Taken from Issue 1 of 404 Ink | As the world doesn’t allow people to read every waking second of the day (boo, hiss), we can thank God that podcasts exist. For any topic, you’ll find someone chatting about it for your listening pleasure. Driven by the submissions 404 received, we wanted to introduce you to one of our favourites.
Don’t Fret Club is a not-for-profit podcast aiming to raise mental health awareness in young people through harnessing the music community, hosted by music journalist Jessica Bridgeman. Music and mental health have often been unusual bedfellows, with one being a support system to many for battling the other, and the chats on this podcast break through the surface of typical band interviews to explore the meaning and people behind the music on a more intimate level, with the taboo of sharing mental health experiences thrown out the window.
So, why use music to have these conversations? “Music has always been directly linked to my mental state, and everyone I’ve spoken to via Don’t Fret Club has similar stories of using their favourite bands as a sort of safe self-medication,” explains Jessica. “Anyone who has suffered mental illness can paint a pretty dark picture of their lowest moments. Even on the days when you can’t physically lift yourself from your bed, you will find the strength to play music – at least that’s a story that’s familiar to me. On those days when you feel helpless and alone, music is the thing you let in. It took me a few years to find the courage to launch Don’t Fret Club from having the idea, but now it feels as though it was part of my own recovery process.”
Music’s importance goes a long way, especially when the internet goes so far in the other direction of hiding the topic – it drowns people in endless information. “The awareness I gained throughout my school years actually focused on depression as an extreme and failed to highlight just how many of us it effects. When I was looking for advice or doing research online, I’d usually end up feeling lost in medical references and symptom checklists, leading me back to music as an escape and calming mechanism. For me, the soundtrack I’d created became as vital as the doctor’s help itself.”
And so the podcast does the same as music: it murmurs in the background, but can be there when support is needed. “Sometimes it’s tough to concentrate on anything when you’re feeling low, and hearing a friendly voice can make the world of difference,” says Jessica. “I want Don’t Fret Club to be that familiar friend to people. As a music journalist by trade, I totally advocate the importance of writing – be it something to publish publicly or keep private – and reading interviews with bands has always been huge in helping me relate to them as a fan. But there’s nothing quite like hearing the bands talk about the songs you’ve invested so much of yourself in. It can be tough at times as talking about such personal topics takes us out of our comfort zone and is a strain on emotions. For me though, that’s the whole point of Don’t Fret Club. We want to break the stigma and encourage people to talk, so a podcast felt like the natural way to actually get the conversation started.”
Escapism has always been an obvious reason as to why music matters so much to so many, but the podcast has been discovering many more. “There’s an entire lethargic nature to producing music that I’d not considered before,” she notes. “You’ll hear in our episodes with Black Foxxes and Kamikaze Girls, for example, that the process of creating music that feeds off their feelings and frustrations over mental illness has helped them to deal with their demons. Music helps those making it not to dwell on the problems, but instead confront them in a space where they feel most comfortable. “In our very first episode with Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall, she shares great insight on how instrumental music helps her to deal with the strain of tour life, something that was also reflected in our more recent episode with Heather Perkins of Slowcoaches. Don’t Fret Club has definitely allowed me to understand how music helps bands as much as it helps fans, which is an amazing thing.”
The response from listeners and bands alike has been great, and the Don’t Fret Club has recently branched out to have an accompanying blog where anyone can tell their story, and they’re doing so with a stark honesty.
“The podcast is the conversation starter, if you like, whereas the blog is the beating heart of discussion and advice. It’s amazing to see the feedback from those who have contributed so far – it’s a real process to pour yourself into a blog post, no matter how small, and to see others react to it in a supportive way can really help on both sides.”
Don’t Fret Club is a conversation started by music, and it’s one that’s just getting going. What has Jessica learned since the podcast’s launch? “That it’s okay to face your fears head on. Part of my anxiety triggers have always been linked to dealing with the perception of others, so putting myself on a platform is always a challenge. To do it and have the support of people I look up to is even better. It’s also taught me that it’s okay to have good days and bad, but you aren’t alone when things get rubbish and there are people out there who understand on some level. I’m still learning though, and Don’t Fret Club has become a brilliant base to meet like-minded people.”
Go listen to and check out Don’t Fret Club at dontfret.club, and @DontFretClub. Then put on your favourite albums, play them really loud, and have a great time.
A DON’T FRET CLUB PLAYLIST
A lot of bands have played key roles in the creation of Don’t Fret Club and these are just a handful of the latest tracks that will undoubtedly help to shape its future.
Boston Manor – Laika
Happy Accidents – Leaving Parties Early
Kamikaze Girls – Ladyfuzz
With Confidence – We’ll Be Okay
Creeper – Suzanne
The Hard Aches – I Freak Out
The Menzingers – Bad Catholics
Camp Cope – Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Beams
Every Time I Die – Glitches
Black Foxxes – I’m Not Well