We are a collective of metalheads from a range of backgrounds including mental health professionals and those with lived experience of mental health struggles. Heavy Metal Therapy is a community project that promotes mental health messages in the metal community and offers peer led support resources like recovery stories and shared playlists. We sell shirts, but it is not for mental health awareness (or at least not just for that), we don’t make any money from it either!
In the heavy metal world merch is super important. It is a sign of commitment to a band, a way to show support, and a way to signal to other metalheads that you are ‘one of us’ because you wear the ‘uniform’. In fact, the wearing of patches and shirts has even been documented by metal scholars as a core part of metal identity. So, we sell shirts because people in the community wanted us to, to show support and belonging to something, and maybe in the hope that someone else might see it and check us out – you could argue that this is ‘awareness’. The ‘charity T-shirt’ to raise awareness and/or money is definitely a thing, along with the usual more commercial aims of merch, but that isn’t our thing.
This may sound odd and even a little controversial, but we are not fans of the term ‘awareness’. We don’t think it goes far enough because it doesn’t really mean actually doing anything. Does being aware of something have any real value? Does it bring about change or rally action? We are aware of lots of things, like that we drink too much coffee but then still do, that we shouldn’t waste days off binging Netflix but still do. Just because you have awareness of something (or maybe you didn’t and it has recently been brought to your attention) that doesn’t then always lead to a change in actions.
Awareness means well. It has good intentions, but it sometimes is just that. You could argue that as a society we are more aware of mental health than ever before, remember ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ and you need to talk about stuff. But what happens when the services that might support that are not available, where does the awareness go? If we are not careful you end up in a ‘cycle’ of awareness and signposting, being passed from one thing to another, buying loads of shirts probably. So, if you want to rep us that is cool, and tell your mates too, but please back us for what we do*, and what we hopefully support other people to do, it is not about awareness or raising money.
*if you are wondering what we do – provide shared resources, contribute to research, offer workshops/talks, facilitate peer support, offer spaces to share stories and lived experiences, community development. Everyone who helps with HMT does so for free, and for the love of heavy metal.
Snell, D., & Hodgetts, D. (2007). Heavy Metal, identity, and the social negotiation of a community of practice. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 17(6), 430–445.
Hochbaum, G. M. (1958) Public participation in medical screening programs: a socio-psychological study. Public Health Service Publication No. 572, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1958.