Although there is still a lot of stigma around mental health, and we still have a lot to learn, we are starting to see more and more people open up about their experiences and struggles.
I think that when we see people in the public eye – actors, actresses, singers, etc – it can be easy to think that they don’t understand mental health.
I’ve seen a lot of negativity around people such as celebs, opening up about their mental health because “how could they possibly understand what it feels like with the wealth, fame, and nice things”.
When we listen to a singer or musician, even when we can hear the pain in their songwriting, and can relate to the words they are singing to us, it can be easy to forget that there is a real person – with real struggles – behind the music.
If you’ve ever been to a Frank Turner show, you’ll have seen the energy he has on stage; especially if you’ve seen him perform with The Sleeping Souls. It’s hard to believe that someone with that amount of passion, energy, and pure love for what they’re doing can be battling their own demons off-stage.
Frank Turner is no stranger to having his own demons and dealing with a lot of personal mental health issues. He is also very open about his experience, and encourages others’ to do the same.
In this interview, Frank talks about his thoughts on mental health, his experience of CBT, and how his mental health affected his music career.
What was the moment that made you realise you needed to get help?
“When I realised that I had lost control of my own behaviour in various fields, particularly with reference to substance abuse, and that the behaviour was starting to wreck my personal and professional life.”
What do you think held you back from getting help prior to that moment?
“Both in terms of my family and upbringing, and my taste in music (hardcore punk), I was pretty indisposed to ask for help. Being in control of myself and my own life was important to my self-image. I was skeptical of therapy as a concept, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone about it in depth.”
How did you find your experience with CBT?
“Pretty life changing. It made me look at myself and my actions in a totally different light.”
Do you feel that mental health is becoming more of a problem in this generation, or do you think it just seems more prominent because it’s more talked about now?
“I suspect it’s more the latter. We’re not collectively doing too badly with perennial human problems like famine and disease, so we have more time to attend to issues like mental health. But I’m no expert on this.”
How do you think your improved mental health has impacted on your music/career?
“I think it’s enabled it to continue. I was reaching a point where that was in doubt.”
What do you think is one of the biggest things we, as a society, need to tackle when it comes to mental health?
“Stigma. There is still a lot of social baggage and judgement around discussing mental health in public, which is unhelpful, to say the least.”
Has working with things like mental health charities helped you to deal with your own mental health?
“It certainly encouraged me to look more closely at therapy for myself. I realised at a certain point that I’d been talking the talk but not walking the walk, as it were.”
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of dealing with mental health?
“Maintenance, I suppose. It’s easy to feel like an issue has been dealt with and then backslide. That’s something I have to keep an eye on.”
What would be your best advice to anyone struggling with mental health?
“To reach out and share the problem. Which, I know, can be the hardest thing in the world, and working out who to talk to can be difficult, and is different for everyone. But in general, isolation is a bad idea.”
And what would be your best advice for loved ones of someone struggling with mental health?
“To try and make it easy for them to share. It’s important to let people talk in their own time and at their own pace, but you can help by indicating that you’ll make it as easy for them as you can.”
I have, personally, taken a lot of inspiration from Frank Turner’s music and it has helped me through certain bad times in my life. Last year I had started to go to therapy, but first I had to go through a series of group sessions which, for someone with social anxiety, is pretty crippling. At the time Frank had recently released his new album ‘Be More Kind’, which featured a song called ‘Little Changes’. This song, as Frank describes in an interview with Upset Magazine (link – https://www.upsetmagazine.com/news/frank-turner-makes-some-little-changes-on-his-new-song) is, “a simple folk song about relationships, in particular drawing on my experiences with CBT”. I would listen to this song in the car on my way to every group session, and every therapy session after that, as a reminder of why I was doing what I was doing – I was trying to make ‘Little Changes’ to my mental health, and my life.
I also have a tattoo on my forearm that reads ‘Be More Kind” (pictured below), and was taken from the album artwork. This is not because I absolutely love the song that much that I needed the lyrics tattooed on me, but because the sentiment behind it is real. Life is hard, and it costs nothing to be more kind to others, and to ourselves.