British singer songwriter Benedict Cork has been championed by some of music’s biggest names. Asked to collaborate on a track by Adam Lambert and labelled ‘one to look out for’ by Sir Elton John, Benedict’s penchant for combing classic piano with heartfelt storytelling has certainly had people talking.
But despite his career successes, Benedict has struggled with his mental health and, like many others, his struggles have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on mental health is of increasing global concern. From bereavement to financial instability and social isolation, the landscape we now live in can feel like a frightening one.
Back in March, Benedict was a recipient of the PRS Members’ Fund and has since been using the grant money for counselling.
In a bid to keep the conversation surrounding mental health going, Benedict has shared his experiences.
Since its launch in March, the PRS Emergency Relief Fund, established by the PRS Members’ Fund in collaboration with PRS for Music and with support from PRS Foundation, has raised more than £2.1m and helped over 4,000 songwriters and composers.
'2020 has been such a uniquely strange year for all of us. Our work and passions are so intertwined with our sense of purpose and self-worth, that once so much of that was stripped away in March, it was inevitable that our collective mental health could suffer. I’ve had so many beautiful but challenging conversations with fellow creatives over the past few months about how this process has affected our daily well-being; and I can speak from personal experience that this year has mentally been one of the most challenging I’ve known. However, I’m also so grateful to have received some really vital support from fellow musicians, charities and from our industry.
'I had my first experience of counselling – cognitive behavioural therapy to be exact – in late 2018 over a course of ten sessions. In ten weeks, I learnt more about my brain functions and thought patterns than I had in twenty-four years of living in this weird, complicated world. Talking to a trusted professional, who had no bias or preconceived ideas about me or the people and situations that I chose to discuss, was a complete game-changer for me.
'Our work and passions are so intertwined with our sense of purpose and self-worth, that once so much of that was stripped away in March, it was inevitable that our collective mental health could suffer.'
'My own struggles were rooted in anxiety that manifested in quite overwhelming obsessive thoughts. I had been living between Stockholm and LA for a little while, away from my family, friends and some of the people I love the most in London. I was battling with these constant anxious thoughts that had been bubbling away since childhood, and I was also completely broke, which definitely doesn’t help. In a short space of time, I learnt so much about my daily mind patterns and routines, how to give myself the space to reflect and evaluate some of the choices I make, how to focus on the positives and forget about sweating the small stuff, and how to generally live a much happier day to day life in this stressful, all-encompassing line of work.
'But like a sports injury, a mental health issue can flare up at any time, and at the beginning of this year I’d already considered having some refresher sessions - sort of like an M.O.T. for my brain - before coronavirus was even a blip in our collective conversation. I wanted to remind myself of some of the learning and unlearning that I’d done, and to challenge some new bad habits that had set in over the past year. Once the full impact of coronavirus hit in March, and our means of generating income and financial security were so threatened, I decided to reach out to PRS Members’ Fund about their Emergency Relief Fund, which supports musicians in times of hardship, including mental health support. They wrote back instantly, and within a couple of weeks I had been awarded a grant - that was later also supported by the charity Help Musicians - to have weekly counselling sessions with a practitioner over Zoom, that I am still continuing now. It is brilliant.'
'I wrote about my first experience of CBT with my friend Jonny Wright in a song called Therapy that I released last year on my EP Letters To Strangers and through that, almost accidentally discovered that vulnerability and honesty is one of the most powerful connections I never knew I had at my disposal. A song about mental health struggles is never an easy sell - I’m sure most managers and A&Rs would agree. But the amount of really personal messages and emails I received after opening up about my own experience was overwhelming. Some of the beautiful stories I’ve heard and deep conversations I’ve had at shows over the past year have made me realise just how important is to speak about these things openly, both with the people I love the most, and with people I’ve never met.
'The conversation around mental health is improving each year. More and more artists and songwriters are choosing to write about their experiences, which in turn filters down to listeners and their circles, and encourages more young people to speak up and reach out for help in schools, at home, or at work. With that in mind, I chose to write a sort of Therapy part II, for my newest single Growing Pains, which I released on my birthday this August. It focuses on my ongoing relationship with mental health, and the confusions and complexities of growing up in this ever-changing world. With suicide still being the biggest killer amongst men under 45, I’m feeling really hopeful that these positive conversations will only continue to grow and become even more mainstream in future years.
'With suicide still being the biggest killer amongst men under 45, I’m feeling really hopeful that these positive conversations will only continue to grow and become even more mainstream in future years.'
'I’d also like to personally thank both PRS Members’ Fund and Help Musicians for offering this vital support that has been a real game-changer for me, and I’m sure potentially life-saving for other members of our community at this time. I feel immensely lucky to live and work in an industry that provides real support in this area where so many others could turn a blind eye. It has been so heartening to see that in such a weird, confusing time in our lives, the collective sense of comradery in our industry is so strong, and that we’re all willing to look out for one another, always.'
Benedict's forthcoming EP Piano Tapes Volume II is due to be released 30 September.