SIMS Foundation provides mental health and addiction recovery to Austin music professionals

John Melendez

When Delaney Gibson, one half of the Austin-based electro pop duo SIGNY, entered into a major depressive episode she could not get out of, she said she felt scared. Gibson picked up the phone and decided to call the SIMS foundation, a decision she says saved her life.

The SIMS Foundation is an Austin-based nonprofit that provides Austin music industry professionals and their family members with addiction treatment, counseling and mental health services. It was first established in 1995 after the suicide of Austin musician Sims Ellison.

Formed in 2015, Gibson and the other half of SIGNY, Amy Arani, have both used SIMS’s services to treat mental health issues after moving to Austin. When Gibson called SIMS for help with depression, she said she was immediately placed in multiple therapy programs and eventually learned she has bipolar disorder.

“My entire life changed,” Gibson said. “I’m a different person. I’m kind of the person I’ve supposed to have been but just wasn’t able to (be), because I have a disorder. For the first time I’m in a very healthy, wonderful relationship. I don’t have any desire to have toxic people in my life. I’m not a workaholic. It totally changed my life.”

Gibson recommended SIMS to her partner, Amy Arani, who has PTSD. Arani initially thought her trauma was over, but when she began to have difficulties again, she reached out to SIMS.

“Sometimes it’ll be almost like having a panic attack and any other sensory input that comes in is almost like throwing a match on kindle,” Arani said. “Since I’ve been seeing the therapist from SIMS, I’ve had so much less reactivity and every session it just keeps getting better. I really don’t know how I’d be managing without it.”

The SIMS Foundation provides help to Austin music professionals on a sliding scale. Arani and Gibson both received financial support from SIMS to pay for their therapies.

The duo plans on releasing a single about being saved from the brink of committing suicide called “The Miracle” within the next month. They plan to raise money for the music video through GoFundMe and donate all proceeds past their goal to SIMS.

Austin musician Joel Laviolette of Rattletree, an electronic marimba band that plays the music of Zimbabwe, is also a member of SIMS. Laviolette said he has a history of depression and has received couples counseling and individual therapy through SIMS. He said SIMS and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians are key factors in his decision to stay in Austin.

“SIMS is like this safety net if people need their help,” Laviolette said. “If some sort of crisis situation comes up, I knew SIMS would be there and I could reach out and talk to somebody.”

Lily Courtney, the staff clinician for SIMS, speaks to old and new clients on the phone every day to help connect them with the best suited provider for their needs.

Courtney said she wants more people to know about the challenges Austin musicians are facing and that SIMS is able to help them.

“It’s particularly frustrating because Austin sells itself as this place for creatives and the music capital, but then we don’t really do the best job of taking care of our musicians,” Courtney said. “And they do suffer. And a lot of them are having to leave Austin. I think it’s a big issue.”