Dave and Hozier at the RTÉ Choice Music Prize event
I did an accountancy degree at the National College of Ireland and during that time I got involved in sports and entertainment. I became Clubs and Socs Officer before becoming Student Union President and establishing a project called the National Student Music Awards. I decided to go back to college in 2010 first to do a Msc in Marketing then to do a HDip in Counselling / and an MA in Psychotherapy.
Shortly after I started my counseling course I was approached by JP Swaine and Dave Keegan from the First Fortnight mental health festival to get involved with them. That was only after starting in 2010 and I joined in 2011.
First Fortnight uses the arts to open up a debate around mental health. I was on the board of First Fortnight for seven years so that’s how I got involved in the mental health side of the creative industry.
I founded and currently run the RTÉ Choice Music Prize and I’m also an artist manager; that’s my main role day-to-day apart from Minding Creative Minds; it’s an area that I feel really passionate about.
I’ve seen the ups and downs of being an artist manager and being an artist. Being an artist manager, you’re kinda the psychotherapist, you’re the booker, you’re the press person; this has definitely given me insight into how difficult it is being an artist currently. There are so many things you encounter from social media to releasing records to doing press and promotions to Spotify. It definitely has given me good insight into how the creative industry works.
Why doesn’t the music sector have it?
I read a survey back in 2016 that said people working in the creative industry suffer from mental health problems much more than the general population due to the nature of their business; unsocial hours, lack of regular income, etc.
I noticed there was mental health support for people within the GAA, the construction sector had it, the legal sector had it so I thought, “Why doesn’t the music sector have it?” It became apparent there was a definite need to try and establish something that would become Minding Creative Minds.
We did a survey with First Fortnight back in June 2019. There were 1,396 people on that survey; it was quite comprehensive and covered all aspects of the creative sector, including film, music, theatre. 91% of those people said that in their lifetime they had suffered with a mental health issue.
In my own mind I thought that if there was somebody coming back from a gig in say Tralee at 2 o’clock in the morning, and they felt low and wanted someone to contact, there should be a helpline there. Similarly if there were Irish people playing gigs abroad in maybe London or Paris and they felt low or didn’t have anyone to talk to at a certain time when no-one was around, they should be able to call a number for support.
A concentrated effort
First Fortnight agreed to support the idea of Minding Creative Minds, then I contacted IMRO (Irish Musicians’ Rights Organisation) and IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association). They jumped on board agreeing that it was about time that there was a concentrated effort and a support structure in place for this industry. That was in May/June 2018.
It took two years to get funding in place, then we decided that doing an Employee Assistance programme was the best model. We decided to work with Spectrum Life who provide 400 counsellors nationwide, a helpline, career and legal advice etc. It’s a very comprehensive package.
We decided to launch in June/July 2020; that was then brought forward to the end of May/start of June because of the pandemic.
We got all the important music industry bodies on board: IMRO, IRMA, RAAP, Universal Music, MCD, The BAI Then during the summer we became benefactors of the Songs from an Empty Room project. That was a big TV spectacular and we were very lucky to link in with them. The project raised a significant amount of funding which enabled us to begin to open up to the entire creative sector. Then before Christmas, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media enabled us to really establish Minding Creative Minds and it’s now available to over 55,000 working or involved in the whole Irish creative industry.
Develop it more
I feel I’m part of a team at Minding Creative Minds; it’s a very good team; a very strong team so I’m happy that’s up and running but I’d like to develop it more, to get more people using the service and to develop other support services around it.
We have a Meet & Greet peer support session that happens once a month where people have a chance to talk to other people in the sector that they mightn’t have talked to or mightn’t have been in contact with for a long time due to the pandemic.
We worked with Tolü Makay on a project recently based on creating more awareness around the black creative community and mental health.
We’re going to build an app that has dedicated supports and resources for the creative sector, hopefully it’ll be launched in September.
I think the whole area of careers is important. In excess of 350 people have contacted Minding Creative Minds since it started and 14% of those were looking for career advice or somebody to talk to about careers in the various creative sectors. Trying to provide supports and resources around that is something that we should look at developing.
Minding Creative Minds is a mental health project, and a wellness project, first and foremost but we are keen to develop other services and resources that can help and support members of the creative sector.
We’re glad that we can provide this service and we’d encourage anybody if they want just to chat or if they’re feeling a bit low, just to reach out via the helpline or via text.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.