The live entertainment industry is a fast paced, high pressured industry pushing creativity and technology to the limits with long periods of time away from home and post tour depression just one example of how mental health affects many people in the industry.
The Talk2Me seminar session — introduced by Steve Banks, Chairman at PSA and hosting Robert Heath, Music Therapist; Chris Madden, Student Welfare Officer at Backstage Academy; Peter Heath, MD at PLASA and Andy Lenthall, GM at PSA — focused on highlighting the emotional and psychological issues faced by so many in the entertainment and creative industries as part of their working lives.
Panellist Chris Madden was the counsellor sent by Production Park to support the Avenged Sevenfold crew earlier this year.
The session referred to the Mental Health Foundation survey quoting only 13% of people report living with high levels of good mental health so therefore most people are suffering or have suffered from a mental health issue at least once in their lifetime.
Robert who has a particular interest in the use of Creative Songwriting as Therapy and has developed an approach to this work which is currently being taught in several Universities in Britain and Europe mused; “We need to start a revolution – to get people talking and to normalise mental health issues’”
Andy Lenthall added, “As an industry we need to train people how to recognise the signs when colleagues are beginning to struggle with their mental health and how to encourage that person to get the professional help they need. We need to make it more OK to talk about mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and seed the industry with people who are trained to talk to about it.”
“Mental Health First Aid training can help us achieve this and it is important that we encourage employers to train staff and additionally, train individuals in production and tour management positions who can add mental health first aid to their management skill-set, with a view to being a support for those who are self-employed.”
All of the panellists agreed that it is vital that we get people back to “acting like human beings” to talk to one another, to act with compassion to colleagues, friends and family. The industry needs to normalise mental health conditions, not pathologise them. Many people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lives and medicalising the conditions just creates stigma around them. It is normal to suffer from depression and anxiety and people should feel normal and free to talk about these problems.
Peter Heath concluded; “Mental Health issues should be discussed and need to be more visible in the industry. We need to encourage companies to be aware of their duty of care and figure out a way to encourage people to talk about their issues and remove the supposed stigma. We will have a follow-up session at PLASA Show in London, 17-19 September, and launching some initiatives which companies can get involved and the industry can start to feel the benefit.”