors) can have a significant impact on players’ confidence and performance, both positive and negative.”

“I think that there is too much pressure on players especially around contest time. There is too much pressure on people dropping all other aspects of their lives in order to make rehearsals and the extra commitments. All for the sake of a hobby. When you do find the time to go to a rehearsal (normal or extra), you are then usually shouted at by the MD and made to feel useless as a person in front of the rest of the band just because you haven't been able to find the time in an ever increasing hectic life to put the practice in. There are ways of getting the best out of people and some MDs get it and some don't. Not every player responds to being shouted at constantly. This is not what banding is about....”

“Not long ago a conductor bullied me so much at band that I stopped playing and teaching for a time. I was berated, shouted at and had my instrument taken off of me even if I just clipped a note. I was told I was a joke, didn’t deserve my seat or my instrument and was told I (single-handedly) brought the whole band down. This was a personal vendetta, as the conductor only ever picked on me. This was, as you’d imagine, a very negative experience. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and that triggered them to surface again and I struggled to keep afloat as I use music and performing as my escape. Although I could confide in a committee member, it wasn’t always enough (until they eventually sacked the conductor).”

“I think a lot depends on the attitude of your conductor. I have been near breaking point due to conductors but now I am incredibly happy playing and enjoying no mental health issues or playing anxiety due to a great conductor who understands how to manage stress and anxiety in his players.” 20


“I am now a conductor and am striving to create an environment which is musically challenging and fulfilling but is also an environment with an open and continuous dialogue of support and encouragement. Every day is hard but I’m still here.”

“I have suffered from performance anxiety at times, not only in a brass band setting, and to a certain extent feel it is a natural part of performing. The musical director’s approach in rehearsals can have a massive effect on players’ anxiety levels. I have been fortunate to work with some very supportive and encouraging MD’s (who have achieved excellent results) but have depped under others (also reasonably successful) who I felt very fortunate NOT to have to deal with on a regular basis!” “Since our new conductor has come in, I have fallen back in love with banding. There’s a good balance of pressure and support in the band, and I haven’t had a negative experience since.”

The words and judgement from critics (be that press, adjudicators or audience members) all played an instrumental role in the mental health of some of the respondents, as well as a general lack of gratitude. “There is a huge feeling of low mood due to negative reinforcement by comments on your performance. You go from an adrenaline high to a huge low and feeling of disappointment.”

“Some adjudicators give constructive and supportive comments. Some have made my peers cry. Some bandsmen sit in front rows deliberately to upset others... bullying? Let’s keep this movement positive and encourage each other to raise standards through intense but fun competition. If music isn’t fun, what’s the point?”

“Lack of appreciation - some members just take the MD for granted - the word 'thanks' is never heard from some! Just moans!”

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Other answers provided in the survey which put pressure on the mental health and wellbeing of respondents included:       

Travelling too far to band Inter-band politics Being sacked from a band Anxiety from the day leading up to a contest Having to play a solo Pressure put on oneself ‘come down’ after a contest

There would be a benefit to looking deeper into the initial findings of this survey to further understand the status of mental health in the brass band movement, especially within the contesting scene.

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The Need for Mental Health Provision in Brass Bands Currently, there is no ‘industry wide’ or ‘brass band movement’ wide provision for mental health available, but with the statistics and findings showing such a high percentage of musicians struggling with mental health issues, there is a need for better knowledge, understanding and support and there is a responsibility of brass band organisations at every level and of every size to make the mental health of their members a priority. Some respondents to this survey themselves highlighted the need for some kind of mental health provision in the brass band movement. “I work professionally within the mental health sector and for many years have felt that as a movement, support should be available to players, particularly for those that play at the higher level.”

“In my experience there is very little support or understanding of mental health issues in banding. Personally, I have been excluded from bands, at a time when I desperately needed support. It is frightening that the people we spend so much time around have no sense of how people are feeling. I recently reached out to my band manager for support but was refused as it was too close to a contest. He was not interested. That sums up my experience. A very sad state of affairs.”

“Since my own treatment for depression, which was both life-saving and life changing, I have been extremely conscious of mental health within my band. I regularly do relaxation and mindfulness exercises with them. I believe it's possible to strive for excellence without crippling people with pressure, indeed excess pressure is counter-productive. I am also aware that people's mental health and external issues may affect their banding, and that the band should be a source of escape for them, not further pressure. Thanks for asking these valuable questions. Good luck. x”

“I’m now playing with another band and they and their committee could not be more welcoming. There is no provision at all and negative and unacceptable behaviours are left unchecked. There are too many ‘old pals acts’ that stops progression in this area and too many folk saying ‘aw they are nice they would never do that’.” 24


Whilst many people are aware of the struggle of fellow musicians and try to personally assist and support, without any kind of provision or wider acceptance and understanding of mental health issues faced by brass band musicians, it will be difficult to see any real changes for the positive. “Currently supporting my friend who had a meltdown at National Finals having hid mental illness for couple of months. She managed to go on stage at Butlins and then yesterday at Regionals (we qualified) where she expected us to be told we were 'shit'. Contest officials have been very helpful - explaining process, escape route etc. Will be a long haul but our player is progressing. She is worth every minute we spend supporting her.�

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Demand for Changes According to the answers of the survey respondents, currently only 1.5% of the bands the respondents are in membership of have a mental health provision.

Changes to the general outlook on mental health are required to make issues more widely accepted, but based on the findings of this survey alone, the evidence presents a good case for changes to thinking and implementing provision for better knowledge, support and understanding of mental health specifically in the brass band movement. “I have had differing extremes of anxiety & depression for many years. Lack of self-confidence means I will never sit in the front row or contemplate a solo performance ever after a bad experience I can recall from my teenage years playing in a youth band attached to my local education authority. Although suffering from mild anxiety on contest days over the years and occasional performance anxiety, up until recently playing has usually been a source of stress relief. However, leading up to taking part in the National Finals last year and a catastrophic collection of other events in my personal life meant I stopped playing for 3 months whilst starting therapy to sort myself out. Now returned to playing and had some fab support from my band family, although we have now qualified for Cheltenham again! So have 6 months to learn to cope with that one again! I have given a lot of thought to the need for more mental health provision in the brass band movement & feel that regional areas could go towards helping provide workshops for managing nerves or even having an area at contests just for being able to go and sit for a while & maybe chill away from the crowds & bands and overall bustle of contest day� 26


There is, however, some scepticism of whether anything could or would be implemented following bad personal experiences in the movement. “I have played at the very top level of banding in my time, and have also suffered from mental health issues over that time and for all of my adult life. To a point it has stopped me from playing. I have had suicidal thoughts as a result of situations that have arisen in some of those elite bands, I have also hurt myself as a result of those situations. I have become addicted to painkillers and alcohol as a result. Which lead to the break-up of my relationships. I have tried to confide in leading members of our movement and people within the bands I was involved with and although these people say the right words publicly, in private and practice their thoughts and actions are very different. So, I look at some of these campaigns in banding with a pinch of salt.�

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Conclusions The response and findings of the survey categorically show that, as in every day life, mental health plays a part in brass bands; both mental ‘good’ and ‘ill’ health. The design of this survey was far from perfect due to the bias of questions combined with the self-selection bias of respondents in that those suffering from issues were more likely to respond. However, with that said, that makes this survey encouraging as this may have been the first step some respondents have taken to admitting mental ‘ill’ health. With respondents to this survey reporting to have suffered from nerves (79.6%), anxiety (53.8%) and panic attacks (15.2%) as a direct result of being in brass bands, the current provision with only 1.5% of the bands the respondents are in membership of having a mental health provision of is not adequate. The survey responses clearly show that there is a need to ask more questions and the initial response has been a positive one, as this is the first time this issue has been tackled in the brass band movement. This, in my opinion, makes this survey a vital first step in what should be a continuing research and learning tool to help better support musicians and their mental health in the brass band movement. I conclude that further research and study is needed via questioning, research and focus groups into particular case studies from youth to championship brass band level, so a range of solutions can be explored which can then be implemented for the benefit of individuals, organisations and the brass band movement as a whole.

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Implementing Findings Musicians in brass bands, from youth to championship section, should have access to support for their mental health as a matter of course and with more knowledge and access to information and training, this kind of support could help boost brass bands and mean less players leave the movement due to pressures and anxiety developed as a direct consequence of brass bands. Performance anxiety is an expected normality within the performing arts industry but in line with comments to this survey, musicians in brass bands would benefit from access to supportive training and workshops in nerves and performance anxiety, especially with respect to the contest stage. Contest organisations such as Kapitol Promotions, Butlins Mineworkers and the British Open Brass Band Championships, to name just a few, could play a strong supportive role by investing in the mental health and welfare of competing musicians, officials and volunteers, through support information on performance anxiety on websites and band information packs prior to contests and calm and quiet zones on contest days. Brass bands and organisations within the brass band movement would benefit from both being more mental health aware in order to reduce cases of mental ill health in musicians, conductors, management and volunteers as a direct consequence of brass bands and bands would benefit from having a designated mental health champion or first aider in their membership. This person would be the first point of contact for any mental health issues and have training to have:     

an understanding of common mental health issues ability to spot signs of mental health issues skills to support positive wellbeing confidence to support a person in distress knowledge to help guide someone to further support

All brass band musicians should have easy access to specifically developed mental health in brass band support information, available to any individual online, via download, printed material and workshops. Social media support groups and on-line workshops are also an accessible way to support brass musicians as well as peer-to-peer and one-to-one support sessions. Every brass band musician has the right to feel supported and confident in the bandroom and on stage so creating awareness and understanding in brass bands will enhance this. 29


Such a solution would benefit from UK organisations such as Brass Bands England, The Scottish Brass Band Association and other UK and global counterparts, as well as regional and local band member organisations backing such a provision and helping to implement this into all its member bands. Official professional membership organisations for brass band conductors and adjudicators such as NABBC and ABBA would benefit from mental health awareness training to implement into their provisions and procedures so their conduct, written and spoken words don’t exacerbate any pre-existing mental health issues in brass band musicians. These organisations also have a responsibility to support and encourage the good mental health of their members too, making sure they have the support they need to undergo their duties to the best of their abilities, without suffering nerves, anxiety and adverse pressures. Members of the brass band press should also be more mental health aware and acknowledge the mental health of brass musicians when writing. Especially in competition related reports and ‘on-the-day’ analysis, which play a major role in the mental ill health of our brass band musicians. Any person writing for the brass band media should work by strict guidelines in promoting good mental health and wellbeing in the brass band movement.

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The Next Step Following the publication of this report, the next step is to open the dialogue about mental health in brass bands and continue the awkward conversations which have never, until now, been broached. I propose to undertake more research and questioning with a focus on particular case studies from brass band musicians from youth to championship level to gain further knowledge and understanding. This will be undertaken so a range of solutions can be explored which could then be implemented for the benefit of individuals, organisations and the brass band movement as a whole and I will start the dialogue with a variety of organisations and individuals within the brass band movement in the UK to encourage implementing solutions. This model can then be rolled out across England, the UK and global wide brass band movement, whilst monitoring its progress and effect. I will invite contributions from other individuals keen to promote better mental health in the brass band movement and experts in performance anxiety. Training and personal development in mental health will allow for all contributors to the research and implemented solutions to offer the best support and information for brass musicians. As Director of Mode for‌ I am a certified Mental Health First Aider and also run workshops and sessions on performance, anxiety, mental wellbeing and mindfulness. In 2019 and 2020 I will be proposing a range of workshops focussing on mental health and wellbeing for musicians, mental health first aid in brass bands and performance anxiety in association with brass band membership organisations and contest controllers. Mental health awareness workshops and training to be a mental health champion or first aider should be available to members of every band at a reasonable, if not subsidised cost. Mode for‌Publishing will publish a series of brochures which are accessible to everyone in the brass band movement, helping to promote better mental health in the brass band movement with information, support and further reading and practical options for individuals and bands to implement solutions for better mental health and wellbeing and support in their organisations. By making these first steps, I hope we can support individual brass musicians, decrease the levels of mental health issues caused directly by brass bands and allow what is a competitive and volatile genre to become a supportive and therapeutic environment for its membership, with an emphasis on the positive powers of music and a desire to help the brass band movement flourish. 31


Other Research & Articles https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/assets/publications/files/can_music_make_you_sick_part_1_pilot_survey_report_2019.pdf https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/assets/publications/files/can_music_make_you_sick_summary.p df https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-47440232 https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/music-mental-health-industryartists-depression-anxiety-lady-gaga-zayn-demi-lovato-a8732341.html https://www.ft.com/content/81969b40-12a0-11e9-a581-4ff78404524e

Report Details This survey was created and developed by: Tabby Kerwin Director of Mode for‌ www.modefor.co.uk info@modefor.co.uk Help & Resources Below are some links for organisations that have support for those dealing with mental health issues. https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/working-retired-musicians/mental-health https://www.musicmindsmatter.org.uk/ www.mind.co.uk www. Samaritans.org www.anxietyuk.org.uk www.nopanic.org.uk www.combatstress.org.uk www.cruse.org.uk www.carersuk.org www.creativeresponsearts.org www.depressionuk.org www.rethink.org

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Survey into the Current State of Mental Health in Brass Bands Final Results

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Please add any other comments or experiences you may have with regards to your mental wellbeing and brass bands. Generally speaking I find playing and banding an enormous positive in terms of mental health. It relieves stress massively. However, sometimes the associated duties (finding deps, dealing with personnel issues etc) have been overwhelming for me, and it's within this context I've answered this survey. Brass banding has actually helped rather than cause anxiety and provides a sense of comfort without expectation. Anxiety from working professionally in music has had a spill over effect into performing in brass bands (performing from champ section to non competing bands) More often than not, the contest anxiety comes from trying to be perfect. It's definitely a self inflicted stress when it comes to banding. I think this is valuable research however, I was struck by its focus on the negatives. Despite banding itself creating stress, it was also my greatest stress relief. My mental health has suffered since not being part of what was my banding family. I work professionally within the mental health sector and have for many years have felt that as a movement, support should be available to players, particularly for those that play at the higher level. Good luck with the survey and I shall look forward to reading the outcomes of your research and of course, your book Performance nerves are an issue. However, the overall impact on mental health is hugely positive. Playing in a band has lots of elements of wellbeing (living in the moment, doing something constructive with others etc ) and for me is a wonderful release from other life stresses. Being sacked from a brass band was the direct cause of performance anxiety which, while much improved after research, still exists to this day. However, I would not have got through my mum’s death without my many friends in banding and for them I am eternally grateful. Our Solo Horn player took his own life in January this year. None of us knew he was depressed - he was happy and sociable at band and always came for a pint afterwards. He was a very private person and only ever talked about his achievements, which were numerous. The band were deeply shocked, and there was a feeling of "why didn't we know, perhaps we could have helped". I found the Support After Suicide advice very helpful when talking to the band ( I'm the Secretary). Bands are an excellent outlet for other life stresses but it is a hobby, yet takes over life, competes with work, family, other commitments and causes worry about staying 'good enough' Becoming too emotionally invested in the success of contest performances and success lead to me developing symptoms of anxiety that were frightening initially and have taken years to subside to a manageable point. I don't necessarily feel it on stage but during the build up and after. I now try to distance myself from getting too hopeful as I find not caring about what happens too much the only way to stay healthy about it, which is a shame but the right approach for me. Brass band is the place I go to maintain my mental health, it has been my sanctuary during the difficult periods of my mental well-being. Whilst nerves have had a negative impact at times, being in a brass band has helped no end with my depression. On occasion I have not left my house for week, but knowing the commitment I made to the band and the enjoyment I will get if I make it to rehearsals has helped me get out of these depressive episodes. Many band members are aware of my depression along with other physical

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health problems and will always try to help me by offering to pick me up from rehearsals or meet me for a chat, and when I am too ill to make it to rehearsals the understanding of band and committee is what keeps me from quitting as I know they'll always be there for me when I come out the other side At it’s best, involvement in banding is a welcome distraction from day to day stresses and there can be positives from friendships, teamwork, good results or public appreciation. But banding can become s source of great pressure too, when taken ‘too seriously’. Particularly as it is generally an amateur pursuit for most. Band ethos and leadership styles (especially those of conductors) can have a significant impact on players’ confidence and performance, both positive and negative. Lack of appreciation - some members just take the MD for granted - the word 'thanks' is never heard from some! Just moans!!! I wouldn't say that brass banding has a negative effect on my mental health- it's actually one of the things which helps me to manage my mental health problems. Although it can be stressful and nervewracking at times, I do find that the benefits far outweigh the consequences for me. Best thing for someone with social anxiety ever it is the brass band society, not the band itself that is a problem. The culture of brass bands being play, drink, sleep, repeat, creates a difficult situation for people ranging from those who do not drink, those who are pressured easily, and those who simply aren't confident to play in their own bands yet. The levels of stress and anxiety get worse in the better sections simply because there is more pressure to stay there, more competition from other bands, and more of a stuck up 'i am better than you' attitude expressed from everyone. particularly if you see bands with an extreme version of this culture: Brighouse, Grimethorpe, Oldham, Dyke and Imps I had a situation with the band sergeant when my mental health became quite bad which ended up in me having a complete breakdown directly from brass banding because of the pressure and bullying I had from him. Despite complaining, no action was taken, nothing was said and it was allowed to spiral to the point where I stopped playing completely and have only recently been able to bear playing again. I don’t know if it was because I was in a contesting band or not, but it felt very much as if they wanted me to go because of my health. The lack of action about the bullying (despite being able to show messages to the people I was reporting it to) really enforced this feeling and made it harder and harder to play well, which of course added to the spiral of pressure which ended quite disastrously. It felt very much as if everyone on the committee just cared about results My work requires me to work nights and so when we have a contest with 3 night rehearsals before it is upsetting to not make them. -I am a) letting others down b) missing out on something I love + c) questioning my work/life balance. This has stopped me competing at championship level. Now in 4th section I feel guilty (not through anybody else's fault) about holding a seat which I can't really commit to. I would feel a lot more comfortable if double players around the stands was more acceptable than seems the common situation in banding. My mental health is made so much better for playing in a brass band. It occupies my thoughts, makes me get up in a morning, makes me feel worthwhile and gives me a purpose. I wouldn’t give it up for just feeling a bit nervous before a contest. The other players in the band are my family and I think the world of them all. I was a manager of a relatively successful championship section band and the pure stress of it drove me to give up playing for a time as I wasn’t well mentally. Pressure from the MD and also pressure

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because of a selfish set of bands men and women who were too lazy to do anything. The sheer and utter laziness of a lot of players in our movement is astounding. No one has to get involved with everything but even finding your own dep seems to be too much. It spoiled the pleasure for me. Gig or rehearsal a few come down drinks essential! Playing in a band has actually helped with depression. It's not ever been the cause of issues - just massively helped with my whole well being. A lot of bands have a lot of nice people but I was in one where I wasn't excepted because me and my son was from the training band and we would bring playing standards down. It’s not wanting to let your mates down when you have played badly at rehearsal, or concert or contest that brings on the issues but that’s the person I am. Never like to let anyone down. But when I and the band play well I derive much pleasure from making music which offsets the other. Although I have experienced nerves & anxiety due to brass banding, being in a brass band has hugely contributed to my improved overall mental health. Anxiety re solo part in contest piece . Never been so anxious before but think age and other things happening in private life contributed to anxiety. Topped off by fact 2 new players came along about month before contest, happy to fill gaps for rehearsals until after contest, conductor suggested if I didn't play better there was two who could play it. Just about finished me off. Friends in band comforted me but was on my mind right up until the performance. So much so was covered by Euphonium ...ironically he got it wrong on day and I felt guilty for adding pressure on him even though was not my decision not to play it decision was made for me. Though I have experienced nerves/stress/anxiety from playing in bands I would not change my banding experiences. Banding, while occasionally stressful, offers headspace from day to day stress, a supportive team environment and a fantastic circle of friends. And for 2 rehearsals a week (+gigs) music is the perfect escape. I usually feel better after a good blow through something challenging IF I manage to make it out of the house at all .... I get very depressed as we don’t contest at all and although I wouldn’t want to do too many contests due to work commitments, would happily do one or two xx I have a condition known as fibromyalgia so therefore stress and anxiety are major factors part of it. Playing in bands helps me but sometimes I do put too much pressure on myself when I have a flare up and can’t get to band Not long ago a conductor bullied me so much at band that I stopped playing and teaching for a time. I was berated, shouted at and had my instrument taken off of me even if I just clipped a note. I was told I was a joke, didn’t deserve my seat or my instrument and was told I (single-handedly) brought the whole band down. This was a personal vendetta, as the conductor only ever picked on me. This was, as you’d imagine, a very negative experience. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and that triggered them to surface again and I struggled to keep afloat as I use music and performing as my escape. Although I could confide in a committee member, it wasn’t always enough (until they eventually sacked the conductor). Since our new conductor has come in I have fallen back in love with banding. There’s a good balance of pressure and support in the band, and I haven’t had a negative experience since. In my experience there is very little support or understanding of mental health issues in banding. Personally I have been excluded from bands, at a time when I desperately needed support. It is

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frightening that the people we spend so much time around have no sense of how people are feeling. I recently reached out to my band manager for support but was refused as it was too close to a contest. He was not interested. That sums up my experience. A very sad state of affairs. Since my own treatment for depression, which was both life saving and life changing, I have been extremely conscious of mental health within my band. I regularly for relaxation and mindfulness exercise with them. I believe it's possible to strive for excellence without crippling people with pressure, indeed excess pressure is counter productive. I am also aware that people's mental health and external issues may affect their banding, and that the band should be a source of escape for them, not further pressure. Thanks for asking these valuable questions. Good luck x Depends on the band culture. One band had a bad impact on my mental health, the one I am currently with enhances my mental health. In general, brass banding has only ever had positive impacts on my mental wellbeing - in fact I feel that being a member of a brass band has greatly helped at times of other stressors in my life. For me, pressure and anxiety is only felt around contest time! Nonetheless, greater provision of mental health support within bands would benefit many, especially the younger generation with balancing school and band! Financial restraints, attitudes, keeping a band going! The social support and friendship I have made directly through banding has been extremely positive on my mental health. Also going out to band on regular rehearsals and jobs has given me a welcome distraction from pressure at home, including depression. For the time you spend at band you are only thinking of making music and not distracted by negative thinking. I would be interested in advice on how to overcome last minute nerves Great Bar in the band clubhouse, brilliant youthful conductor with leadership skills as a first. Energised group of dedicated players, the whole band is the committee, no clicks. Cash is always a worry, however we are well supported by local Councils and have a new purpose built small band room though practical. The banding community has helped me through my depressive periods, being so understanding when I've been struggling. I play in a band as a tool to help me de stress and for enjoyment This is pressure I put on myself rather than it being generated by the conductor or other band members, who are all wonderful and supportive. I have a disability (dyspraxia) which makes it harder for me to work under pressure and stress and causes me to make mistakes, which in turn leads to mental health issues. I have control of these and love banding so much, that I push through it! Such a worthwhile survey - thank you! I’m now playing with another band and they and their committee could not be more welcoming. There is no provision at all and negative and unacceptable behaviours are left unchecked. There are too many old pals acts that stops progression in this area too many folk saying aw they are nice they would never do that. When the committee is dominated by 2 people and the band do not feel they have a voice has caused a number of people to leave or give up altogether

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My band has been the constant source of support throughout my frequent bouts of depression. The pressure of contesting stopped me from playing for several years before i joined a non-contesting band. now I re-joined a contesting band in a lower section. Other than a few occasional nerves on the contest stage, my experience of brass bands has been overwhelmingly a positive one. I think a lot depends on the attitude of your conductor I have been near breaking point due to conductors but now i am incredibly happy playing and enjoying no mental health issues or playing anxiety due to a great conductor who understands how to manage stress and anxiety in his players. Was forced to give up when band would not tolerate me missing practice as a result of bipolar type 1 Nerves aren't a negative in my book, and the camaraderie, support at a terrible time in my life, as well as good natured ribbing when I'd played a bum note, has only been positive for my mental health Being in the banding world since a young age has had a huge impact on my confidence. The elation of winning is worth it I experienced a really traumatic event last year and playing my instrument and playing in a band really helped me to move past the depression and PTSD. Aside from nerves when performing, which I wouldn’t classify as a mental health condition, music has really had such a positive impact upon my mental health A few times in my life I think brass bands have saved me from potential mental health issues. Music is healing and having people around you like a band in difficult times can really help. I have had many more positive experiences and happiness with bands than problems. I have many times attended a rehearsal initially not wanting to be there, but by the end I have been much happier and pleased I made the effort. There is definitely something soothing to the soul about shutting everything else out, and concentrating on reading and playing the music. currently supporting my friend who had a meltdown at National Finals having hid mental illness for couple of months. She managed to go on stage at Butlins and then yesterday at Regionals (we qualified) where she expected us to be told we were 'shit'. Contest officials have been very helpful explaining process, escape route etc. Will be a long haul but our player is progressing. She is worth every minute we spend supporting her. Have had differing extremes of anxiety & depression for many years Lack of self confidence means I will never sit in the front row or contemplate a solo performance ever after a bad experience I can recall from my teenage years playing in a youth band attached to my local education authority Although suffering from mild anxiety on contest days over the years and occasional performance anxiety, up until recently playing has usually been a source of stress relief However leading up to taking part in the national finals last year and a catastrophic collection of other events in my personal life meant I stopped playing for 3 months whilst starting therapy to sort myself out Now returned to playing and had some fab support from my band family, although have now qualified for Cheltenham again !! So have 6 months to learn to cope with that one again! I have given a lot of thought to the need for more mental health provision in the brass band movement & feel that regional areas could go towards helping provide workshops for managing nerves or even having an area at contests just for being able to go and sit for a while & maybe chill away from the crowds & bands and overall bustle of contest day

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It is healthy to feel anxious to not let the team down. Brass banding is a great hobby and encourages team work, friendships and loyalty to a fantastic organisation. The ability to make music that others enjoy is special. I don’t get nervous now.... you got to be a masochist to go contesting I find being in the band gives me a support network I don’t find elsewhere and is a place I feel much less stressed and anxious than at other times. I only play in a band if I enjoy it. If there is something happening in the band which means I don't enjoy it I will leave, which I have done before. I know it's not a job, so I don't need to stay there. I wish I could change jobs as easy as bands! I suffer from work related stress, but find that playing helps relieve this to a degree as a developing older player, introduction of (welcome) young players progressing faster presents a depressing insecurity, helping youngsters to engineer one's own redundancy! I have suffered from performance anxiety at times, not only in a brass band setting, and to a certain extent feel it is a natural part of performing. The musical director’s approach in rehearsals can have a massive affect on players’ anxiety levels. I have been fortunate to work with some very supportive and encouraging MD’s (who have achieved excellent results) but have depped under others (also reasonably successful) who I felt very fortunate NOT to have to deal with on a regular basis! Banding overall aids my mental health but I find contests very challenging and get far more nervous than I should. Most people including our conductor say there's nothing to get nervous about but that doesn't help the situation. There is a huge feeling of low mood due to negative reinforcement by comments on your performance. You go from an adrenaline high to a Hugh low and feeling of disappointment. . This amend a playing career Some adjudicators give constructive and supportive comments. Some have made my peers cry. Some bandsmen sit in front rows deliberately to upset others....bullying? Let’s keep this movement positive and encourage each other to raise standards through intense but fun competition. If music isn’t fun, what’s the point? Pressure not to fail and let the rest of the band down It is all about relationships. Some groups do it well, others don’t. I think slight nervousness on a contest stage is ok and I think my brass banding has done a lot for my general and overall confidence. I would say this is also the same for my son I was out of banding for many years and the band i am currently a part of began at a perfect time for me i was going through a lot of personal issues and the band has really helped my self esteem and getting myself back on track I think contesting can produce a relationship with performance that isn't entirely healthy. I do come out of major contests feeling really wiped out physically and mentally. I stopped playing altogether 1 year ago due to anxiety caused by the regionals. I'd been taking a lot of medications for getting through contests over many years and they were no longer working for me.

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Conductor is insistent on entering contests (new conductor, believed to be a glory seeker!) even though half the band don't want to contest. There are a lot of politics in brass banding - both within the band and in the banding world and it's not for me any more I feel that if people are feeling pressured in a negative sense or any other mental wellbeing issue within our band, then they are most likely bringing that on themselves through overly high selfexpectations, as we have a great family atmosphere that is supportive and encouraging without putting negative stress or pressure on anyone. In general Playing in a Brass Band reduces my anxiety and depression as it’s something I enjoy. Whilst I am playing Whether at home/rehearsal/concert I can forget everything else as I am submerged in my music, I love rehearsing a solo but have severe anxiety in playing them in public. Our band is very close, we are a band family and I would have been so lost without them all, we help and support each other and are always there in both banding and private life. I've retired from contesting at 73 Band is where I go to keep my mental health well. The nerves are positive although a little excessive Although my answers sound negative, overall I love being in my band! I wouldn’t ever leave! But yes I get very nervous Brass banding is a great distraction from work and home stress but I still get slightly nervous at contests (only) The stress of playing in a top championship band as well as work was too much in the end. My anxiety took over and something had to give and that was my playing. Brass banding is my escape. It is a stress relief. The performing is enjoyable and I do not find it stressful. I have developed many strategies in my professional life to deal with stress so maybe this is what has made me enjoy performing. You could also ask about blood pressure, mine triple when there is a gig, and I have DVT! Depressive 'come down' after a contest. I think that there is too much pressure on players especially around contest time. There is too much pressure on people dropping all other aspects of their lives in order to make rehearsals and the extra commitments. All for the sake of a hobby. When you do find the time to go to a rehearsal (normal or extra), you are then usually shouted at by the MD and made to feel useless as a person in front of the rest of the band just because you haven't been able to find the time in an ever increasing hectic life to put the practice in. There was ways of getting the best out of people and some MDs get it and some don't. Not every player response to being shouted at constantly. This is not what banding is about.... I have experienced depression and loneliness when due to having a baby and breastfeeding it meant that I couldn't leave the house. Band is my lifeline and is the main reason I moved to formula feeding my baby, simply for my own mental health. I used to sit and cry because I felt so lonely stuck in the house. It didn't matter to me where I played, banding is such a great group that I knew I would make friends and get on with people in any band. It massively improved my mental health. I'm not sure what I would do without band in my life at the moment. Beta blockers worked for me.

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They help my mental health more than they detract from it It was band that kept me going after I lost my husband 32 years ago. It gave me a focus and something to get out of the house for, and it still does! Overall my experience of brass banding is definitely positive (apart from 1 period involving animosity from another player). A few nerves before playing solos is a positive thing provided they don't get out of control. I have mobility problems so playing a brasswind instrument is good for my cardiopulmonary system. When my diaphragm became paralysed a few years ago the fact that I had strong abdominal muscles from playing literally saved my life; now my GP 'prescribes' practice time! I have played at the very top level of banding in my time, and have also suffered from mental health issues over that time and for all of my adult life. To a point it has stopped me from playing. I have had suicidal thoughts as a result of situations that have arisen in some of those Elite bands, I have also hurt myself as a result of those situations. I have become addicted to painkillers and alcohol as a result. Which lead to the break of my relationships. I have tried to confide in leading members of our movement and people within the bands I was involved with and although these people say the right words publicly in private and practice their thoughts and actions are very different. So I look at some of these campaigns in banding with a pinch of salt. When I reached a point where I was struggling I confided in people in the band. Their way of dealing with this was to sack and replace me. This has happened at my last two bands. Both of which are household names. I am now a conductor and am striving to create an environment which is musically challenging and fulfilling but is also an environment with an open a continuous dialog of support an encouragement. Everyday is hard but I’m still here. Our band stopped doing contests as results of the above questions and concentrate on playing good concerts instead. I like to go to contests as a listener - but go there for the many great performances and not only for the results. I always listen to EVERY band in the contest - the only fair thing to do as every band have done a great deal of work to even get to this point of their performance. I often go to the lower sections too to support and to measure the standard. People in brass bands tend to be the kindest and most genuine people I know. I have amazing friendships with bandspeople and have received incredible support with various things over the years.

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Mental Heath in Brass Bands - Full Report  

Findings and Conclusions from a Survey into the Current State of Mental Health in Brass Bands Designed and Conducted by Tabby Kerwin Direct...

Mental Heath in Brass Bands - Full Report  

Findings and Conclusions from a Survey into the Current State of Mental Health in Brass Bands Designed and Conducted by Tabby Kerwin Direct...

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