Dr. Chayim Newman, Zack Borer Launch Amber Health To Address Mental Health Crisis In Touring, Publish New Study

Musicians, production crew and technicians working in the touring industry are at risk of high stress, depression and suicidality, and a new study says mindfulness-based interventions “can help dampen the effect.” (Courtesy Getty Images)

The live entertainment industry can be a stressful place to work requiring many hours on the road and away from families. Putting individuals in such conditions can and has lead to a myriad of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and even suicidal behavior. A recent study has found that mindfulness can help protect music touring professionals from the negative psychological effects of their high-stress work environment.

The study, conducted online via questionnaires in early 2020, was co-authored by Dr. Chayim Newman and Zack Borer, a licensed psychotherapist, and sought to explain the factors related to suicidality among music industry professionals. Though 1,154 self-identified individuals from the touring industry consented to participate in the study, only 550 completed the psychological instruments and data was gathered from those who answered every question.

Citing old and new research on the topic, the study “highlights the potential role trait mindfulness can play in better understanding suicidal behavior among touring professionals in the music industry.”

“The current study aimed to investigate the relationships between stress, depressive symptoms, trait mindfulness, and suicidality in this population,” the study says. “The goal was to identify potential interventions for individuals in high-stress environments.”

Musicians and crew members in the touring industry are at risk of health issues such as stress, depression and suicidality due to their arduous schedules, lengthy workdays and erratic sleep patterns. Developing mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) — known to be an effective tool in treating psychological problems such as anxiety, stress and depression — in such a high-stress profession “may be an effective way to improve mood and reduce suicidal behavior, and to help individuals ‘ride the waves of stress,’ as [Jon] Kabat-Zinn has eloquently described.” The study cites that therapies and techniques such as meditation, yoga, body scanning and breathing exercises “foster increased mindfulness in patients,” and that though they cannot stop individuals from experiencing stress, they “can help dampen the effect.”

The authors believe his study is a large sample that includes participants from around the world but admitted that there is a lack of representation from genres such as rap, country and Latin music. The participants were also predominantly male and most of them identified as white. The findings, he says, prove it is worth investigating further the relationship between MBIs, stress, depression and suicidality, especially among those in the touring industry.

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Psychologist Dr. Chayim Newman (left) and Zack Borer, a psychotherapist, have researched mental health among individuals working in the live music industry for years and co-founded Amber Health, a company that provides support for people who work on tours, including artists. (Photo courtesy Grandstand Media)

Newman and Borer have been working with companies such as Live Nation, Clair Global, festivals, artist tours and in corporate settings to provide mental health services. They published a paper last year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research and surveyed more than 1,100 touring professionals. Through the 239-question survey, Newman and Borer found that people working in the music industry have rates of depression, anxiety and suicide risk five to 10 higher than the normal population. Their findings were further established with the recent study that was published in the Psychology of Music, which publishes peer-reviewed papers aiming to understand any psychological aspect of music scientifically.

With years of work focusing on mental health in the live entertainment industry, Newman and Borer founded Amber Health, a company dedicated to the mental well-being of “humans who make the music happen” and provides solutions backed by scientific research. In 2022, the duo provided mental health support to more than 1,900 music industry professionals and hopes that number continues to grow.

“We’re at the forefront of not only talking about these issues but also doing the work on the ground,” Newman says in a statement. “Now, we’re training an army to be able to help us implement the solutions. We may be the co-founders, but it’s much more than just us.”

“There are simply not a lot of clinicians who understand the emotional nuances and experiences of working in this industry, which both Chayim and I have experienced,” Borer added. “Our experience has informed our program development, our understanding of clinical best practices and how to best communicate when we meet with potential clients. What’s been missing is that the industry has never had a place to go gain this type of support in a substantial way. We identified a massive gap in care, so we built an infrastructure to be able to support it.”