Safety In The Scene: It's On Us

I will start off by saying how truly disappointed I am that I have to sit down and write this piece. I have a weird job in the music industry—a job that requires me to be a totally neutral, unbiased third party. A job that requires me to create a safe and welcoming space for music professionals of all types and fans alike. A job that not a lot of other people (or anyone really) also get to do. These reasons (and countless others) make my job in the music industry the absolute best…but some days, like today, it is not so fun.

As an unbiased and neutral third party, I am both fortunate and unfortunate enough to be required to keep my opinion on most controversial issues in our community to myself—my job is to support individuals who are bogged down by the stressors of working in music, and who am I to judge anyone for that? Additionally, we as a community, have adopted a very witch-hunt-esque mentality about social justice in the last year, one that I absolutely do not agree with for a number of reasons, which I will touch on later. However, when there is indisputable, very clear, caught-red-handed-no-doubt-about-it evidence in certain allegations, I feel comfortable stating my opinion on an issue. With that, I say very firmly that Punk Talks does not support Kevin Lyman’s decision to keep Front Porch Step on Warped Tour.

Because the allegations against Jake McElfresh regarding his sexual involvement with minors are currently just that—allegations—please know that I do not take speaking out about this lightly. Those who know me personally will surely tell you that I am never one to bite my tongue regarding issues of injustice, and maintaining a position of neutrality and professionalism in these matters has been incredibly trying for me, as it would be for anyone with an educational background in and passion for social change. I choose my battles in the music industry very carefully, and this fight is one I feel is not only worth choosing, I feel is absolutely necessary for me to take part in as a human being, as a woman, and as a social worker. Because of the very evident proof against Jake McElfresh, I am truly and deeply disappointed in the actions of Kevin Lyman and Warped Tour. I will admit that one of the best parts of my job is that I get to live in completely ignorant bliss about the business side of music—I absolutely love not knowing how money or contractual obligations or per diems or labels even function—but I think that after Kevin had voiced his commitment to safety and justice and clearly stated in this tweet that Front Porch Step would NOT be on Warped Tour, the “surprise” addition to Nashville’s Warped Tour is absolutely deplorable. Even if we ARE looking at this situation from an “innocent until proven guilty” perspective, as Lyman so sheepishly put it earlier today, even in a BEST CASE SCENARIO, meaning that he DIDN’T engage in sexual activity (digital or otherwise) with underage girls (he did), at BEST, he is undeniably a very emotionally abusive individual who has manipulated many, many women of all ages (as documented by lots of screenshots anywhere on the internet). What kind of message are we sending to young women who are interested in music? In allowing Front Porch Step back on the Warped lineup, we are saying “oh, it’s fine.” Women are, yet again, being systematically oppressed by the scene—this time, being told “your pain, your safety…it means nothing to me. Be quiet.” What kind of environment are we creating, or allowing the creation of, when industry monsters like Kevin Lyman ignore the cries of THOUSANDS, including current Warped Tour artists? To me, it seems that 2015 has been a constant onslaught of sexual abuse allegation after allegation. This has to stop. We, as a community, can no longer tolerate this behavior.

Now, that being said, there is a completely separate, but very much important side of this issue that I urge you to take very seriously. Because of the nature of the present-day music industry (aka existing solely on the internet), we have a unique opportunity to voice our concerns and expand our education. As a community, we are very socially-minded—we demand equality, justice, and social progression. That is a totally wonderful thing, and one of my favorite parts of our scene! However, sometimes, we can become completely blinded by our passion regarding a situation. With the onslaught of sexual abuse allegations in 2015, I have also witnessed an onslaught of “Tumblr Justice.” Tumblr (and all other forms of social media) can be a really wonderful place to be yourself—I rarely give my personal Tumblr to even my closest friends because it just seems so, well, personal. The thing about Tumblr, though, is that like all other forms of social media, news travels quickly. When we become blind to our frustration or anger over a situation, sometimes we can act rashly. As disgusted and sickened and disheartened as I am by the constant flow of allegations regarding abuse in our community, I am sometimes more disheartened by the reactions to it. The witch-hunt mentality that has been adopted within our community is not only unproductive, it is dangerous.

In the height of one of these controversies earlier this year, an individual facing allegations (the nature of which I will not divulge, of course) came to me. As I have said (and will always say), my job is not to judge you. My job is to help you manage the stress that comes with working in the music industry. This individual could not adequately handle the stress that resulted from the actions of the community following the allegations—this individual had people calling their (non-music related) employers. People were driving past this person’s house. Members of OUR scene were telling this person to COMMIT SUICIDE. The allegations against this particular individual were nowhere NEAR as serious or as harmful as those against Front Porch Step, and were certainly not as evident. I understand the desire to take action and keep our scene safe—but how can we do that if we are literally threatening violence or demanding self-harm from people? As a mental health organization, I am telling you that THIS HAS TO STOP. Yes, the alleged actions of these individuals (and the actual actions of FPS, as clearly documented online) are absolutely incorrigible, but to me, as an advocate and educator for mental health and well-being, telling someone to kill themselves is no better. These people may be abusive, they may be disgusting, they may be detrimental to our scene—but they are humans. What if one of these individuals actually did commit suicide? How would that be helpful? How is virtually burning someone at the stake an appropriate or effective method for change? How is threatening them going to make our community safer?

I am certainly not condoning the actions of these people and I am ABSOLUTELY not telling you to be silent—I am imploring you to be productive. Be educated. Be helpful. Go forth in your crusade for a safer scene with compassion. Be intentional in your actions and be an example for the Yung Punx to come. We can create a change in our community by not tolerating this behavior; by boycotting Warped Tour, by demanding (peacefully) for respect from bands and industry folks, by saying firmly but respectfully “we’ve had enough.” Remember, those who create the most change do not accomplish it with hatred or violence. They inspire others with their loving, but unwavering demand for equality, justice, and safety.

This is on us, now. I am so sorry for those of you who no longer feel safe at Warped Tour or in this community. If you are having difficulty managing your emotions, whether it be sadness, anger, or anything else, please get in touch. A safe space exists within Punk Talks for all who need it.

With great love,


Not A Sad Girl: My Story And Why Sad Culture Is Dangerous

Hello, my sweet and wonderful followers. Today, I am gonna get very real with you, because there are a lot of things that have really been upsetting and frustrating to me recently on the internet. It’s time for us to talk about those things.

To start off, I am going to get a little personal, because in my opinion, empathy is the most important quality someone working in a helping profession can possess. Around this time 5 years ago, I began having some serious mental health problems of my own. I had struggled with depression throughout my adolescence, as a lot of teenagers do, but after a few months and a cocktail of different anti-depressants and anxiety medications, the situation worsened. One October evening, I suffered from a nervous breakdown that resulted in my losing touch with reality. I will not go into detail, but I spent a brief stint in a psychiatric facility after my break from reality resulted in a suicide attempt. Clearly, because I am writing this, I survived, albeit with a laundry list of diagnoses. It took some hard work, but after a lot of therapy, and a lot less time than you would think, I was able to live independently and completely free of medication. This was, of course, not the end of all of my mental health struggles and certainly not the last time mental illness would touch my life, be it my illnesses or the illness of others.

I am going to tell you something that is not a secret: mental illness is not glamorous. It is not hauntingly beautiful. I did not meet a beautiful boy in a psychiatric hospital that understood my flaws and kissed away my tears. Depression and mental illness turn totally capable and independent people into unrecognizable shells. Do you think it was beautiful when my roommate had to hold my hand as I lay unconscious after swallowing a bottle of Xanax? Do you think the “aesthetic” of having to cut the drawstrings out of your sweatpants so you won’t harm yourself is desirable? Do you think that having to sheepishly ask your father if he still loves you now that you lost your mind is noble? Do you think that having to shave your legs in the presence of medical staff is a fun adventure? I will tell you from my own experience that it absolutely is none of those things. I was an intelligent, hard-working, determined 19 year old college student with my entire life ahead of me and was incredibly close to losing it all because I was too stubborn to admit that I needed help. Mental health is something that I am fiercely passionate about for so many reasons, but the reason that I began this service is because I believe that our community can benefit from the help of someone who understands all sides of it. Because of my experiences, I have a heart for helping others suffering with their own mental health, and I was drawn to this community because, like many of you, I found fantastic music and individuals that helped me feel less alone.

It was perfect timing when Dan Campbell sang that he wasn’t sad anymore through my speakers and his sentiment of feeling trapped rather than depressed. But as quickly as our community resonated with this victory over our negativity, the beautifully somber Lana del Rey flooded our speakers with being a “sad girl.” For some reason, young people everywhere began worshipping her flower crowns and her crooning over men that made her hate herself. I have a big problem with the idea of being a “sad girl/boy” or the trivialization of mental illness in any capacity. I should not be the one to tell you that self-loathing will not make you appear beautiful to other people. Being a manic pixie dream girl does not make you more interesting. I can tell you from personal experience that suffering through a life-threatening mental illness did not (and does not) make someone appear enigmatic or beautiful or courageous. Perpetuating this idea that sadness drives creativity or that suffering turns you into some mysterious and beautiful creature is not okay. Perpetuating this idea is DANGEROUS. If we continue to act like mental illness is glamorous or trendy, we are going to create an even more toxic environment than the one that currently exists.

To quote a very wonderful band, Straylight Run, “a laundry list of problems doesn’t make you interesting and never getting help doesn’t make you brave.” My very wonderful friend and incredibly talented musician, Cam Boucher, spoke out about this issue today on Alternative Press. This is an important issue. We are not only neglecting our own care by preaching about the glamour of depression, but we are setting a precedent for Yung Punx to think that this behavior is acceptable. It isn’t acceptable. It is dangerous. We have an opportunity to change this environment, so let’s seize that opportunity. You don’t have to be sad.

For a safe place to have unbiased discussion, vent, or seek mental health assistance, email me at punktalks(at)gmail(dot)com. You are not alone.

Love always,


I Stopped Wishing I Was Dead: Life After Losing Your Mind

Hello, friends! Since my post on sad culture and why it sucks, I have seen an outpouring of love and support from all of you and it has been truly humbling. I wanted to discuss this issue a bit further and provide some resources to those who may find themselves in a similar situation.

There aren’t many things worse than suffering through a nervous breakdown, but having to resume your life afterwards is absolutely one of them. I faced the sobering realization that the world did not stop turning for the two weeks I was involuntarily committed and that I was expected to pick back up where I had left off when I lost touch with reality. I was recently approached at a Punk Talks event by an individual who found themselves adjusting to real life after hospitalization and looking for advice, which inspired me to compile this brief how-to.

The first and most absolutely crucial part of recovery is to surround yourself with supportive, encouraging, and positive people. Even Forbes agrees that having a network of driven, like-minded, and caring individuals leads to success in whatever venture you choose. If you want to remain emotionally-stable and self-caring, surround yourself with others who are.

The second step is to seek treatment with a qualified mental health professional. There are a lot of different types of professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and my favorite, clinical social workers :) The important thing to look for here is the credentials–if their title does not include the word “clinical” or “licensed” or indicate at least a Master’s degree, they probably are not legit. For more info on the differences between mental health professionals, check out this handy guide! I do, of course, recommend seeing a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), because social workers not only have extensive knowledge of mental health, they are literally trained how to interact with people in a compassionate and supportive way. While other disciplines practice interaction as well, the main focus of social work is to relate to you in an empathetic way. I may be a bit biased, but that’s just my suggestion. This brings us to the crucial question: how do I find the right therapist for me? WELL, there is this absolutely fantastic website called that helps you locate therapists in your area and gives you a little background info on their specialties. All you do is go here, type in your zip code, and voila! A menu of therapists, just for you. Here’s a sneak peek:


How dope is that? Doing your research is essential to finding the right fit for you and will make an actual world of difference.

But Sheridan, you say, I am a broke-ass college student/touring musician/general human being. WHAT DO I DO?! Fear not, my fellow poorsies, I am with you. I, too, am a broke-ass general human being, and I do feel your pain. Luckily, you have some options. If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen what is probably the best thing on the internet, 81 Resources When You Cannot Afford Therapy. This article is HUGELY helpful in helping you practice self-care while pinching pennies. There are some fantastic apps, resources to online forums, and links to support groups for various conditions. Please read and PLEASE utilize! I downloaded the breathing exercise one and it is magical. You can also read this short booklet! Only 10 pages and very informative. Did I mention it is free?!

Oh, so you are broke, but you still want to talk to a human being? I feel you. Human interaction is insanely important for some people (like me) to avoid self-isolating and sinking further into their slump. For you, my friends, I would suggest doing research about your area. Are you a college student? Most colleges offer free or very low-cost mental health services from qualified professionals. Not a college student? That’s cool, check out some local support groups. See if there are peer-assist centers in your area and chat with people who, like you, have survived mental illness. Find out if there are free or low-cost services in your area for individuals who are uninsured or have a low-income. Lots of times, therapists will provide you with a sliding scale to make their services affordable. Don’t know where to start looking? Worry not. E-mail me. I will use my magical social work skills to do the research for you!

Lastly, I encourage you to do what I encourage every human to do: identify at least one non-substance or person related stress reliever. Figure out what calms you down or makes you feel glad to be alive. For me, that is taking a bath or riding my bike down a country road and listening to a really great album. Identify that one thing and do it for 30 minutes at least once a week. It will remind you what you love about your life. It will rejuvenate you.

Remember: you are never ever ever ever EVER alone. There are people who love you. There are people who care about you (I am one of those people). Even on your bluest of days, remember the yellows. Focus on the future yellow days and remember that even someone like me can pull themselves out of the deepest holes, so you certainly can. I am here for you. You do not have to be sad.

Love always,