Mental Health and the Music Industry: An Interview with Scott Quinn.


We’ve recently been fortunate enough to interview 26 year old singer-songwriter Scott Quinn. From dealing with depression at 18 to playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds Festival a few years later, Scott has had an interesting journey so far and learnt how to become aware and overcome his mental struggles within the music industry.

“Mental health in my life has been quite prominent in many different ways. But I wasn’t really aware of it until I was about 18 and first went to university. This is one of the main topics in my life, how we can get to early adulthood and not know what anxiety is. I remember going to university, first year and the course was amazing but the location wasn’t, and I was surrounded by people who seemed they didn’t want to better themselves. I ended up getting really depressed, and lost two stone in weight. And that was the first link between my mental health and music, as I was doing a music course but didn’t have access to a piano, so me not being able to play music meant I didn't have my outlook or release. So that was the first main time that I’ve been depressed in my life and it woke me up to mental health in general, and helped me make sense of what my family and friends have been through.

I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with depression, but having the recognition helped me overcome it and made me realise that I needed to treat myself better and do things for me. And ever since then I’ve been, thankfully, fairly stable, but this industry is one of the worst for anxiety and ups and downs but it’s something you learn to live with.”

Is there anything you do that strengthens your mental health and helps overcome your mental struggles?

“When I was diagnosed with depression I was 18, I never used to run, but I just went for a run for 4-5 miles. I just needed to do something and challenge myself and get active, so I started running every day and it was a way to keep on top of my anxiety and just made me feel so much better in general. I also learned that it’s important to listen to your body and what your body needs, so sometimes that may be just treating yourself with things that are healthy and not so healthy, for me I love cake and sometimes it ticks a box for me. On a now and again thing.

Music is a big cathartic thing for me, playing it especially. Everyone has their own outlet and mine’s music which is brilliant as I get to do that as my job. Also seeing friends and being around people helps, sometimes it can be easy to isolate yourself and I can easily spend days in this flat but sometimes I need to get outside and hang out with someone.

Sometimes just walking around in the park for 20 minutes just sorts your head out. I also meditate daily for about 20 minutes. It’s just about taking it easy and making sure you’re doing something for yourself.”

What are your thoughts on mental health in 2019?

“Mental health in 2018/2019, we’ve come a long way. It’s interesting as I know some people think it’s a bit of a trendy thing to talk about at the minute. And I know people are wondering why it’s suddenly popped up that everyone is so anxious, and I think there's a mix of things there. There are exacerbators in our life such as social media, technology and things that are taking us away from being present and aware that make us anxious or depressed. There is also a fact of awareness. It’s like people saying ‘Why are there so many gay people all of a sudden?’ It’s not that there are more gay people, it’s just that we are accepting that it’s a normal thing to happen. There were always gay people, there was always anxious people, and always depressed people, it’s the fact that now people feel brave enough or comfortable enough to step up and say this is who I am and this is what I’m going through.

Instagram is one of my favourite apps but it can be very detrimental to your mental health. We are editing photos of ourselves, uploading it to a platform and asking to be validated for it and every like you get you are getting validated on a false sense of yourself. It’s a dopamine hit, it’s like taking drugs or winning a game, it’s very addictive. It’s dangerous as you are being validated on a false sense of yourself. But in the grand scheme of things, I think we’re heading in the right direction, we just have a long way to go.

For me with social media, I think sometimes it’s important to take a digital detox as often as you can, and bring yourself back to things that are important to you that don’t involve technology.”

What would you say is more important, mental or physical health?

“For me, mental and physical health are the exact same thing. They’ve recently discovered that there are neuroreceptors in our gut that means you literally are what you eat. If you eat crap, you’re going to feel crap. I think it’s important to have everything in moderation.

People aspiring to look a certain way is unhealthy. There’s a lot of people who aspire to look a certain way because society has led us that way, and they will never be able to attain it as they don’t have the genes, it's that simple. So I think we need to bring back our mental health, physical health, but also our self-worth and self-esteem. I think self esteem ties them together and is the middleman between mental and physical health because how you look at yourself and your body will determine how you treat it and vice versa.”

What advice would you give to someone who is facing mental health struggles or has a friend/family member who is?

“One of the hardest things, not just with my mental health but seeing friends and past relationships go through tough mental health, is that no matter how much you try, you can’t fix a person. The only way someone can be fixed is to first fix themselves, and that’s such a cheesy line, but one of the most rewarding things I’ve done is self-work and looking into the things that trigger me and make me the way I am. I started getting counselling about a year ago now because I knew there were things that triggered me. I acted in response to things that didn’t make me happy and I wanted to know why. So I guess the best advice I can give anyone is to take a massive interest in yourself and know that a lot of interaction with another person is just a projection on their behalf, so how people treat you is often how they are feeling about themselves.

So let’s say you go and achieve something, you go and win a medal in a race and your friend says ‘well done’, but then they mock you and take the mick for a bit - what you’ve done is good. That person’s insecure because they believe something inside themselves isn’t good enough so they try to belittle you.

Learning this about myself was fascinating and allowed me to apply it to people I know. That’s the biggest thing, taking an interest in yourself. And when you have friends going through depression, you can’t tell them to cheer up or it’s all going to be okay, you just need to be there. That’s all you need to do. They need to fix themselves and feel ready to fix themselves, so in the interim, you just need to show up and be there. That could literally be just popping round for a cup of tea, listening and most importantly, not trying to fix them. I’ve taken a very aggressive route before because I felt I knew what was right for a person but you can’t force that on someone.

How we get to early adulthood and don’t understand how our own brains work makes me clueless, you know what Pythagoras Theorem is but you don’t what anxiety actually means and what causes it. And day to day, you don’t know that stuff so you have to teach yourself and go search for it. So like I said, the biggest thing is taking a massive interest in your own mental health, and the things that trigger you, and keep asking “Why?”. If you start asking why, you can actually unearth the things that trigger you, process them and move on and come from a much healthier spot.”

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