Radio and Mental Health

When an outsider thinks about working in radio, mental health is probably the last thing to come to mind. I mean, being on-air is FUN, right? We must be having a blast talking about our favorite songs, we get to play great music, and have the opportunity to chat with everyone about the latest pop culture news. How could that be stressful? It must be a dream job! Those of us who have been in the industry know that’s far from the truth. Sure, it’s fun! Meeting artists, being on stage to introduce bands, hanging out with listeners, and yes, talking about our fave songs and pop culture news. Of course that’s a blast. But that’s not all there is to it.

Loads of listeners assume our job begins the second we crack the mic and ends right after our last break. We work at LEAST 8 hour shifts, even if our on-air shift is 4 hours. First of all, the prep. EVERY show needs to be prepped. Some PD’s are asking for an exact script to be written and executed as is written, on air (don’t do that). More often it’s a conversation with your co-host, or solo, pertaining to what’s happening now, how do we relay this information factually but also in a fun way, and what do we concentrate on. Oh, and do it in a way that won’t get us “canceled.” Now, we have to create an outline, calculate how much time to spend on each topic, and make sure it’s approved. Many managers still want to see the outline to be approved.

Next, we have air-checks. These are necessary to, at least, check in with the talent. Yes, they can be nerve wracking, but it’s imperative to not take the comments personally. We can all be better. Even the Ryan Seacrests of the world can be better. No one is a perfect on-air talent. Everyone has something to work on. So go into the meeting with an open mind and positive attitude.

We also have production. In every company I’ve worked for, every talent had to do production, whether it merely dropping a voice on something, or writing a script and producing it. Whatever situation you are in, it’s part of the job.

Lastly, (not finally because these four scenarios are just a tip of the iceberg in what we deal with in radio), we have to interact with the “Karens” of radio. The ones who will call you out on something, that may have been minor, you incorrectly stated on-air. They’ll call in or even post it on your Facebook page. The Keyboard Warriors are in full force these days and it’s up to you to understand this is not a fight you want to fight. This is something you brush off your shoulders. They can be critical and rude. This is not the battle you want to pick…for your own sanity and for the sake of your job.

There are MANY things that can stress us out in radio. It’s important for management to check in with their staff. I don’t mean during air-checks…I mean a real conversation. Get to really KNOW your staff. Ask how their weekend was, ask how they are REALLY doing. Maybe monthly lunches where you take them out of the office to get them a little more comfortable could be in order. The stresses of radio AND life can take a toll on one’s personality, and that will relate on air. If you want a happy, hard working staff, you need to break the wall a bit and understand who they are individually.

As a staff member, you need to have self-awareness and know when something is bothering you. Try yoga, meditating, have some alone time every day to check in with yourself. How are you doing? What could help the chaos in your head from the day? What do you need?

Mental health in radio is crucial to have a contented staff. If you want your product to sound great, you need to make sure they are feeling great.

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