Jess Glynne has reportedly been banned from ever performing at the Isle of Wight festival by organiser John Giddings after cancelling her performance due to exhaustion and anxiety. Whilst of course her no show was a huge disappointment to her fans, I can’t help but think of how the treatment of Jess Glynne over this issue highlights the fact that even in 2019 mental health issues are not taken as seriously as they need to be.
Anxiety is a medical issue. It has a diagnosis. It can be treat and managed with medication, just like many other illnesses. Yet the difference between the treatment of those with anxiety and those with other medical conditions in stark. Take the time that Dave Grohl broke his leg before his Glastonbury headlining set and the Foo Fighters were forced to cancel their slot as an example. People were disappointed but the band was invited back to play again, Dave Grohl was sent thousands of well wishes and Florence and The Machine stepped up and took over the headlining slot. Sure the lineup was different to what the organisers had originally planned, but people understood that a medical issue meant someone could not do what they were paid to do.
Why is Jess Glynne’s anxiety any differently than that?
Year after year we have seen musicians exhausted and battling poor mental health but still being sent on tours, promotions, press days, interviews. Sometimes they fall into drug habits simply to survive. The pressure from their record label, from needing to be constantly being ready to perform, from press intrusions and from fan expectations takes it’s toll. We see people loose weight, smile less, become more introverted – we see their struggle, yet we still want the latest album, the photos of them in the newest clothes, them to be upbeat and smiling at all times. You can try counter argue that it’s their job and that they knew what they were getting into when they started a career in the spotlight, but no one can understand that level of pressure and expectation. We take a lot from these people – how can we be surprised when they tell us that they are struggling with that demand? How many more Britney Spears meltdowns will we have to watch or Amy Winehouse’s do we have to lose until people start taking mental health more seriously?
People hold celebrities up to a higher standard than they do ‘real’ people. We expect them to be perfect, glossy and polished at all times, but when faced with the reality that they are human, just like us, we don’t offer the support that we would another fellow human. We criticise, we ridicule, we bitch, we slap them with a lifetime ban.
The sad fact is that how Jess Glynne was treat by the Isle of Wight Festival has real world ramifications. Anxiety sufferers can already feel excluded and misunderstood by the rest of the world because their condition forces them to retreat. To have someone in the spotlight who vocalises their anxiety to show others that they aren’t alone then be shunned and banned for life because of the consequences of it does little to help or support anyone. If anything, it reinforces the idea that no one understands you, that you are alone in your experience.
The truth is that we could all do with being a little kinder, a little more understanding. You never know if one day your mental health might take a knock. I’d like to think that if that ever happens to me, the world I would live in would be supportive and understanding, not critical and judgemental. You wouldn’t shun someone for having cancer or a broken arm or a miscarriage – so why do it to someone with a mental health condition? Jess Glynne should not have received a lifetime ban – she should have received a lifetime of support.