Musicians and Mental Illness

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Muddy, Mar 17, 2023.

  1. Muddy

    Muddy Large Member Thread Starter

    New York
    There's no argument from anyone about the enormity of the crime Jim Gordon committed. But some of the responses in his obit thread seemed to entirely overlook the severity of his schizophrenia, or just ignored it completely--which, amazingly enough in these times, was an indication of how many here have no understanding of mental illness at all. But that's besides the point.

    For me, Gordon's death was yet another tragic reminder of the inextricable link between musicians and mental illness. It's not something I've really given any thought to, but it seems obvious that, strictly in terms of a career choice, you're probably going to find more musicians who have struggled with their mental health than in any other field. Many of the great ones, in particular, have struggled the hardest: Mozart, Beethoven, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, Bud Powell, Peter Green, Thelonious Monk, Kurt Cobain...

    Anyway, you get the idea.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  2. Platterpus

    Platterpus Senior Member

    The arts in general which includes music, art (painting etc), acting and other related activities is a hotbed for mental illness especially nowadays. Whether the root cause of this is that people with these disorders gravitate in wanting to make this their occupation or hobby during their lifetime is questionable. If there is something environmental that sets this off like drugs or alcohol is another factor. Mental illness runs in my family on both sides. After using illegal drugs in high school I started to become severely mentally ill and had to be hospitalized and put on medication.

    I wonder if I had skipped the trip, had I not gotten ill after all? Looking back to my early years prior to drug taking I was hyperactive, depressed and was medicated accordingly and still am to this day. The common denominator for the list of musicians you listed is that some of them used/abused alcohol and drugs. But this isn't always the case. Trauma of any sort can set off mental illness in some people and for others it can be hereditary. Some STDs like syphilis can cause mental illness later in life.

    I was a weird kid and always had bizarre thinking and behavior. I'm sure my teachers and pupils in school would not be the least bit surprised that I have this affliction now and that I eventually caved into drug taking even after resisting for about six months prior to.

    Was Jim Gordon tabbed? Did he use or abuse drugs or alcohol prior to his schizophrenia and violent behavior? I just know the basics about him.

    I will say that sometimes the term mental illness is used by some people and celebrities that just have normal ups and downs and once a psychiatrist hears about this then they are quick to put them on medication since it has become a business of sorts and the medications themselves if you are not careful can make you worse off than before.

    Basically, mental illness if you have it and it's not just normal ups and downs. It will affect all aspects of your life. You get hijacked and can be completely dysfunctional as a result for any amount of time. And getting back up can be hard to do and can take months, years or decades to get it under control. I think mental illness in the entertainment industry is possibly overused and most of these people are just drug addicts and can't cope with their elite lifestyle and fame and having to be on their best all the time. Many agree that drug abuse and addiction of any kind is a mental illness. Some people use and abuse drugs and alcohol blindly not knowing that they may be trying to treat a underlying mental illness within them that they are not even aware of having or just ignore it. The term for this is self medicating.
  3. Muddy

    Muddy Large Member Thread Starter

    New York

    Wonderful post! Thank you for that.

    You've made some great points in your post. As far as I know, medical research has established that drug use/abuse can exacerbate psychiatric issues in individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain disorders. But I don't think there's any definitive answer as to whether those issues would have manifested themselves in the absence of the drugs.

    That said, I'm very sorry to hear of your recent relapse, and wish you much strength in your struggles.
  4. muzzer

    muzzer Forum Resident

    Check out Touched With Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison
  5. gregr

    gregr Forum Resident

    Also, mobbing and gaslighting happen.
    Gratefully Deadicated likes this.
  6. FredV

    FredV Senior Member

    Vince Taylor is a sad example and cautionary tale. He was one of the inspirations for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona.

  7. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident

    Mental illness, what's that? Is hearing voices mental illness? Who makes that determination, people who hear voices or people who don't? Would people who only see in monochrome be the best people to determine what colour is?
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
    Fishoutofwater likes this.
  8. GaryHabermas

    GaryHabermas Black metal will always be my first love

    I'm not sure of the technical language required to answer that, but I suspect that, whatever else it might mean, that it's not solely confined to hearing voices.

    , when that is a component of it, that either the hearers or those around them, or both, can offer opinions on whether the voices constitute, or are a part of mental illness.

    Perhaps you could directly ask the brave poster above what they take the term to mean.
  9. Erick Haight

    Erick Haight So anyway, I start blastin’

    Petoskey, Michigan
    When I teach about research methods in psychology, the point I stress time and again is that correlation doesn’t equal causation, which I believe applies here as well. There’s a difference between being atypical — social isolation, psychoactive drug use, and parasocial idolatry ain’t helping — and being abnormal in the clinical sense, and tne “mad genius” narrative only helps to entrench the stigma associated with mental illness.

    Gordon’s mental illness cost him his art and his life, mental illness is not conducive to sustained creative endeavor, and we need to move away from the stereotype of tortured artist, as that stereotype elicits a self-fulfilling prophecy that damages relationships for the sake of often banal and unremarkable art. Some research on the topic is here:

    Creativity and mental health: A profile of writers and musicians
  10. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident

    Yes, they are free to reply.

    As there are so many different possible "symptoms" I felt it enough to focus on just one. But sure, it would likely be accompanied by others.
    Gratefully Deadicated and NekoM like this.
  11. NekoM

    NekoM Forum Resident

    Huntington Beach
    Sadly by the time most schizophrenics are diagnosed they’ve been arrested, are off the chart delusional, violent, self destructive, disassociated, admitted into a hospital, tested for drugs and fully evaluated, given a bunch of drugs to sedate you and are kicked out.
  12. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident

    Aye. Sad indeed. The very stigma itself may put these courses into action.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  13. Dust Mice

    Dust Mice Active Member

    Lou Reed would be right up there. He had a long history of mental illness. Got electroshock therapy when he was 17. On The Matrix tapes he jokes to the audience about how he listened to the news one morning and decided there was no point in going outside anymore, then spent months in his room.
  14. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I don't think there's any inextricable link between musicians and mental illness -- making music, or being creative is not inseparable from mental illness, and mental illness is not required to make music or be creative. And although some studies, often of different methodologies, have produced varying results, I don't know that they indicate that instances of mental illness among musicians, or creative people generally, is necessarily higher than in the general population or other professions.

    Obviously, we know about the famous people who suffer from severe cases of mental illnesses, because we read about that in news stories or biographies. We're not reading about the guy in the cubicle down the hall suffering from depression, the woman working at the law firm with OCD, the audio mechanic with anxiety disorder, the marketing manager with PTSD, etc. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 22.8% of US adults are living with some mental illness, though only about 5.5% with serious mental illness. WHO estimates something like 12.5% of the global population is living with mental illness.
    CBackley, Comet01, ARK and 17 others like this.
  15. Muddy

    Muddy Large Member Thread Starter

    New York

    I used that phrase more for the economy of words than to make any statement on correlation/causation. It was just a way of stating there's a relationship of sorts. But you raise a valid point about my lopsided accounting on the instances by profession. I'd venture to guess that the arts overall would still account for a higher percentage than most, but musicians are clearly among the most publicized celebrities. The main point I was trying to make was that as an audience entirely comprised of hardcore music lovers, I thought this crowd would have been more sympathetic to a truly first-rate musician who was obviously plagued by a terrible illness.
  16. There have been lots many of them driven into mental illness (with an underlying condition) driven by drugs. Syd Barrett, Peter Green, Brian Wilson, etc. it’s both tragic and sad.
  17. zither

    zither Porky Prime Cut

    Monk should always be defined by his musical genius. It just so happens he'd been labelled a schizophrenic.
    George P, testingcan, RVA_101 and 7 others like this.
  18. NeonMadman

    NeonMadman Forum Resident

    I tend to agree. One thing that seems likely to me is that the arts, with their less regimented "workweek" (so to speak), their comparative openness to socially unusual individuals, etc, may be unusual in the extent to which a very talented individual with severe mental illness can still be enormously successful, whereas it would be impossible for that person to rise to the top of many more "traditional" fields. That increases the visibility of mental illness in the arts, but doesn't necessarily mean there is actually more of it.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  19. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Exactly. And if there is a higher instance of mental illness among musicians than there is among people who work in other professions, I would guess it's more because of the nature of the work than because there is any strong link between musical creativity and mental illness. The world of professional music is much more tolerant of erratic behavior than most other careers. Jim Gordon for example was able to get jobs as a drummer and perform them exceptionally despite his mental illness. He did work that was good enough that his employers were willing to overlook his behavior/symptoms for years. Whereas if he'd set out to become a plumber, he likely would never have made it past the apprentice stage since his behavior/symptoms would have led to his being fired quickly. So the reason there are more mentally ill musicians than plumbers has more to do with the jobs themselves than it does to any inherent link between mental illness and musical ability.

    There's still a significant portion of society who doesn't understand mental illness or addiction, and is eager to blame the person suffering from those things. It's disappointing (but not surprising to me) to see such attitudes on this forum.
    Comet01, ARK, waynevinyl and 13 others like this.
  20. Platterpus

    Platterpus Senior Member

    Thanks. I'm doing OK. I have not had a hospitalization or emergency visit since 2015. I felt like I was going off the rails during the pandemic and riots in 2020 but I persevered and hardly had to take any extra Xanax to take the edge off. I sometimes get anxiety or panic attacks in the shower since I am claustrophobic so this can be a problem sometimes. Other than that most of my anxiety/panic issues are under control from my medications and relaxation breathing. It's my OCD and other problems that are a daily nag but I make it through and have learned how to talk to myself during these situations to help better reason with my irrational and delusional thinking.
  21. panasoffkee

    panasoffkee Forum Resident

    St. Petersburg, Fl
    Someone who immediately comes to mind is Skip Spence ( Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane). In and out of hospitals and institutions he suffered for years from schizophrenia, drug and alcohol abuse. A very sad life.
  22. Chemically altered

    Chemically altered Forum Resident

    Ukraine in Spirit
    Skip Spence to Syd Barrett. There's nothing new in this. The results are always tragic and sad because there's no way to fix a broken mind. The best to be hoped for is to remain in some tranquilized state, if the affected takes their medicine. If they dont then greater tragedies result.
    bluesky likes this.
  23. Ghost of Ziggy

    Ghost of Ziggy Forum Resident

    Brian Jones
    human riff 999 and Jonny W like this.
  24. swandown

    swandown Under Assistant West Coast Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    I've never been a fan of the phrase "acid casualty" (which is the title of that Vince Taylor video), because it implies that drugs are the sole cause of a person's condition. But in many of these cases, the drugs are merely a secondary aspect of a deeper cause -- mental illness.
  25. Evethingandnothing

    Evethingandnothing Forum Resident

    Or perhaps that the universe is a lot stranger than we are generally allowed to say it is.
    Rick Robson and Fishoutofwater like this.

Share This Page