FEATURE: Inkheart: The Music-Themed Tattoo and Mental-Health





ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash

 The Music-Themed Tattoo and Mental-Health


THIS might seem like a strange…


thing to talk about – and the dearth of inspiration and relevance – but, despite the fact I will keep this short, there is plenty of relevance. I am always fascinated by people’s music tastes and what it means to them. We blithely and nonchalantly listen to music and it becomes part of our routine and daily lives. We all have our favourite songs and gravitate towards certain artists. I have spoken at-length about mental-health and how it is on the rise. One cannot ignore the sort of things we hear on the news and read about on social media. Most of my contacts are musicians and it is devastating hearing so many tales of crisis, depression and anxiety. Whether the music industry itself is causing this – or there are personal issues affecting the problem – I do not know. It is clear, in 2018, we need to look at the music business and ask whether artists are being placed under too much pressure. It is harder to find success and attention now – than it was years ago – and the sheer effort needed to maintain a career is staggering. With this sort of hardship and burden placed on every musician; one wonders what the toll is going to be. I realise it is getting into depressive territory but, as it is almost 2018, many artists are planning their diaries and wondering where they will be heading. They will have aims and ambitions and, with that, the hard work begins. The strain we are putting on artists is immense.


Even me, who does not have the same ambitions and goals as musicians, are putting themselves in harm’s way and creating a lot of anxieties – it is a problem of the modern climate and something we all need to be more aware of. So, then…what is the idea behind this feature? Many people I know are getting down and finding inspiration in music. Whether that is a lyric or a symbol; a favourite song or artist – something that simple can provide solace and direction. I am not suggesting for a minute something as minor and meagre as a tattoo can be the difference between life and death. What I am suggesting is a tattoo can help provide a sense of place and focus. I am seeing more and more people (not only musicians) taking that commitment and getting themselves inked. Whether it is a great lyric or name of their choice artist: carrying that with them provides security and pride. A lot of people have tattoos and, with everyone, there will be different reasons as to why they chose that particular design. Another reason I wanted to write about this is because I still hear a lot of people judging and condemning them with tattoos – calling them ugly, vulgar and unsightly.



The reason I got one, years ago, was to show my love and passion for something that has a significant purpose – it is nothing as lofty as a relationship or girl – and I do not regret my decision. In fact; I asked for a tattoo voucher for Christmas. I have found myself becoming pressured (maybe by my own work ethic) to be good and to achieve. No matter how popular and busy you are somewhere, there is a part of the brain that says you are not good enough. Maybe it is a natural human reaction: always wanting to be better and measuring ourselves against unrealistic ideals. The desire to keep working, pushing and pounding, naturally, causes its fair share of anxiety and fatigue. Kind words and praise are goods for the soul but that washes away and, before you know it, the tiredness and stress comes back. I felt a great way of reminding myself why I do what I do is a tattoo. I am seeing a lot of my peers proudly support tattoos on their social media pages. Many of them are going through some tough times and have headed to the tattoo studio to get some personal and musical etched onto their skin. I know tattoos have been sported by musicians for decades – an integral part of movements like Punk – but I am talking about something much more personal and significant.


I will not reveal the design I am choosing but the reason I wanted to a tattoo (studio) voucher was to show my dedication and affiliation to music. Those who turn their noses up at the inked do not understand the reason people do it. Everyone I know with a tattoo has a story behind it; it represents something pure and meaningful. Many of the people I see getting tattoos are choosing music designs and having words/lyrics inscribed; they are facing hard times and indecisions by reminding themselves why they are in the industry. There are, of course, musicians who get music-themed tattoos because they want to show their love of a particular artist/song – with no mental-health subtext behind it. What does strike me is the passion artists have and the fact music means that much to them. Perhaps that is no huge shock but getting a tattoo is such a huge commitment and decision. It is going to be with you forever – unless you get it removed – and, in many cases, is visible to everyone else. I have been focused on my work but losing focus of why I am pushing myself so hard. It seemed like a tattoo would be the best way of providing that permanent reminder and guide. So many others are taking that plunge and, in doing so, making a big difference in their lives.


I have heard of people suffer terrible depression and tempted to do something horrible. By getting a tattoo – with something deeply significant on their skin – it provides a warning sign and comfort; a reason to keep going and a constant reminder of who they are and why they matter. It can be quite scary getting a tattoo done (especially if this is your first time) and it is not something I would advise people do unless they have thought it through. It was a no-brainer decision for me but, when it comes to design, that took a bit of thought. I will post pictures when I have had it done but, as I look around for structure, vision and reasoning – something as simple as a tattoo can be very powerful and affecting. I can understand those who do not want a tattoo done themselves but have little time for those who claim they (tattoos) are ugly, pointless and offensive. I have seen so many artists (and others) get tattoos done and there is always a different reason behind the choice. To some, it is a great way of showing off their love of music; for others, it is a great way of taking something musical wherever they go. To some, mind you, there is something beyond the skin-deep. It can be, quite literally, the difference between life and death: a symbol/phrase that brings them back from a dark place and provides light. Nobody can judge those people and I am so pleased there are more and more people getting tattoos. Whether your reasoning spiritual or personal, mental-health-based or for sheer fun – tattoos are part of the musical fabric and can create a sense of identity and confidence. A tattoo is a reason I am making bigger plans for next year and, to so many other people, it is a permanent way of reminding them to… 



NEVER give up hope.