Mental Health is a huge topic that affects people of all ages from all walks of life, but it remains a taboo subject. So, are we talking about it enough?
I recently read an article about a group of talented students from Hampstead who wrote a musical in 2017 that explores mental health issues amongst young people.
The production, entitled ‘Fine Thanks,’ was showcased in the same year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and earlier this month it was performed at London’s Savoy Theatre for just one night, in support of mental health charities.
It was very interesting to learn that in preparation for writing the script, the teenagers undertook hours of research, interviewing young people experiencing mental health issues. The answers taken from these conversations were made into the musicals lyrics.
This, in my opinion, makes it an extremely honest and insightful piece that will hopefully broaden the discussion and focus around both mental illness and mental wellness. It’s fantastic that the stigma behind this is being broken and voiced by not only the next generation, but also the next generation within the arts.
In our industry, when first starting out there are many elements that go with this type of job that actors don’t fully realise. For example: the endless auditions, the rejections, low pay, instability, lack of social life, a second job and general stress and anxiety - to name but a few. The mix of all these stressful situations can be very difficult for some.
According to Mind the mental health charity, ‘Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.’
Interestingly, in 2015 The Stage, Equity and Spotlight carried out a survey and discovered that 1 in 5 working within the arts (mainly theatre) had found help at some point for mental health issues. The main issues were identified as anxiety prior to performance, mood swings and depression. 46% described the mental health state as either poor or average.
Even though this survey was carried out four years ago, I don’t believe that things have changed that much. There are still people suffering, some in silence, but many now having the confidence to speak up. More needs to be done - there is still a long way to go before we can truly eradicate this stigma.
I think the industry can take a lot away from these courageous students who have compiled, what I can only imagine is, an inspirational show that captures the truthfulness and sincerity surrounding mental health.
What are your experiences of mental health in the arts?