What do these performers have in common?

As I sit down to write at 7pm on a Sunday night, the final day of mental health awareness week, I wonder whether this post is a little too late.

Despite the growing awareness of mental health conditions, it’s often still hard to identify these and ask for help when you need it most. Research has identified that harmful stereotypes and lack of education around issues relating to mental illness often prevent people from seeking the treatment they need or even speaking out at all.

“When our long night is done… There will be light.” – Next to Normal

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the way Australians view and address mental health in the arts. Conversations are finally starting about depression, anxiety, addiction and other prevalent conditions. Opening up and talking to those close to us plays a key role in breaking down stigma, sparking important discussions and even inspiring people to seek treatment. High profile performers including Osher Gunsberg, Margot Robbie and Tim Minchin have all spoken publicly about their struggle with mental health issues in the hope that it helps shine a light in some of those dark corners.

If an athlete falls during a cross country run and breaks his leg, it is hardly good advice to tell him to dust himself off and keep running. The same understanding needs to be applied to those who fall with their mental health.

“When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you even really crash or even make a sound?” – Dear Even Hansen

Working in the arts specifically, comes with a unique set of challenges that anybody can face from time to time; long hours, irregular sleep pattens, lack of routine, stress of job security, poor diet & excessive alcohol consumption can all take their toll on the mental well-being of an individual.

Whilst those working in the arts are incredibly lucky to be entrusted with telling the stories that help audiences grow, learn and explore their own feelings about the worlds we create; it is essential that we are taking care of ourselves in the process.

Performers are twice as likely as the general population to experience depression, according to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study.

It is amazing to see that issues relating to mental health are getting a voice on the world stage and a shoutout goes specifically to Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal and Be More Chill. Hopefully we will see them in Australia in the not too distant future.

A wise woman once said to me “It’s okay not to be okay sometimes” but it is also important that you are able to identify this and get the support you need.

In 2018 The Arts Wellbeing Collective launched in Victoria. The Arts Wellbeing Collective is an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative that comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations whose shared vision is to effect better mental health and wellbeing for performing arts workers.

Their specific objective are;

  • To improve support services for performing arts workers.
  • To collate and share information.
  • To effect industry cultural change.
  • To improve support networks within and between arts organisations.

In February 2019 they published their Tour Well guide, which is a must read for any artist hitting the road.

This is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the battle against mental health awareness and I highly recommend taking a read now or simply saving for a time when you just need that little extra support.

So, as I write this post, regardless of the fact it is 7pm on a Sunday night, and regardless of the fact that it is the final day of mental health awareness week; I reassure myself and anybody reading this, that it is never too late to start the conversation about mental health.

Peter J Snee

Peter is a British born creative, working in the live entertainment industry. He holds an honours degree in Performing Arts and has over 12 years combined work experience in producing, directing and managing artistic programs & events. Peter has traversed the UK, Europe and Australia pursuing his interest in theatre. He is inspired by great stories and passionately driven by pursuing opportunities to tell them.

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