Blog: Asher Knight

The Bradford singer-songwriter on his school tours that mix music with a powerful message on mental health

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My school tours consist of two elements – a performance and a positive and instructive talk to students. Usually I perform a couple of covers and my own original music. I find it breaks down the barrier between myself and the students.

I introduce myself because most of the students don’t know who I am and have really no idea why I am at their school singing songs or chatting with them, so I tell them a bit about myself. I usually mention that I have opened up on tour for big artists like The Vamps, Boyzone and others, which sparks up interest as it’s not every day a singer who last night performed in front of 10,000 people comes to your school.

I usually feel like the barrier has gone with the students, so I talk about bullying and mental health through being honest about my struggles with it. For years I was bullied, which caused longer-term mental health problems. I try explaining that even though I don’t get beaten up anymore or have people call me names as often it doesn’t mean I don’t feel it anymore.

I try to make it all as informal as possible. Music is my way to do that. I am a singer-songwriter, so a lot of my songs talk about the issues I have gone through, but the amazing thing about music is it’s something everyone can relate to.

The main area I care about is them knowing what to do, so I emphasise seeking help from parents, a guardian or a teacher, as mental health and bullying isn’t a battle they should fight alone.

I show them that, yes, it’s difficult but keeping strong by seeking help can change their life for the better

When I have left the schools I usually get messages on my social media about how the students have been suffering from anxiety, bulimia and other mental health issues but due to my talk they have gone and spoken with a teacher or someone who can help them, which is amazing as I feel like I have helped take away a bit of the stereotype about mental health. I show them that, yes, it’s difficult and it can feel like their lives are falling apart but keeping strong by seeking help can change their life for the better. They can achieve anything in life as long as they follow their dreams. Of course, not every student suffers from mental health issues and I might be in a room with 200 students and only one relates, but knowing I could affect their life matters more than anything to me.

All the way up to lockdown I was visiting schools. I see so many students every day who need a reminder of how amazing they are, who need someone who was in their situation to give them hope and encourage them to speak with someone. I worry looking at social media that it gets too much for some. I love social media and it’s a great way to talk to friends online during lockdown, but some use it negatively. People need that reminder that they are amazing and need to understand they can ask for help.

Mental health is so complex. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There has been so much stigma over mental health issues but in the last couple of years I have really seen that diminish in society. When you have major celebrities and people like the royal family talking about it, you feel as if it’s less of a problem, that it’s OK to ask for help. But I think we have a long way to go. The best way to maintain good mental health is to do things that you love. For me music is a way of me dealing with it – it’s a way to express myself – but for someone else it might be sports or something else they love. My main point though is if you struggle talking to someone that can help.

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