Seven years ago, China Drewitt had a record deal with **** *** Records. She believes that she was sexually exploited by her producer, and that this was the start of her mental health battle.
She isn’t alone. Approximately one in four people in the UK suffer from mental health issues, and with the number of reported self-harm and suicide incidents increasing, coupled with less than one in eight sufferers currently receiving treatment, China believes that the way we treat mainstream mental health needs to change. I get her thoughts, over an espresso.
CD: The very first day that I worked with ***** (who would later be contracted to produce my whole record), he felt me up in front of my manager. Of course, this was on his bed, because his studio was in his bedroom. It was ‘a bit of fun’ according to *****. As our recording sessions progressed, ***** would continue to talk in explicit innuendo, touch me inappropriately, and make me feel trapped, like I was screaming inside. When it became clear I would not cooperate, he would behave unpredictably, aggressively. I was frightened to be alone with him. Once, I had to stay at his house overnight as we worked late (as is often the way in this industry). I was three hours away from home, by myself. I brought my own sleeping things so I could sleep on the floor, but ***** insisted that I have the bed and that he slept on the floor.
What that actually meant was: He’d wait for the lights to go off before crawling into the bed with me, try and pull my knickers down, touch my breasts and bite my neck. I remember crying into my pillow and screaming for him to stop.
The whole experience lasted around a year, and included a lot of manipulation & gas-lighting by ***** in pursuit of my finished album. That was all that mattered. Not only did I lose my album when nobody took my story seriously, but I lost my sense of self-worth. I knew something was very wrong, but I hadn’t the self-confidence or life experience to understand what it was or how to communicate it effectively. My twenty-eight-year-old self would have stood up & left, back then I assumed that it must be part of what’s required of me in the industry.
OB: Why is the exploitation of young women and girls so rife in the entertainment business?
CD: When somebody is given the platform to express themselves and be idolised, holding on to this gift becomes the priority, at any cost, because the idea of going back to a world without the ability to do so is like giving up the power to speak. That fear, the fear of losing your record deal, fear of losing your dream job, is exploited daily by executives in the entertainment industry, because they know that in many cases, young girls will stay silent in exchange for being able to keep their vocation.
If they decide to talk, then in a subtle and clever way, their bosses, investors and stakeholders will probably do everything within their power to take away their voice, and everything they’ve ever worked for.
OB: Why did you start Girl Therapy?
CD: I guess I wanted to help equip girls with the emotional resilience to face the social pressures that make them feel inadequate. You can’t hide from it. It’s everywhere. The only answer is to go inside and do the work there, to separate our roles from our identity. As we experience less privacy than ever before in our careers, relationships and ‘life-affirming’ choices, we (more than ever) feel the need to be perfect. To compete. To be girlfriend material, the best job candidate, gym goer, and also find time to travel the world and post it all on Instagram. I want to empower young women to love themselves, regardless of how they think they’re perceived by others.
OB: How do you think technology has affected our mental health?
CD: Social Media and the use of smartphones have succeeded all too well in their disruptive mission, reshaping societies in ways that they are still struggling to understand. All the anxiety triggers are now firmly in your pocket, on a screen and in your ears, wherever you go.
OB: Has social media made people more anxious and depressed?
CD: Yes, Definitely. My Dad’s response was to ask me why I’m on all of these platforms if they’re making me anxious. He doesn’t realise that this is how people communicate in 2019. Social media can be used for good, it’s just that for every positive piece of content, there is a tonne of distorted, manipulated lifestyle garbage.
OB: Why should people sign up to Girl Therapy?
CD: Girl Therapy is a daily self-love pep talk delivered to your phone via WhatsApp. You receive it every weekday at 8am & 10pm. I created this service to help women feel instantly better, whatever they’re going through. It’s for the women who feel like they’re ok, but also feel that life could be a bit less of a struggle sometimes. It helps women decode their emotions and act upon them from a steady place of self-awareness, instead of not knowing why they feel the way they feel. There is no magic pill, you just have to do a little work everyday.
If Girl Therapy seems like it might be your bag, click here to find out more.