POLITICIANS and musicians alike are publicly putting their mental and physical health first and I for one am grateful of the voices of Lewis Capaldi and MSP Kevin Stewart, who have both recently stepped back from touring and ministerial commitments respectively in the hope of focusing on their mental health and wellbeing.

Between 2011 and 2019, almost three-quarters of all suicides in Scotland involved men and despite several initiatives and campaigns, such as Men Matter Scotland and Brothers in Arms, there is still so much more to do to create a culture where all men feel comfortable speaking up about their mental health, physical health and – most importantly – their need to take a step back.

Having two voices with very different personalities and lines of work speak up about the need to take a break, pause and work on their own mental health is incredibly re-assuring.

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In his resignation letter to the First Minister as he stood down as transport minister, Kevin (below) spoke of “bouts of poor mental health with a low ebb in early December” which had impacted his ability to hold ministerial office while trying to serve his constituency of Aberdeen Central.

Speaking to John Beattie on BBC Drivetime, Alastair Campbell commented that Kevin was “somebody who’s been struggling with something for a while, who needs a break from the thing that’s causing them the struggle”.

Campbell also stated: “I suppose most of his constituents will be reasonable” but within hours Kevin faced scrutiny and criticism on Twitter. Kevin quickly responded, explaining that he had been “dealing with correspondence from constituents” and pleaded the Twitter user to not “make assumptions about what people can or cannot do when they are unwell”.

The National: Housing Minister Kevin Stewart

It seems that understanding and compassion from the general public still is not extended to those in elected office.

For years we’ve consumed celebrity pop culture and watched the tales of the stereotypical “Disney child gone wild” play out through international media.

But when it’s closer to home in Scotland, with the (thankful) absence of deeply problematic online blogs such as TMZ and Perez Hilton, our homegrown talent can often battle their demons with relative discretion. But only for so long ...

Lewis Capaldi’s recent Netflix documentary How I’m Feeling Now shed light on his experiences being an internationally touring and recording musician living with Tourette’s syndrome.

Even with the hiatus during the pandemic, with a touring and recording schedule as gruelling as his, it comes as no surprise that Lewis has decided to cancel all upcoming shows until Glastonbury on June 24 to “take a moment to rest and recover”.

After watching his headline set at the BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend last Sunday, I suspect he may also be dealing with vocal fatigue, which goes hand in hand with the touring, travelling, recording, and doing media interviews.

Jo Hastings from Music Minds Matter told BBC Reporting Scotland: “No matter what stage in your career you’re at, you can feel pressure”.

And while my heart goes out to Lewis, he can perhaps afford to postpone shows or even cancel them to put his health first, but for emerging and early-career freelancers and musicians, the idea of cancelling a show simply equates to financial uncertainty and extra stress.

Fortunately, organisations such as Help Musicians have been stellar in providing support to those going through physical or mental health issues.

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As a musician living with chronic illness – fibromyalgia, and hypermobility syndrome – I am now familiar with the idea of the “pace” method of pain and fatigue management, but it took seven years.

And while I have managed to create boundaries, this doesn’t necessarily mean the people I work with will respect those boundaries.

I remember the first time I had knee surgery. I put an out-of-office on my email explaining that I was going into theatre under general anaesthetic. As soon as I woke up, my phone was ringing with people checking logistics for shows that were three months away. If you don’t look out for yourself and set boundaries, no-one else will. The person who is best placed to put yourself first is you.

The fear of letting others down – whether that be your constituents, party activists, fellow MSPs, fans, agents, managers, promoters, or bandmates – stops musicians and politicians alike from reaching out and accessing the support they need – some leaving it too late and experiencing all-out burnout.

This is why it’s so encouraging that two individuals who are extremely successful in their respective fields are so willing to be open, honest, and transparent.

The BBC conducted vox pops of people in Glasgow, and the overwhelming response was positive and supportive of Lewis’s decision to cancel touring commitments to focus on feeling better for his appearance on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

It’s re-assuring that mental health issues are being destigmatised and public perception of artists and public figures who face mental health issues is changing. I remember the 2000s, when tabloids and media went feral over women artists who faced mental health, physical health and substance use issues.

The rhetoric around the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore often placed blame solely on the artist in question, as opposed to the supposed guardians, agents, managers and people who had a duty of care over these figures who rose to fame at a young age.

I do believe the SNP has a duty of care over its elected members, and I do hope that Kevin will receive unequivocal compassion and understanding from his colleagues.

You can’t pour from an empty glass and I send all my thoughts, energy and peace to Lewis, Kevin and everyone else who needs some strength and love to get through and practise self-care.