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How Getting Help Can Work

Lydia Cole. Photo: Dennis Rump.
Lydia Cole in Concert. Photo: Christina Bernstein.
Lydia Cole is glad to be home - now more than ever. Photo: Timothy Armstrong.
Peter Dickens, General Manager of MusicHelps. Photo: Supplied.
A music support service has been thrown open to the entire arts industry - we speak to someone who asked for help and came through the other side.


“Because of those conversations I’m here, and I feel safe. The alternative to that trajectory is terrifying to think about.”

It was August 2019 and Lydia Cole had been living in Berlin for 2 ½ years. The artist behind such albums as Me & Moon, The Lay of the Land and Love Will Find a Way was shattered. Touring, being away from home and, as a self-confessed introvert, having to constantly interact with new people had drained her both physically and emotionally. 

Burning Out 

“I came across an article about burnout and what that looked like,” said Cole. “There was a list of factors and I ticked all the boxes.”

Having used the MusicHelps previously, and finding it beneficial, from Germany she emailed their wellbeing service and was put in contact with a counsellor. 

“In the first conversation, I realised I had to move back to New Zealand. I’m not coping. I’m not being kind enough to myself. I was in a situation that was only going to get worse. Talking to that person gave me the permission to admit that I needed to walk away from what I was doing.”

A risky, and brave move for any artist. Especially for those whose financial security is yet to find solid ground. But, with the comforting ear of a trained expert, Lydia was able to reach a decision that eight months later has made a profound difference to her wellbeing. 

“I book all my own shows, do my own promotion. You know that if you take your hand off then nothing happens. It all falls apart. This is what led to the burnout. It took the expertise of someone to gently look into my situation and see what I needed to do and give me permission to actually do that. “

Back in Auckland, and, like all of us currently in lockdown, Lydia says the past eight months have been, “life-changing.”

“Given the current situation, I can’t imagine going through it over there. What’s happened in Europe is scary.”

Lydia Cole is glad to be home - now more than ever. Photo: Timothy Armstrong.

Reaching Beyond Music to Creative Arts Sector 

Now with COVID-19 and the challenges that the virus and the lockdown present, the MusicHelps Wellbeing Service has opened its resources to the whole of the New Zealand arts community.

“One thing about the COVID-19 crisis is how communities are pulling together and we were delighted to open up the service to help as many creatives as we can,” says Peter Dickens, General Manager of MusicHelps.

“How we manage the enforced isolation and how we manage the contact in a way that’s healthy and nourishes our mental wellbeing is going to be the real challenge going forward.”

Dickens says Lydia’s experience with the helpline mirrors that of many who have used the service since it was launched in 2016.

“All of the counsellors on our roster are registered practitioners with specialist areas so we can match people with the practitioner best suited. The thing that makes them different is that they all have a demonstrable track record working with music people or people in the creative industries.”

The lockdown period’s brought with it “above average” demand for the service, but there are enough resources to handle more inquiries and support more members of the arts community in these stressful times.

Peter Dickens, General Manager of MusicHelps. Photo: Supplied.

Anxious Futures

With performances, galleries and all venues shut as with the rest of society, many in the arts community are anxious about their futures.

The lockdown has presented many with a chance to focus on their art - but for those to whom going into an isolated state is part of their natural artistic process, being forced into isolation does not necessarily lend itself to being creative.

“I’m excited to see the art that’s going to come out of all of this,” says Dickens.

“This is a phenomenon none of us has experienced before and we look to our creatives to make sense of it and reflect it back to us.

“However, how we manage the enforced isolation and how we manage the contact in a way that’s healthy and nourishes our mental wellbeing is going to be the real challenge going forward.”

Lydia Cole in Concert. Photo: Christina Bernstein.

This Isn't Me

Lydia’s advice to those not creating at the moment and feeling uncomfortable about it is this - "It’s okay.”

“Not every artist or creator will naturally be in a creating mode right now. There has been a lot floating around at the moment from people who are, which is great. But if that’s not you, don’t worry about being unproductive. I just keep saying at the moment that I’m just trying to follow my energy.”

And for those who are struggling right now?

“We all experience life and we all have mental health. Sometimes it’s strong and other times we struggle. I think there are points in each person’s life where a bit of help or an outside perspective and understanding can help.

“‘This is mine but this isn’t me.’ I am not depression. I am not anxiety. I am not burnout. Sometimes we have thoughts that we get carried away with and we think they are reality, but they’re just thoughts. You don’t have to wrap them into our core essence.“

Or, as Lydia sings in “The Sacred.”

“Head in the Dark, Hand on heart. We’re gonna make it out now, and turn it into art.”

The MusicHelps Wellbeing Service is a FREE 24/7 online, on the phone (tollfree 0508MUSICHELP), and in-person counselling service. This service is being extended to the wider arts community with immediate effect, thanks to the kind generosity of MusicHelps along with NZ Comedy Trust, Auckland Live, and Auckland Theatre Company.

Check out the new track "Stay" from some of Aotearoa's favourite artists, all proceeds of the track goes to MusicHelps

Story written by Bevan Sanson.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

22 Apr 2020

The Big Idea Editor

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