Conjuring Up Nimble Solutions to Mental Health Woes Facing Musicians, A Guest Post by Bethany Bultman

Aug 14, 2008 by

(Here is a guest post from my friend Bethany Butman, President and CEO of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. She is a dynamic force for good in the city and I am proud that she was kind enought to write this for us. -Loki, HumidCity Founder)

New Orleans’ warm, erotic humid climate, the wild foliage, the sensuous aroma of sweet olives and rifts of Jazz and funk combine to evoke a unique place and a culture, not unsympathetic to the weaknesses of the flesh. At The New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC est. 1998), the United States’ only comprehensive health clinic for musicians, we are faced with sustaining a unique population during the hard times we all wrestle with since the 2005 floods.

For more than ten years, we have proudly served a “challenging’ population of musicians who personify a cluster of characteristics including “creative” and “sensitive” with shades of “deviant” and “non-conforming.” Add to this a predilection for risky behavior and a lifestyle with a wide acceptance (and even reliance) on illicit drugs, alcohol and sex. And lastly, a historical low priority on personal health and a distrust of conventional medical care. Although New Orleans musicians are celebrated around the world, at home they have a history of living hand to mouth, outside mainstream social and economic systems. Many of them pride themselves in existing in a cash-only economy, not having a bank account or paying taxes. Hence they are in effect excluded from the American health care delivery system.

Before Katrina, many of the more than 3500 musicians working in New Orleans suffered from health problems related to living in “below 3rd world poverty,” working late hours, separations from their families while being on the road and uncertain financial futures. Today, there are less than 1800 musicians in New Orleans who are now struggling for a smaller piece of the pie, as there are very few gigs, and a lower pay scale for those few musical jobs. Stress from losing their homes, their neighborhoods and their income from music is taking a tragic toll.

At the NOMC we are just one of the 10 or so musician advocacy groups determined to preserve our dense cultural landscape. Yet, our task is one of providing a hand to hold in the dark times, to be both culturally sensitive and to keep our musicians alive. Whether it is conventional counseling for individuals or group sessions for bands, psychiatric meds management or therapeutic drumming circles or detox acupuncture, the NOMC is acutely aware that musicians and the tradition bearer community must reach out to us before there is a crisis. Evaluate, take stock and come take advantage of the services for wellness we offer.

Bethany Ewald Bultman
New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic
2020 Napoleon Avenue
Clinic appts 412-1366
Recognized as one of Louisiana’s 2008 Outstanding Tobacco Prevention and Control Advocates by The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL)

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