artists struggling with mental health issues and internet bullying

I wanted to write a little bit about mental health issues among artists/musicians. As someone who's been honest and up front about my own mental health issues, I just wanted to get some things off my chest and start a dialog.

During a recent struggle with mental health and just prior to my spinal surgery in May 2023, I was prescribed a number of anti-depressants and sadly, most had really bad side effects - not the least of which was extreme insomnia. So I eventually ditched them because I wanted to go into the surgery - well rested. 

People often say that artists and musicians need to have thick skin. I'm sorry but WHAT??? Artists are, “who they are”, because of their sensitivities, their heart, their expression. So we're supposed to just turn that off autoMAGICALLY when someone says horrible things about our art, our playing, our personal life?

Once, on a well known guitar forum, someone started a hate-thread about me. People jumped in to add fuel to the fire saying stuff like,

  • he thinks he's so great
  • you can tell he's an @sshole by the look on his face in his videos
  • he's not really a jazz player
  • he just plays fusion, not jazz
  • he just plays a lot of notes
  • people who compliment him are just being nice
  • he's an {insert derogatory comment}
  • he's ruining his kid's career by posting videos of his guitar playing

Amazingly, this went on for a week and it was 10+ pages long. There were some folks who jumped in and defended me… But many friends and supporters stayed silent. A funny part of internet bullying is that people are hesitant to jump into the fray because they don't want to be attacked. 

Eventually, enough people wrote in to the moderator - that he deleted the thread. But this went on for 7 days straight and even though I tried not to look, I periodically checked to see if anyone was coming to my defense.

I probably slept about 2 hours a night during this period and of course, my mental health was horrible during this time. 

And I wish this were the only case. I've been doxxed, had calls with death threats, had stalkers sending derogatory emails from throwaway accounts, been subject to deep fakes of my face on porn and other bullying - some too horrifying to publicly post about.

So when people advise artists to just “get a thicker skin”, i push back. Instead of getting a thicker skin, I want bullying to be out in the open and called out for what it is.

Because the truth is, people with mental health issues have taken their own lives when confronted with internet bullying. 

Why then would an artist be expected to shrug it off and develop thick skin???