‘How do I help my friend?’
Musicians' Assistance Program
Volume 115, No. 7July, 2015
The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at email@example.com or (212) 397-4802.
How do I help my friend?” This is one of the most common questions I get from musicians calling my office. People are trying to get help for their friends with a variety of issues – financial problems, housing, addiction issues, mental health, elderly care – the list goes on. It’s endearing to hear just how much you all care about your fellow musicians! Helping others is good for the soul and the community. But when do you step in for a friend? In this month’s article we’ll discuss how to help.
“My friend can’t pay her bills – her lights are about to get shut off and she’s behind in rent.” One of the most common calls we get is for help with a financial situation. If you’re calling on behalf of a friend, we can give you basic information about how to qualify for the union’s financial aid and how to apply, but after that your friend has to contact us directly. The only exception is if your friend is very ill and has a family member who is legally in charge of his or her finances. Not only is financial information confidential but we can simply give out more help if we can assess someone in person.
“I have an old friend who just can’t quit drinking and he’s losing a lot of gigs.” It’s very common for us to hear from the concerned loved ones of a musician who has problems with addiction. It can be very stressful to watch someone you care about get sick and go through losses in their career because of it. In these cases, we’re happy to provide support to the friends and family members of members with addiction issues. We can share treatment ideas, refer you to the support group Al-Anon and teach you strategies to set emotional boundaries to protect yourself. We can also provide a friendly ear. All of this will help you, the friend of the addict. But it’s not unusual for the addict himself or herself to have difficulty in asking for help and initiating a call. If this is the case, we will work with you to develop a plan. For example, you can call us with your friend on the phone at the same time, or try to set up an in-person meeting with you, your friend and others. But ultimately, members with addiction will get the most help if they call us directly so that they can get a personalized assessment and get connected to the right treatment or support.
“My older buddy was hospitalized for falling again and the hospital wants to refer him to a nursing home. Can you help him find a good place?” It can be traumatic for older adults to need 24-hour care and not be able to live alone anymore. Sometimes family and friends are able to get involved and help get their loved one support early – but often they don’t know things have gotten so bad until it’s a crisis. We can provide support and case management to families and friends of elderly members who need supportive housing or nursing care. We can even do a home visit to assess for needed services. Musicians who are members of Local 802 qualify for the Lillian Booth Actors Home, which has both assisted living and extended care for professional performing artists. Ideally members could get a tour and apply before it’s an emergency, as there is usually a waiting list. Sometimes though, the member is already hospitalized, so we can provide support and case management to help the family get mobilized and organized around the transition to get their loved one into a care facility that is right for him or her.
“My son is depressed and unemployed. Can you help?” Local 802 members and their families have access to free, confidential counseling with licensed social workers here at the Musicians’ Assistance Program. One can feel helpless when a family member or a friend is depressed or dealing with a mental health issue. And sometimes stress reactions can affect how we function, which then worsens the emotional issue. If you know of a Local 802 member who is suffering and could use our help, feel free to pass along our contact information below. If you are worried about a friend or family member, we’re also here to help counsel you.
The Musicians’ Assistance Program is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We can be reached at (212) 397-4802.