THE whole music scene needs to become aware of the mental health pressures facing musicians, according to an award-winning singer, composer and researcher.

While the situation has improved since a 2016 study that found 71% of musicians had experienced panic attacks and 68% had experienced depression, Mischa Macpherson says there is much room for improvement.

In the third annual Rebellious Truth lecture/recital today, ­available online as well as in person, she will outline the mental pressures that traditional musicians face, as well as provide insight into the joys of ­playing the music.

Macpherson began researching ­musicians’ mental health following the 2016 study by the charity Help Musicians revealing that more than two thirds of musicians had ­suffered mental health problems such as ­depression and panic attacks.

Her resulting award-winning ­documentary highlighted some of the unique struggles that musicians face in Scotland and featured ­interviews with some of the folk scene’s ­best-known faces, including Ross ­Ainslie, Greg Lawson, Laura Wilkie and Corrina Hewat.

Macpherson told the Sunday ­National that financial insecurity was one of the reasons for poor mental health, as well as being on tour which can be challenging both physically and mentally.

“The main things that keep you well balanced such as sleep and good food you lose as soon as you go on tour,” she said.

“There are often huge drives ­between venues and you can be ­changing time zones from one day to the next. Also when you are so ­passionate about the music it can ­become part of your identity and then you may have a problem separating your self-worth from your work and how well that is going.”

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She also found that musicians really struggling with depression and anxiety could be reluctant to take medication as they were worried it would interfere with their creativity.

“There has also definitely been an expectation of musicians to be really good fun so there is also some stigma and shame around speaking about it openly but that is changing and it is definitely getting better,” said Macpherson.

“People like Ross Ainslie spoke about their mental health so openly in the documentary and it only takes one or two to break the silence and suddenly the stigma eases.

“We have to acknowledge that it is part of the human condition to have these feelings.”

Macpherson said the entire music scene, including directors and tour bookers, needed to be more aware of the mental health pressures.

“The way a tour is organised can hugely impact musicians’ well-being,” she said. “They need nights off and shouldn’t be sharing bedrooms with people they have never met before and they need space and time to get fresh, healthy food. Also having ­alternatives to alcoholic beverages is really important as there is a lot of alcohol at festivals and gigs. Dressing rooms, particularly, are full of them.

"Many musicians are trying not to drink every night but if the ­alternative is water it makes it harder. Having non-alcoholic beers is such a simple thing but that can really help.”

Macpherson acknowledges that the opportunity to earn money by ­making music is “incredible” and is hopeful the mental health pressures can be eased if people continue to speak up about the issue.

“Things are getting better, ­definitely,” she said. “We just need more awareness of the pressures on mental health.”

Macpherson will be joined on stage by musician Fraser Fifield for ­Rebellious Truth at the Traverse Theatre this afternoon which is ­presented in partnership with Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.