Dr. Faraaz Merchant - Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, Suicide, and Addiction in the Entertainment and Music Business

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In this episode I talk to one of my best friends, Psychiatrist Dr. Faraaz Merchant. We discuss the topics of anxiety, depression, suicide, and addition in the entertainment and music business. These are topics that are very near and dear to my heart, and need to be discussed more. It’s a shame that these issues are accompanied with embarrassment and shame, which makes us want to hide these issues. However, we need to understand that these issues are normal, and that most people are dealing with struggles of mental health. We need to support each other, and start having more open conversations to prevent the worst possible outcomes to where our friends and loved ones might get hurt. Let’s stop hiding and shaming mental health issues with anxiety, depression, suicide, and addiction, and let’s start supporting each other.


In my conversation with Dr. Faraaz Merchant, we talk about symptoms, how to start the conversation of these issues, and how to start a road to recovery and a healthier mind. I first met Dr. Merchant during my time at University of Central Florida, where we both were pursuing the path of Medical School. We met on a Volunteer UCF retreat, where we instantly bonded, and I shared some of the crazy ideas with him for Volunteer UCF that lead me to becoming a Concert Promoter instead of going to medical school. It has been incredibly inspiring to see Dr. Merchant pursue his dream to become a doctor and going through medical school, and all the different residencies. He’s traveled to many different states to learn and further his education in the field of Psychiatry, overcoming many battles himself.

I hope this conversation is one that helps you or someone you love, and inspires more open and honest conversations with the daily struggles of life.

Highlights from this episode
(5:28): Introductory story
(7:30): Symptoms and causes of anxiety attacks
(11:45): Depression, addiction and suicide
(12:42): Symptoms of depression
(14:32): Initial notes on addiction
(16:41): Fame and mental issues
(23:37): Coping mechanisms besides artistic expression
(26:56): Manager’s role in mental health
(31:21): Prevention when starting in the music industry
(34:30): Sleep, sleep schedule and influences
(51:26): Limits and boundaries with substances
(53:42): Facebook questions
(54:21): Healthy touring
(56:07): Mindfulness practices
(1:04:55): Support in people
(1:10:01): Dealing with anxiety on the road
(1:15:05): Natural helpers
(1:16:25): Grounding exercises for panic attacks
(1:22:15): Marijuana
(1:30:05): Symptoms and how to help others with depression
(1:42:15): Suicide
(1:46:50): Suicide hotlines
(1:52:00): Warning signs in introverts
(1:58:35): How to help
(2:01:53): Steps to a solution
(2:05:00): Best ways to check in
(2:07:34): Addressing issues while touring
(2:09:32): Further topics to cover
(2:10:43): Common misconceptions


Quotes from Dr. Faraz Merchant
“Depression is not its own island”
“There’s so much overlap between anxiety, depression, addiction, suicidality, they all flow into each other”
“Most of the time [sublimation] is a really healthy exercise for a lot of people but for many people in the entertainment industry who have sort of lazed their pain and suffering and turned it into art, they may not have had the opportunity to develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with pain.”
“You bear your soul and hope people will like what you put out, but often times that type of pressure exacerbates all of [the artist’s] existing issues”
“[a manager]…should get an assessment of where are you mentally, what are you dealing with, what kind of issues may be coming up later on that I should be aware of…let’s say you’re having a bad night, a bad week, a bad month what are we going to do, what kind of contingency plan are we going to have in order to make sure that you’re doing ok mentally”
“you are who you hang out with…if you’re a manager that doesn't have his or her own stuff together…I think you’re in for a rough ride”
“if I was dealing with somebody in my office who was having that kind of [hectic] schedule, the first thing I would tell them is your number one defense against almost all the stress you're about to undergo is your sleep.”
“sometimes, getting sleep can be almost as powerful as me putting you on some sort of antidepressant medication…"
“[to improve sleep] I would eat regular meals…you have no idea how much the time you eat affects your circadian rhythm, your ability to sleep at night.”
“for people coming to the industry: protect yourself, eat well, spend time with your loved ones…they’ll keep you grounded and please try to limit the amount of alcohol you have to drink."
“Some people don’t have the coping mechanisms and so [substances] become their coping mechanism…you have to have a very honest conversation with yourself about is this something that I can do truly recreationally? or is it something that is going to just grow and take over y life over time?”
“how you behave on the road has everything to do with how you behave when you're not on the road”
“the purpose of…doing all these things it helps teach you manage your thoughts in such a way, so you don’t get carried away.”
“with prolonged anxiety, inevitably…depression shows up…managing anxiety is probably, one of the best defenses against depression."
“you would not believe how much people who care for a loved one whose through depression and anxiety get overlooked…I think they themselves have a level of stress that goes unacknowledged…[people] don’t realize that caregiver fatigue is a real thing.”
“direct confrontation very rarely helps in this situations [depression]; being understanding, sympathetic, saying things like Hey I noticed that you're not really into watching..whatever TV show they’re into…I just want to check in with you, just want to make sure I’m listening and paying attention to what’s going on with you.”
“I really think that feeling suicidal is more common than people think, and it is ok to feel suicidal, I don’t think that people hear that enough but I think it is ok to feel suicidal, It’s ok to want to harm yourself, it’s ok to wish you were dead because why do we have those feelings? The mind is design to solve problems, we are problem solving beings and when a problem becomes so complicated and so difficult that we can't find a normal solution, our amazing brains will jump to something like suicide because it is neat and clean in our minds…it solves all the problems. What’s not normal, what’s not ok is when you start to have intention, plans…”
“Most people figure this out [how to address a situation] on their own…all you have to do is put your mind into it and figure out ways to check on people… Not overreacting, not being confrontational, being empathetic and kind and asking permission; those are all great ways to do it.”

Links to people, places, and things mentioned
Hurricane Irma Donations
The Dark Knight
Kid Cudi
Kanye West
Best Sleep Apps
Circadian Rhythm
Blue Light
Twilight App
Tim Ferris
Tony Robbins
Kevin Lyman
Grounding Exercises
Caregiver Burnout
Suicide Prevention

Dr. Faraz Merchant’s definition of making it:
If you make it and you're still intact and healthy in the end, that’s making it.

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Episode Credits
Host: Chris Goyzueta
Producer: Jason Trosclair
Executive Producer: ONElive Creative Agency  
Music: Emily Kopp
Show Notes: Manuel Pachamoro