I was determined to write something for Mental Health Awareness Week even before the sad news about Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison but I’ve found it hard as somebody who has certainly suffered from high levels of stress, never more so than over the last three or four years, but never encountered anything drastic enough to be called a mental health issue.
In fact, though I’ve read many articles about mental health, I’ve never actually come across one where at some point the author didn’t themselves reveal their own personal struggles. I can certainly understand why as nobody wants to be accused of talking about something they don’t understand.
I did however have a brush with the initial stages of diagnosing depression when I went to the doctors because I was only sleeping for three hours before waking up and, though I would then get another couple of hours sleep, the tiredness was severely limiting the amount I could get done in a day.
The first thing the doctor established was that I had plenty to be concerned about from selling our house and downsizing to the multiple frustrations of trying to establish the History of Scottish Music Centre, as it was then, with plenty inbetween especially the financial drain being caused by things taking far longer than expected.
His answer was that I was clearly worried and indeed stressed but only at the right amount for the situation. I was, he said, the sort of person who wanted to get things done so basically my body was allowing me the minimum amount of sleep in three hours and then waking me up ready to deal with things.
He could, he said, give me some tablets that might allow me to grab an extra hour or two before waking which would make a big difference. They were, he pointed out, used to help those suffering from depression to sleep but he was keen to stress depression wasn’t his diagnosis.
There was, however, a form I could fill out to check on depression. I have to say it was very obvious which answers would lead to a positive diagnosis and I remember one, “did I feel I was worrying about things far more than I should?” to which my answer was, of course, “no I’m worrying about things a lot but no more than I should”.
Anyway the tablets didn’t work and neither did another type as my will to wake up was stronger than any medication so we gave up on that course of action. Things did improve a little naturally though to this day I’m lucky to get five hours straight sleep. Some things suffered more than others. Any sort of paperwork was a struggle when so tired while the ease of simply pressing a button on Twitter was no problem at all!
What I can’t imagine therefore is the struggle many people must go through when sleeping is no more than one of their concerns. Scott was very open about his struggles which is always a good thing and in an industry that isn’t always pleasant he headed the list of the good guys helping others far more than any other artist I know.
We last met up at the end of November to talk over his plans for the tenth anniversary of The Midnight Organ Fight and what we could exhibit when the ScotPop Centre opened. Immediately he offered to pull out all the original artwork for the album and when I mentioned our struggle looking for sponsors he said he could put in a good word with BrewDog having done a gig for them before.
Then when I mentioned all the artwork done by Dave Thomas which covered not just Frightened Rabbit but the Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Mogwai and many more he offered to introduce us. Dave, he said, had lots of extra stuff from the albums he worked on that would be interesting. Scott’s natural setting was to help out.
One time when we had Frightened Rabbit play in-store in the Grassmarket shop, I gave the list of their requirements to Red Dog, the musical instrument shop next door, who then delivered everything needed. What I didn’t realise was that the list provided by their tour manager was just the extra things he wanted on top of what he assumed was standard.
The band turned up to be confronted with only half of what they needed and, instead of having some kind of hissy fit as others might have done, they went next door to Red Dog, picked out what was required, carried it above their heads through the crowd and 15 minutes later were up and running.
Scott was a lovely guy to deal with but also Frightened Rabbit as a band were some of the nicest people we ever had play in the shop. That he helped more people in his relatively short life than most people will who live to a ripe old age is hopefully a small comfort to his family and close friends.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Going to gigs is good for you
One thing often mentioned about dealing with depression is social interaction and certainly it has to be better getting out and speaking to people, rather than sitting at home alone on a phone or a computer.
I had friends at university who were not particularly comfortable going out and being expected to interact with others for a whole night, but felt far more comfortable at gigs where the need for idle chit chat was less important.
Certainly it has to be a win-win situation if young people get out more attending small gigs and this is something I think could be encouraged far more than it is currently.