Punk Talks Offers Touring Musicians Mental Health Help

Mental health issues have plagued artists for centuries.

That’s why social worker and punk fan Sheridan Allen created Punk Talks, an organization helping get people in the music industry have access to free mental health care.

Touring musicians are away from their homes for months, playing (and partying) every night. Then they have to return to their everyday life for only a short period of time, like nothing has happened. It’s related to “reverse culture shock”—when you get used to your new lifestyle, so when you return to your old one you start to get depressed.

“We are asking a person who already struggles with their mental health to get into a van with a handful of other people and leave their entire support system behind to sleep on floors, make little to no money for food, and drink and party all night,” Allen explains. “It is not a healthy or sustainable lifestyle without the proper avenues in place to help them cope through it.”

The first thing you see when on the Punk Talks website is, “you don’t have to be sad to make great music.” Elsewhere, musicians and industry workers revealing their mental health struggles and the importance of an organization like Punk Talks.

“We believe that every person is capable of positive change and that EVERY person can (and should) benefit from therapy,” says Allen. “If anyone has questions about mental health, therapy, medication, music, my cat, or The Office trivia, PLEASE don’t hesitate to reach out to us.”

Read the entire interview with Punk Talks founder Sheridan Allen about the organization and mental health, and find out how you can get involved.

BTRtoday (BTR): How did Punk Talks first come together?

Sheridan Allen (SA): Punk Talks was an idea I had in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. I was in my final semester of undergrad and was feeling a little hopeless about my then-pipe dreams of working in music. I felt so desperately that I needed to be a part of this.

This was also around the same time that Modern Baseball was becoming very popular while Ian and Jake were still full-time students. I was struck by how much they were balancing music-wise, while also attending school. I came to learn about DIY and realized that there was an enormous need for a specialized mental health service within this community. And what I have is a degree in social work and a desire to help.

BTR: Why do you think this is such a helpful organization for the music industry specifically?

SA: We are in a time in music where bands are required to be touring almost-constantly to make any kind of profit with their music sales; accessibility to streaming and free music online can be a wonderful thing, but it also forces music workers to lead grueling lifestyles. We are asking a person who already struggles with their mental health to get into a van with a handful of other people and leave their entire support system behind to sleep on floors, make little to no money for food, and drink and party all night. It is not a healthy or sustainable lifestyle without the proper avenues in place to help them cope with it. On top of that, there is immense pressure to release music that not only feels authentic to the creators but also resonates with individuals in one of the most terrifying times in American history.

BTR: How does someone in the music industry reach out to Punk Talks for help?

SA: We pride ourselves on being an accessible organization run by a human being and not a brand. If someone in the music industry needs help, they can email me directly at punktalks@gmail.com or they can reach out on any of our social media platforms. I will discuss their situation with them and assess the best course of action; if they are in need of a therapist locally, our Resource Coordinator, Katie Sandfoss, will help them find one. If they are more appropriate for our services (i.e. they do not have health insurance, cannot afford a therapist, have a hectic touring schedule, etc.), I refer them to one of our volunteer therapists and that therapist reaches out to them directly.

BTR: Why the name Punk Talks–do you specify with punk musicians?

SA: Punk and emo music have always been near and dear to me—when I began this organization, my dream was to work with bands that I love. Very fortunately for me, I have been able to do just that. However, there is such a need within the industry as a whole that we will never ever ever turn someone away who is in need. We have worked with other bands outside of the punk music genre and will continue to do so to further our message and services.

BTR: What’s in the future for the organization?

SA: We have some very specific goals for the future, but our overarching goal is to continue to provide free therapy to as many people as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can.

BTR: If someone wanted to volunteer, how could they go about doing so?

SA: We are very grateful to have a huge interest in volunteering. If someone is interested in volunteering, they can email us directly and we can try to find a role for them. We also take applications and resumes for different positions on our staff when those become available.

BTR: Have any memorable stories that have happened because of Punk Talks?

SA: I have TONS of memorable stories because of Punk Talks—I could go on and on. Some of my favorite memories have been the post-Bled Fest hotel bonanza with Tiny Moving Parts, Prawn, and Free Throw, Pet Symmetry headlining our benefit show in Kentucky before relocating to Philly, and the countless incredible people I’ve met through Punk Talks.

BTR: Anything else you would like to add?

SA: At Punk Talks, we believe that every person is capable of positive change and that every person can (and should) benefit from therapy. If anyone has questions about mental health, therapy, medication, music, my cat, or The Office trivia, PLEASE don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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