Sign Up, It's Free Log In

BEHIND THE SCENES CHARITY OFFERS FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR ENTERTAINMENT PROFESSIONALS

 
 

TUESDAY // NOVEMBER 27, 2018

BEHIND THE SCENES CHARITY OFFERS FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR ENTERTAINMENT PROFESSIONALS

Dana Janssen // TourReady, Inc.

“Your medical condition is completely out of your control and it is all happening within days.”

After 30 years of mixing the sound for music in countless cities and countries, doctors informed Lee Popa of this devastating news threatening not only his career – but also his life.

 
LEE POPA.jpg

An autoimmune disease caused Popa’s liver to fail at an extremely rapid pace. Poppa became very ill and overwhelmed with emotions of what was to come. With incessant thoughts of becoming homeless, feeling helpless, eventually losing hope and most devastating to Popa, leaving behind his crew who are family, he needed help from his community to survive.

 

A live donor came to Popa’s side to volunteer half of his liver where doctors and nurses of USCUH were able to save his life – and Behind the Scenes stepped in to ensure his family didn’t lose their home or have their utilities turned off while he was recovering.

“I couldn’t believe that when I needed help, Behind the Scenes was there and didn’t turn their back on me. I am the crew guy, not the superstar,” Popa told BTS.

Countless behind-the-scene industry professionals have been dealt similar devastating health problems with seemingly no solution in sight. Several individuals, like Popa, spend their entire lives behind the scenes with a goal of making other people feel alive only to discover their own lives are the ones in utmost danger.

The Behind the Scenes charity recognizes the unfortunate reality that men and women in our industry do not reap the same health insurance and other financial benefits as other fields do. Without the ability to work, those entertainment professionals who do receive benefits lose them very quickly. The lack of benefits inevitably poses financial tragedy for ill or injured individuals and potentially for their entire family.

In response to this common issue among industry professionals, Behind the Scenes was launched to help prevent the financial tragedy that so often accompanies misfortune by providing temporary assistance during recovery or the transition to disability.

Watch the video & continue reading to learn who is eligible for a grant, what the grants can be used for, how the application process works, the new BTS Counseling Fund and how YOU can support Behind the Scenes today!

 
More information at http://www.estafoundation.org/bts.htm Grant recipients share how Behind the Scenes provides help for entertainment technology professionals when they are injured or ill.
 

Who is eligible for a Behind the Scenes grant?

If you currently reside in the United States or Canada and have earned your living for at least five years in the entertainment technology industry, and are seriously ill or injured, you may apply for a grant. Immediate dependent family members including spouses, domestic partners and dependent children may also qualify for assistance if they are ill or injured.

If you work behind the scenes…

  • At any type of performance venue

  • Behind the camera

  • On the road

  • For a company that manufactures or supplies entertainment technology products or services

Behind the Scenes was created to help you and your colleagues during times of need. The charity assists industry professionals who are directly involved with the technical aspects of entertainment including lighting, rigging, scenic, audio, wardrobe, hair and makeup, camera, design, production management and technical direction.

What can you use grants for?

Individuals may use grants for living expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities and transportation. In addition, individuals are able to utilize grants for medical care such as doctor or hospital bills, medications, physical therapy, wheelchairs and other aids, health insurance and home healthcare. Grants may also be used towards funeral expenses for industry professionals who have passed away. 

Do you know an individual who:

  • Is having a hard time paying rent because he or she has been out of work due to an injury?

  • Is battling cancer, has met the cap on their health insurance and is struggling to purchase monthly medications?

  • Is a bereaved spouse or a dependent unable to provide for him or herself?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, you may be able to help someone who may immensely benefit from a Behind the Scenes grant!

How does the application process work?

You must complete the Application for Financial Assistance. This application requires:

  • A letter from your doctor or other documentation of your illness or injury

  • Proof of at least five years of work history

  • Detailed financial information

  • A current bank statement

  • Copies of your two most recent tax returns

  • Copies of the bills for which you are seeking assistance

First, a Review Committee made up of members from the Behind the Scenes Foundation Board of Directors looks over all submitted applications. The committee generally makes grant decisions within a few days of receiving a submission.

If a grant is awarded, you will be contacted immediately to coordinate delivery of the grant. Checks must be made payable directly to service providers and can be sent directly to the provider or to the grant recipient for distribution. 

The Application for Assistance is available at www.btshelp.org/application

The BTS Counseling Fund

This fund is designed to provide early access to mental health and addiction counseling by assisting with the associated financial burdens. For individuals seeking to initiate or support ongoing counseling, Behind the Scenes issues funds as a subsidy on a per visit basis giving you the flexibility to change providers if you find your initial choice isn’t working well, and more importantly, encourages a longer-term client/therapist relationship. Funds are also available to individuals entering an in-patient or intensive out-patient recovery program. A special application for assistance is available for a Counseling Fund grant.

The Counseling Fund Application is available at www.btshelp.org/counseling.

How Can You Support Behind the Scenes?

There are two important ways you can support Behind the Scenes:

  1. Spread the word to those in need that help is available.

  2. The program is funded solely through contributions from industry members.

You can make a contribution online anytime, and many individuals and organizations have come up with creative ideas to support Behind the Scenes, such as workplace giving campaigns, charity motorcycle and bicycle rides, donating auction items, designating the proceeds from sales of a product or service, or dedicating a performance to Behind the Scenes.

For more information about Behind the Scenes, to donate, or to apply for a grant, visit www.btshelp.org.






















WE RISE BRINGS MENTAL HEALTH CONVERSATION TO LOS ANGELES

WE RISE.jpg

WE RISE BRINGS MENTAL HEALTH CONVERSATION TO LOS ANGELES

WEDNESDAY // MAY 23, 2018

As as advocate of spreading mental health awareness and action increasingly to the United States, we feel it is our obligation to continue to highlight the mental health events occurring in our neighborhoods. We now know the alarming U.S. statistic of those suffering from a mental health issue - 1 in 5. We now understand the severity of the issue and the resources we must continue to create in order for everyone to get the help they need and deserve.  

The WE RISE mental health festival in Downtown Los Angeles aims to change old mental health perceptions and display new systems of self-care all humans rightfully need and deserve. In a popular, national initiative to change the culture, more and more free mental wellness events are beginning to pop up around the country.

The event kicked off last weekend on May 19 and will continue through May 28. WE RISE features over 150 artists exhibiting original work to call for mental health action and present over 50 hours of workshops and creative programming. WE RISE will even hold an art lab with activities meant to improve the overall community understanding of mental health.

If you missed last weekend’s events, there are still some very important topics occurring now through the end of this upcoming weekend:

  • Suicide: The Ripple Effect Screening
  • When: Friday, May 25, 5:30pm - 7pm

The documentary film “Suicide: The Ripple Effect” outlines the aftermath of suicide and positive effects of advocacy, inspiration and hope that help keep millions alive and eventually heal. The focus is on attempted suicide survivor and world-renowned mental health advocate Kevin Hines who speaks about his incredible mental health journey.

Our industry has lost too many loved ones too soon - too many amazing and creative individuals have died by suicide. Although several were not given a second chance such as Hines, this film is sure to touch others and potentially cause life-changing differences.  

  • Breaking the Silence
  • When: Friday, May 25, 7pm - 8:30pm

This segment tackles the silence and isolation associated with conversations about suicide, despite the fact one million lives are lost each year globally. In hopes to toss the taboo, this segment aims to de-stigmatize suicide by humanizing the stories once hidden in the dark.

  • Get Free Yoga & Meditation
  • When: Saturday, May 26, 10am - 11:30am

Utilizing yoga as a tool to nourish mental health has been nothing new. In fact, the trend began in the 70s to treat depression and anxiety. According to Harvard.edu, yoga can actually reduce the heart rate, lower blood pressure and ease respiration as well as increase heart rate variability, the body’s capacity to respond to stress more flexibly.

WE RISE offers an informed yoga session with a purpose to release trauma, shame, anger and more.

Lead by: Jessamyn Stanley & JoAnna Harper

  • Mindful Kids Story Time
  • When: Saturday, May 26, 10am - 11am

A huge step in changing the stigma for our future points at how we raise our children to perceive mental health. As we’ve mentioned in our previous piece about mental health, putting our time and energy into the prevention of emotional suffering is a great start to ensuring our children are emotionally healthy to begin with. Dr. Van Dahlen previously told us how we teach children about issues such as drugs and sex but we don’t spend much time helping them grow emotionally fit.

This segment offers a mid-morning mindful reading exercise using children’s storybooks, entertainers and activists. Aimed to calm children's’ busy minds and bodies, this segment provides tools parents can implement beyond the event.

Special guest: Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

Be sure to check out these last few events of WE RISE this weekend! Of course encouraged to attend in person, WE RISE will live stream multiple segments of the festival on all social media accounts @werise_la.

To view the entire list of artists, click here.   

To view the entire event calendar in detail, click here.

ANOTHER LIFE LOST TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

 
image-1.jpg
 

ANOTHER LIFE LOST TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

WEDNESDAY // MAY 3, 2018

Last week the live entertainment industry lost yet another young, talented artist far too soon. Tim Bergling, better known as the Swedish DJ Avicii, had been pronounced dead in his hotel room in Oman at age 28. With recent news of Bergling passing by suicide, the topic of mental health once again takes center stage.

On Tuesday, TMZ reported details far too private surrounding the tragic passing of Bergling. Furthermore, TMZ's language of "committing suicide" focuses the entire blame on Bergling himself - something that immensely contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health. In turn, this stigma fuels even more tragedies when individuals are afraid to get the help they truly need and deserve. Instead, we recognize that Bergling died by suicide - something we must keep saying in the fight for mental health. 

Though the actual details are and should remain private within his family and loved ones, the news of a clear suicide waves another blatant red flag in the face of our industry - one we should never ignore. 

Bergling’s family had first released a statement thanking his loved ones and beloved fans for the public gatherings, church bells celebrating his music and the several Coachella tributes the first day of weekend 2, April 20 - the day news of his death occurred.

Three days later, the family released a second statement, alluding to Bergling’s death had possibly been caused by suicide. The open letter read:

Stockholm, 26 April 2018

Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions.

An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress.

When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music.

He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness.

He could not go on any longer.

He wanted to find peace.

Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight.

Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed.

The person you were and your music will keep your memory alive. We love you,

Your family

How many beloved individuals within our industry will leave us far too soon for us to position mental health on the same level as importance of physical health?

Bergling’s fans have taken to social media sites to express outrage toward the DJ's management, accusing them as far as working him to death.

The backstory? Bergling had suffered from acute pancreatitis and a number of other serious health conditions, CBS News reported. And in 2014, Bergling had his gallbladder and appendix removed, cancelled shows to recover, and even retired from touring in 2016.  

Signs from his documentary Avicii: True Stories, released six months prior to his death, show fans his struggle to keep up with his strenuous career. More specifically, there is a video clip fans are talking about most - see the clip below.

 

In response to the resurfaced clip, fans expressed their anger in Tweets such as:

 
 

To put all blame on management or any one person isn’t exactly the way to go about the aftermath of such tragedy. In the end it’s mental health we must tackle head on and recognize when enough is enough - before it’s too late.

Looking at Bergling’s circumstances and examining just how well he was treated does spark concern for the lack of mental health care he received - if he received any at all.

One article in Digital Music News, touched on the machine Tim Bergling created: the Avicii Machine, basically “Avicii, Inc.” To elaborate, slowing down Bergling - slowing down the machine - means less income for the several people involved in his team.

Just how much money was this machine making? After “Levels” put him into the spotlight in 2011, Bergling’s 2013 hit “Wake Me Up” marked Spotify’s most streamed song ever. At the peak of Bergling’s success in 2014, he made $28 million in one year. Looking at his career as a whole, between 2012 and 2016, Bergling made almost $90 million from his music, QZ reported.

To slow the machine down while it rapidly picked up would mean slowing down the incredible income Bergling was earning - for everybody involved.

Bergling played 320 shows in one year, up until March 2016 when he decided to retire, Daily Mail reported. His documentary revealed many disagreements between him and his manager, Arash ‘Ash’ Pournouri had about keeping the machine going.

In one scene Bergling reveals to his friends about these conversations saying, ‘I have said, like, I’m going to die. I have said it so many times. And so I don’t want to hear that I should ever entertain the thought of doing another gig. And I know Arash knows this, which is why I feel extra hurt - because he has said that [I should play more gigs] when it suits him,’ cited Daily Mail.  

The film also captures Pournouri stating Bergling ‘doesn’t understand the value of money. And he doesn’t understand how his decisions affects other people very negatively’ after Bergling decided to put the state of his well being first before touring.

Bergling’s career took off in 2008 when he was only 17 and Pournouri, 26. At that young age with little experience, an artist may not know of their limits, Pournouri actually said of Bergling at Sydney’s Electronic Music Conference in 2012, Junkee reported.  

And his limits were pushed very much so. There are many instances the documentary captures with the pressure put on Bergling to continue forward, despite the mental and physical problems he suffered with on a daily basis. The documentary also revealed how alcohol battled his anxiety and stress, being a self-proclaimed introvert. The documentary painstakingly captured Bergling’s experienced anxiety and panic attacks.    

In terms of his passing, we cannot play the blame game. Of course, we can say his management put indescribable pressure on Bergling. Of course, we can suggest the dynamics within his team communication and overwhelming scheduling triggered his poor mental health and alcoholism.

But as we have discussed in multiple mental health articles before, we must apply the same to Bergling’s passing: in the end, the only one responsible for saving your mental health, is you. You must be in control of your own mental well being.

Did the years of untreated poor mental health and physical health become too much for Bergling to bear? Yes. This is where we must tackle the issue to prevent the number of fatal outcomes to mental health from growing within our industry. On the surface level, it’s easy to blame Bergling himself - for the alcoholism, for the alleged self-inflicted wound causing his death.

But - Mental health is not a surface level topic! Nor should anyone ever treat it as such.

What we do know is individuals struggling with mental health commonly abuse a number of substances in order to cope. In wake of his 2016 retirement, Bergling had expressed his personal struggles and need for help to his fans through a since deleted letter on his site regarding his retirement.  

In the end Bergling decided to keep pushing himself during his most troubling times. Clearly, Bergling had retired too late - after much of the mental and physical damage had already been done.

We have to continue to change the culture. We really have to show how much we care about the people surrounding us by continuing to check in on their lives.  

Bergling’s management should have grasped the importance of wellness over money and success. It could be safe to say if your team fails to acknowledge your overall well being first, you should reconsider the team completely. Surround yourself with others who support your mental and physical health. No precious life is worth a temporary income - no matter how large that income may be.

Instead of adding Bergling’s name on the list of a young, talented musicians tragic ending, we have to act. We must educate everyone from management, to fans to promoters to clubs to investors about the real result of untreated mental health. Everyone is talking, but when will everyone start doing?  

Remedy State: IMS Ibiza holistic program

Mixmag believes the EDM industry - but perhaps the whole music industry as a whole - needs to implement policies of their own. Create mandatory breaks from touring. Create more accessible events for touring artists such as Remedy State: IMS Ibiza holistic program featuring mindfulness, exercise, physical therapy, medical evaluation and nutrition.

This retreat is so tailored for the constant touring artist - it is founded by IMS’ Ben Turner and OWSLA co-owner Blaise James DeAngelo. The practices taking place at the program are a direct response to the touring lifestyle.

The website addresses the irony within the music industry. If music is meant to heal the mind, body and soul, why does the lifestyle support the opposite effect?

This is just the beginning. We need to establish more industry-specific retreats such as these. What if there was one day dedicated to mental health within our industry? Bell Let’s Talk Day occurs in Canada every year. But what if this day prevented any shows from occurring? What if work stopped for just one day to focus on the lives of touring artists?

It’s not that far fetched. Although religious driven, Nyepi Day in Bali, Indonesia, better known as the Bali Day of Silence, occurs every year on March 17. Literally everything on the island shuts down. Lights are shut off. No vehicles are allowed on the streets. All travel is shut down. Most tourists avoid this day altogether.

Just what if there was a day like this for touring artists? What if, for one day out of the 365 days of the year, our industry put mental health on the spotlight and silenced our loud speakers to reflect on ourselves and our loved ones?

What if, for those 24 hours we positioned self-care before money and fame? What if we recognized ourselves as human - not a machine?
 

HOW TO PREVENT & COPE WITH ANXIETY AT YOUR FESTIVAL GIG

HOW TO PREVENT & COPE WITH ANXIETY AT YOUR FESTIVAL GIG

MONDAY // APRIL 9, 2018

It’s officially festival season. Whether you’re the musician, performer, venue employee, volunteer, security, driver, touring crew, camping operations, tech crew, stagehand, ticketing operations, etc...working at a days-long music festival can throw serious curve balls at your mental health.

Behind-the-scene areas can be just as chaotic as the elements posed to the general public. You’re constantly just trying to do your job, but sometimes the music festival environment can throw you off balance.

Factors include but are not limited to a lack of sleep, working overtime, sensory overload, dehydration, high-stress environment, skipping meals and much more.

More recently than before, an increasing number of countries are finally beginning to put mental health on the same level of importance as physical wellbeing. In an industry already mentally and physically demanding, paying attention to your own wellness often comes second, if not last.

In the days leading up to and during your festival gig, feelings of anxiety are highly common. In fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, with approximately 40 million people affected, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Each individual is widely unique from the next, so each formula will differ in regards to what works and what does not.

That being said, here is our round-up of tips and tricks you may consider to prevent anxiety, to combat anxiety or what to do if you experience a full-blown panic attack during your festival gig.

Prevention: Prepare for the days ahead

You know you’ll be working at Coachella in a few days, so now is the time to prepare yourself both physically and mentally.

It’s kind of like preparing for a marathon minus actually being in the marathon. Physically prepare yourself by feeding your body the right nutrients it needs and getting enough sleep during the nights leading up to the festival.

Your friends and family may have the common misconception about you working behind the scenes of a music festival - meaning, you’ll receive lavish treatment alongside festival acts they dream to see in concert. Sorry to disappoint your loved ones, you remind them the only person there to take care of you is YOU. And besides, most of the festival acts have their own trailers or spaces separate from the backstage crew.

Long story short, you need to be responsible for keeping your physical health in check. Particular circumstances may call for you to stand for longer than normal periods of time, remain in crowded areas (yes, even backstage, especially before/during performances of bigger artists), spend lots of time away from air conditioned rooms or resort to a meal you wouldn’t normally opt for.

If you prepare with lots of sleep and nutritious meals, your body will react stronger to unforeseen situations at the festival. Lack of sleep contributes to both stress and anxiety, so going into the festival with your energy tank full is highly recommended.

Like we’ve said in previous blog posts, the more stressed you are, the less likely you are to sleep and having a bad night’s sleep prior to working at the festival will contribute further to that stress and cause anxiety.

And again, too much caffeine intake and/or smoking cigarettes to combat sleep deprivation and stress, respectively, are both recipes for anxiety.

If you’ve never been to the venue, try and familiarize yourself with it through maps, research or even a Google maps image of the outside. It may seem like the obvious thing to do, but double or triple checking may ease your nerves.

Also noting the locations to exits, entrances, emergency exits and medical tents is both helpful and comforting. Apply this same knowledge to both general public areas and backstage.

Prior to the festival, try to tell yourself and expect that you cannot control everything. Roll with the punches and do your best. If you are doing the absolute best job you can do in your control then you’ll have to settle for it - and be proud!

Feeling Anxious

Of course, there is a big difference between feeling anxious and suffering from an anxiety disorder. Regardless, when facing these feelings, it may be safe to say the individual is experiencing behavioral anxiety, a response to frightening or stressful situations, Life Hacker reported.

There are many theories pertaining to the origin of anxiety and many forms of anxiety disorders. Whether you are one or the other, repetitive feelings of anxiety, strong or mild can have a negative impact on your state of mind during the big event.

Despite all attempts at prevention, you begin to tense up, have an overwhelming sense of awareness of all your surroundings and feel fearful and/or dreadful. This is the definition of anxiety.

But how do you know if you are experiencing a panic attack? Outlined by Anxiety BC, there are 4 Facts you should know about panic attacks:

  1. Panic attacks are simply the body’s fight/flight/freeze response even when there is no real danger present. A physical response may include an increased heart rate.
  2. Although scary and/or uncomfortable, panic attacks are harmless. They are compared to an alarm system within your body, but not designed to cause real harm.
  3. Panic attacks only last about 5-10 minutes, although they may feel as if they last an eternity.
  4. Many times, most people won’t be able to see you experiencing one. Those closest to you will, but for the most part they are internal experiences.

Outlined by the Anxiety And Depression Association of America (ADAA), here are some strategies you can use to decrease the intensity of a panic attack. Anxiety BC urges one to use these techniques NOT to stop a panic attack, but to help you ride it out until it’s over.

  • Take deep breaths; concentrate on inhaling and exhaling slowly through your nose. Not just in the event of a panic attack, but also throughout the day while feeling stressed.
    • Don’t use breathing to stop a panic attack, because it’ll only make it worse. Instead, use breathing techniques to lessen the intensity, Anxiety BC reported.
    • Slowly count to 10 or 20 if necessary

Taking a time out not be possible with your role at the festival, but in any moment you have a team member who can take your place for a small window of 5-10 minutes, getting some fresh air away from the chaos in a comfortable area works wonders.

  • In preparation to the festival, stowing some headphones in your pocket for this situation also helps remove yourself mentally from the chaotic scene
  • Learn some relaxation techniques such as meditation - meditation during a festival, yeah right. This is where headphones and a space to close your eyes for a brief moment can really help.
  • If possible, try some of these Muscle Relaxation techniques. This is more effective if you start practicing these in times not suffering from a panic attack. So in the event you experience one, this technique will be a piece of cake.  

Adopt Realistic Thinking

According to Anxiety BC, what occurs in the mind during a panic attack can be categorized as overestimating or catastrophizing.

  • Overestimating: Picturing the worst outcome (that most likely will not happen) is going to happen, such as having a heart attack due to your panic attack
    • Fight back: These thoughts are NOT facts. You are mistaking a possibility for a probability. Ask yourself how likely this outcome actually is.
  • Catastrophizing: Thinking the worst thing will happen and you won’t be able to deal with it, such as fainting from a panic attack and having others laugh and judge you  
    • Fight back: Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen when coping with the negative situation. Would it really make a difference in the duration of a year?  

These are just some of the tools one can use to combat a panic attack. Many more involve steps to take at home, away from the festival scene, that will overall help you when you are challenged with a panic attack on the job.

To read more in detail about panic attacks and management strategies you can take during the attack, before and after click here.

Finally, when the festival is all said and done, it is crucial to take at least one day off to regroup. Your hard work, long hours, lack of sleep and/or nutrition probably derailed from its normal, healthy path so it is important to give your body and mind the rest it needs and deserves.

Really try to put down the phone and refrain from checking every single email the day after the festival. Those follow-up emails and thank-yous can very well wait 24 hours.

When you do return to work, this could be the perfect time to open up to your team about how you’re feeling.

If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, chances are your team members feel the same way and a support system is formed.

This could also be a time to speak with teammates and supervisors about what went well and what did not.

Evaluate the situations that caused the most stress by writing them down, discussing them and making a lasting change for future festivals and events.

In turn, encourage your team to open up by asking how they are really feeling and offering a helping hand. According to Conference & Incentive Travel that ranked events industry professionals No.5 on the most stressful jobs, a staggering 38% of individuals do not want to ask for help.

Reassuring your teammates they’re not alone could very well change this percentage and the stigma associated with mental health in our industry.  
 

"Strike A Chord" Discussion Spoke Volumes On Mental Wellness in the Entertainment Industry

  Those who participated in the panel include Talinda Bennington, Chester's wife; Anna Shinoda, Chester's band mate's wife; ESA Chairman Jim Digby, Director of Touring & Production for Linkin Park; Joey "Vendetta" Scoleri, Head of Industry Relations of Live Nation Canada; & Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder and President of Give an Hour

Those who participated in the panel include Talinda Bennington, Chester's wife; Anna Shinoda, Chester's band mate's wife; ESA Chairman Jim Digby, Director of Touring & Production for Linkin Park; Joey "Vendetta" Scoleri, Head of Industry Relations of Live Nation Canada; & Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder and President of Give an Hour

Strike A Chord Discussion Spoke Volumes On Mental Wellness in the Entertainment Industry

By: Dana Janssen, TourReady, Inc. 

WEDNESDAY // FEBRUARY 28, 2018

In July 2017, the music world tragically and abruptly lost the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington. Born out of tragedy, on January 31, 2018, the Strike A Chord Discussion at Live Nation Canada focused on mental wellness in the entertainment industry and specific actions to take better care of ourselves and each other.

While working in the entertainment industry is rewarding, the lifestyle itself creates challenges to our mental health. The constantly evolving industry creates a high-pressure, stressful environment where we tend to place our entire well being on the back burner as a matter of course.

High stress, lack of sleep, chronic jet lag, poor eating habits, and a lack of exercise are just a few of the challenges touring professionals deal with on a daily basis. A 2017 American business traveler study from On Call International found that ⅓ of road warriors experience higher than normal stress levels, causing several issues including the growth or worsening of depression and anxiety.

In response to the growing number of individuals who are emotionally suffering, Live Nation CanadaBell Let's TalkWarner Music CanadaCanadian Event Safety and Event Safety Alliance (ESA) teamed up to spread mental health awareness and voice a new approach for people to easily find the help they deserve.

Those participating in the panel were those closest to Chester, including Talinda Bennington, Chester’s wife; Anna Shinoda, Author and Chester’s band mate’s wife; ESA Chairman Jim Digby, Director of Touring and Production for Linkin Park; and Joey “Vendetta” Scoleri, Head of Industry Relations of Live Nation Canada. Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder and President of Give An Hour also joined the event. Give an Hour leads the Campaign to Change Direction and is now working closely with Talinda Bennington to reach those who are in need of mental health care and support. 

In addition to the organizations previously listed, attendees of the private event included The AFC, a company that provides emergency funding for Canada’s entertainment industry; OVER THE BRIDGE, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health and addiction awareness and support resources; and TourReady, Inc., a partner of the ESA working to spread the Canadian initiatives on mental health awareness and actions in the United States.

The group disclosed personal experiences in order to discuss how to talk about mental health; recognize warning signs, changes in behaviors and triggers; seek support for ourselves; and how to help those surrounding us who are suffering emotionally and/or dealing with addiction.

Live entertainment individuals gathered before the panel hoping to make a lasting change across the industry in the aftermath of the loss of Chester. We hope to heal ourselves and those in need. The discussion on mental health has well begun reaching higher volumes and has sparked the world to listen more than ever before. People are finally talking.

Live Nation Canada furnished the discussion room with round tables, chairs, comfortable red couches and coffee tables. Each table displayed several handouts of a graphic picturing the Campaign to Change Direction’s Five Signs of someone who suffers from emotional pain and might need support.

Samantha Slattery, co-chair and executive director of Capital Presents opened the event alongside Janet Sellery, co-chair and health & safety consultant of Sellery Health + Safety.

Digging deep into sensitive topics, Sellery reminded the audience to excuse themselves if anyone is left feeling vulnerable, and offered an on-site psychotherapist for support. Digby advised the audience to take a deep breath before diving into the crucial discussion.

“We Let Our Guard Down”

There had been no overt signs prior to the loss of Chester, Digby said. The Linkin Park Family welcomed Digby in 2002, throughout the journey the family ideal continually evolved to it’s most recent place of nearly perfect. Chester’s sudden passing devastated the entire family who never saw this coming.

Not only did grief and shock overwhelm the LP family, but also their dedicated and loyal fans. The difficult lyrics, Digby said, spoke to fans in a uniquely genuine way. Fans coped with the loss of their hero heavily through social media, supporting one another through asking for help in their own lives.

The most important and alarming factor is that depression rarely has a face. There are very few “tells” and in some cases none. Though after the fact we can sometimes see indications – or “signs” of the pain or suffering that was hidden.

Some of Chester’s inner demons were known over the years and had played a crucial part of who he was. However, during the months preceding his loss it appeared as though he had things under control. “In fact,” Digby said, “this was the best, and most in control Chester we had ever seen."

The discussion presented a home video of a seemingly joyful Chester in good spirits playing The Jelly Bean Challenge with loved ones.  Digby challenged the audience to identify anything out of the ordinary in the video. No one could.

The video was shot only 36 hours before his passing.

“Our guard was down,” Digby said. “He was presenting himself as newly transformed and completely in control.”

Musicians are far too familiar with experiencing emotional ups and downs. With each performance comes the body’s own natural high. The artist connects with the audience, the audience adornment produces a chemical response including dopamine, adrenalin and cortisol, all of which need to be managed, Digby said.

Not only do artists experience these highs, but also crew members behind the scenes will and do as well in their excitement over the thrill of the job. OVER THE BRIDGE recognizes the wide range of industry professionals who may experience similar mental health challenges, including but not limited to, “musicians, booking agents, venue owners, event security, hospitality personnel, bus/truck drivers, and local crew and touring crew.”

The problem occurs when the show is over, the hotel door shuts and the lights turn off. What happens after experiencing such a huge high followed by the quietness of a hotel room or bus bunk? Sometimes to continue reveling in the euphoric rush, substance use or other addictive behaviors become normalized.

Despite the anecdotal reports of post-performance lows and substance use and addiction to combat these lows, there is a lack of research to back the important issues that have become very normalized amongst musicians.

Ace Piva of OVER THE BRIDGE and his research team designed a study that measures musician post-performance mood response and how those individuals manage, cope and celebrate those emotions. The team is currently sorting through the collected data of the study produced under the supervision of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“It is our duty to acknowledge it and make it ok to talk about it to try and help others help themselves or someone they care about,” Digby said. “That’s why we’re here.”

“What Did I Miss?”

Although Talinda and Chester were inseparable from the start, the two began as emotionally unhealthy in their own, separate ways. He had struggled with depression and addiction in the past, something Talinda had strived again and again to understand from her perspective - a totally unknown territory.

“We can seem so normal and so okay, and then not be okay - in an instant,” Talinda said. 

At the time of his passing, Chester had practiced sobriety for six months and was also enrolled in an outpatient treatment program.

Any relapse in the past resulted in utmost, indescribable shame within Chester.  In addition to overwhelming shame, Talinda recalled the ongoing pressure Chester experienced throughout his musical career. With each album success came the pressure to achieve an even higher success on the next album, while at the same time fighting hard for self-improvement.

His loved ones will remain unaware of Chester’s thought process during his final moments, but the only things to blame are disease, addiction and mental illness. What are some of the issues victims’ loved ones experience in the aftermath of a tragic loss such as Chester’s?

To answer this question, TourReady spoke to Van Dahlen, who, through Give an Hour, created a national network of volunteer mental health professionals who provide free and confidential mental health care to those in need including those who serve, veterans and their families.

The grief survived loved ones are left with, Van Dahlen told TourReady, is overwhelming and they wish to undo it.

“Survivors guilt,” she said, “is an actual phenomenon that we frequently see when someone dies by suicide, when there are traumas, natural disasters occur, or in the aftermath of an mass shooting.”

Both survivors and loved ones live with thoughts such as, “What did I miss?”; “Could I have prevented it?”;  “Recognized it?”; and, “Could I have seen it coming?”

The answer is that it is typically extremely difficult to prevent these traumas or tragedies.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time,” Van Dahlen continued, “the survivor couldn’t have changed [the outcome] or stopped it.”

Following the immediate aftermath, these feelings are normal and understandable. However, people will have to judge how well they can tolerate [those feelings], Van Dahlen said.

“When a survivor’s grief becomes unremitting and begins to preoccupy the individual throughout the day or late at night, people deserve proper care, support and attention to work through these feelings and reactions so that they can move on,” Van Dahlen said.

Instead of attempting to answer the why we must understand his passing as a recipe for a tragic final conclusion.

“Typically, there are multiple factors that contribute to someone’s death by suicide. In Chester’s case it may have been past traumas, the impact of addition and the loss of his close friend, Chris Cornell - how these all fit together, for Chester, we will likely never know,” Van Dahlen said.

Remaining stuck in the endlessly tangled search for answers will solely result in significant suffering within the individuals who are left behind.

Based on what we know from those closest to him, the years of untreated mental health and substance abuse led to his loss against the battle of mental health.

Thanks to the individuals who shared their experiences at Strike A Chord, the music industry continues to take a huge step forward to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, in hopes of changing the culture for future generations to come.

Changing the Culture

The stigma associated with mental health, mental illness and addiction contributes to the overwhelming emotional suffering within the individual.

Shinoda shared an entry on her personal blog the embarrassment she felt and costs associated with mental health that she, too, suffered with prior to finding what methods work best.

Shinoda discussed the issue of the mental health stigma that turns people away from seeking the attention they deserve. One simple way we can combat the stigma is to change the language we use in society when discussing mental health.

She introduced the phrase committed suicide alone heavily weighs blame on the victim for a tragic end of his or her emotional suffering. If instead, we begin to say died by suicide, we recognize a very real, fatal outcome for untreated mental illnesses.

We need to change the culture. It can feel embarrassing, and the time it takes to navigate affordable resources heightens the stigma, leaving a threat to mental wellbeing untreated. Moving beyond the stigma takes effort from everyone to look after one another in support.

Talinda said something that will resonate with me for the years to come: “When we ask ‘how are you,’ are we really asking, ‘how are you?’”

Think about the last time someone asked you this question, and what their response might have been. Did they ignore your answer? Did they look in the other direction? Did they walk away from you?  If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you know the abrupt exchange was not a positive one.

Again, we may seem so normal but we aren’t always okay.

Talinda teamed up with Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction to launch a new initiative in honor of Chester’s life, 320 Changes Direction.

Being able to speak openly about these struggles encourages those in need to seek the care they deserve. This is one of the two needs the Campaign to Change Direction and 320 Changes Direction initiative aims to satisfy.

By first changing the culture of mental health, Change Direction and Talinda seek to build a new approach for those suffering to easily find help they need and deserve. In this industry, checking in with each other - caring for each other’s mental wellbeing - is crucial.

When the Campaign to Change Direction launched on March 2, 2015, their 50 partners, and now 320 Changes Direction, have pledged to educate the world about the Five Signs of emotional suffering in order to launch a public health effort for everyone – to encourage all of us to care for our emotional well being. With one in five Americans dealing with a mental health challenge, it is no surprise First Lady Michelle Obama helped launch the campaign as their keynote speaker in Washington, D.C.

Van Dahlen compared knowing the signs of a heart attack equally as important as recognizing the signs of emotional suffering.

“We would never say ‘suck it up’ to cancer,” Van Dahlen continued, “so why would we [say that] to someone who is emotionally suffering?”

Changing this stigma also lies in the hands of parents who should encourage their children to think and talk about their emotional wellbeing.

“We teach them about issues such as drugs and sex but we don’t spend a whole lot of time helping them grow emotionally fit,” Van Dahlen said. She made the argument emotional wellbeing is a bedrock for success in life, healthy relationships, families and communities.

Putting time and energy into the prevention of emotional suffering is a great start to ensuring our children are emotionally healthy to begin with.

There is hope for new pathways, Van Dahlen continued, but there is no pill to fix a mental health challenge. Although there are pills to aid mental suffering, such as an aid in sleep after a post-traumatic event, one still needs to put in the work.

Seeking Self-Help

To understand the difference between an emotionally suffering individual and one who is not, each individual’s brain differs widely from the rest. Humans have yet to understand how each and every brain works in its entirety – but this is ok because there is a lot we do know about how our brains contribute to our feelings and our behaviors.

Along with the movement to drive culture change, the second goal of these amazing organizations aims to create a new approach to guarantee easy access in finding help whenever necessary.

The ability to help ourselves is what we do understand. Humans have the capability to heal and change behavior patterns, Van Dahlen said.

During the struggle of his own mental health journey, Scoleri compared the incessant rumination plagued over his brain to spiders searching for every negative thought imaginable.

To help himself, other habits Scoleri currently practices include meditation, exercise, avoiding caffeine/alcohol, eating clean, eliminating social media, turning one’s phone off two hours prior to bed, and much more he listed on a convenient handout at the discussion.

The problem is, Scoleri revealed, is no one provided his personal list of tips for him. He had to recognize his own need for help and work for it.

The panel then displayed a quote by Maya Angelou:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Mental health awareness training, Digby said, is a good idea. We have already seen both Canada and the UK jump ahead with government funding toward mental health first aid. And the Campaign to Change Direction launched the Five Healthy Habits of Emotional Well-being that we can all learn and practice on www.changedirection.org.

Bell Let’s Talk has created their own five ways to end the stigma around mental illness, described on the home page of their website.

More industry specific, the AFC, formerly known as the Actors Fund of Canada, is described as the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry. Each year, the organization distributes $500,000 in emergency financial aid to help all entertainment industry professionals suffering from injury, illness or other personal hardships.

In addition to OVER THE BRIDGE currently sorting data from the post-performance mood response study, they have collected local mental health programs and resources, entertainment support and national crisis support/distress lines on their website, www.overthebridge.org and http://www.ementalhealth.ca.

The mental health conversation in the American entertainment industry has recently jumped on board. When asking Van Dahlen about organizations leading the conversation, she credited Live Nation and Warner Music for seizing the opportunity to build a movement within the music industry to address needs of artists, industry professionals behind the scenes and fans.

The Recording Academy MusiCares brings awareness to music industry professionals suffering from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders and uses their platform to educate us on programs available across the nation.

Change Direction’s partnerships with Talinda through 320 Changes Direction, various artists and groups, Live Nation, the industry standards Digby continues to develop, and the supporting organizations at Strike A Chord are all faced with a huge opportunity to elevate this important issue.  

The resources are here. But it takes the individual to recognize and help him or herself as a first step in order to utilize the resources. And people in this world have the right to take care of themselves.

Shortly before Chester passed, a veteran had given him a dog tag Talinda wore around her neck bearing a message for all of us.

Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit,” Talinda read. “I found this after he passed, at a time when I needed to hear it the most. So I want to pass that to you. Now you know - we’ve shared this wisdom with you, but it takes courage. And I wish that courage to every one of you to take care of yourselves.”


Bell Let’s Talk Day 2018 resulted in over 130,000 online interactions and raised $6,919,199 dedicated to mental health in Canada becoming a stigma-free country.

Learning Resources

To learn more about the Five Signs of Emotional Suffering and pledge to share the Signs, visit The Campaign to Change Direction: www.changedirection.org

To learn more about mental health conditions visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions

To learn more about mental health organizations and statistics worldwide visit World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int/mental_health/en/

Hotlines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Text SIGNS to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-487-4889

 

Watch the full stream video of Strike A Chord here.