MusicNL is putting mental health centre stage | CBC News

MusicNL CEO Rhonda Tulk-Lane says mental health supports are key for the music industry, especially during the pandemic. (Submitted by Lynette Adams)

More than $60,000 in donations were raised as part of a live-streamed concert supporting musicians across Newfoundland and Labrador suffering from a lack of work due to COVID-19 closures.

Rhonda Tulk-Lane, CEO of MusicNL, says the Mind the Music concert was the brainchild of several members who had lost their jobs in recent pandemic shutdowns.

“December is the busiest time of year for our artists, where they build those savings to get through January, February and March,” Tulk-Lane said. “We said we have to get it done fast.”

MusicNL provided a small relief payment to musicians in December, but had no reserve funds to help musicians get through this winter shutdown. In the first week of January, the Atlantic Music committee, Canadian AV, Stingray, MusicNL and the Canadian Mental Health Association decided to make Mind the Music.

Days after Mind the Music aired on January 30, MusicNL had received donations totaling more than $60,000 and provided a rare concert for artists in another pandemic winter.

But the concert was just the latest in a series of mental health initiatives that MusicNL has been implementing. Since 2020, the organization has offered mental health first aid training, developed a digital app with a focus on mental health, and a music scholarship supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It all started with the 2018 Mental Health Survey conducted by the East Coast Music Association.

The qualitative results of the study revealed dismal data confirming that a disproportionate number of musicians were living well below the poverty line, had diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problems, were concerned about substance abuse, and had experienced suicidal thoughts.

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Following the recommendations that emerged from the study, the ECMA contracted with a clinical therapist to provide services to its members. MusicNL members have access to individual sessions with this mental health professional.

Mental Health First Aid Training and The Mindful Musician

Following the ECMA’s lead, MusicNL did the same in 2020. With ACOA funding, they sponsored Certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for interested members. Tulk-Lane said 30 members participated in the course.

“[It’s] a good diverse group from across the province, to have our partners on the ground trained to be able to spot the signs and be aware.”

In 2021, MusicNL partnered with it’s mentala St. John’s organization established by local mental health advocates and artists to empower people to provide mental health support to their communities.

Together, the two organizations developed an app called the conscious musician. The app, which launched last November, offers mindful moments, wellness resources and career support for workers in the music industry.

MusicNL introduced the Jason Cull Corporal Master Scholarship in association with the Canadian Society for Mental Health in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of 2021. Open to students residing in the province who are studying music full-time, the scholarship is intended to support students in the practice of good mental health.

Sarah Newell, MusicNL’s marketing and communications manager, says the recipient should use the scholarship in any way that supports their mental health, “whether it’s buying a bike or paying for tuition or books.”

The scholarship’s namesake, Jason Cull, is a musician and veteran who served tours in the Balkans and Afghanistan. After his military service, he discovered that music was a source of healing for his personal traumas. He dedicated the debut album to him, Strangesoldiers like him.

They are always there for us.-Rhonda Tulk-Lane

“They are always there for us,” says Tulk-Lane, highlighting the paradox in the music industry that musicians provide comfort to people going through difficult times, while their work makes them vulnerable to mental health stressors. .

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He also reflected on the work-life balance of a traveling musician.

“Being on tour, you’re on stage, you’re the star or you’re with your band, but then it’s over and you go back to that hotel room alone,” she said. “If you’re the person who writes the music, your work is very connected to your emotions and your well-being.”

Newell, herself a member of the band With Violet, said that musicians often do a lot of emotional work when it comes to their music.

Sarah Newell is Marketing and Communications Manager for MusicNL and a member of the band With Violet. (Submitted by Lynette Adams)

“Sometimes maybe you don’t want to sing that song because you don’t want to relive the heartbreak again, but it’s everybody’s favorite song and you have to sing it.”

What’s next?

“Our next step is that we have something on the ground in each of our regions, allowing people to connect,” Tulk-Lane said.

Tulk-Lane said they are exploring ways to deploy members who have received mental health first aid training, whom she calls ambassadors.

“Kind of like little coffee groups on the West Coast, in Corner Brook, in Twillingate, in Grand Falls, to let people know there are people there if you just need to chat once in a while.”

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