Overloaded Mind

The audience watches in awe at the magic on stage, but behind the scenes there is a group of people trying to bring magic to the appreciative audience. But behind the magic making there is a dark secret. One that is now coming out into the open. This is thanks to a recent study. It all started with a survey. I took part in this survey. It was conducted by Victoria University and Entertainment Assist and called “Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry:Final Report”.  This survey is interesting as well as frightening. It highlights a lot of problems in the industry and a very high suicide rate. This study is incredibly intensive, and I recommend that anyone working in the industry sit down and read it. I am sure that we recognize someone with problems or we have the problems ourselves. To quote from the report “This report has uncovered serious health and well being concerns for those who work in the Australian entertainment and creative industries. Mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, and suicidality are prominent. Indicators of anxiety and depression symptomology are well over the general population norms; suicide ideation is 6 times greater, suicide planning is more than 4 times greater, and suicide attempts are more than double the general population.”

We all need to be aware of this, we need to ask ourselves and other how we are. I know for a fact that anxiety is a major problem. I suffer from this myself. The uncertainty of employment can give you many sleepless nights. Many waking hours are given over to thoughts of how to pay for bills, what will the future bring, will I be able to work until retirement age. The amount of mental health issues is higher than the general population. The most common diagnoses were depression followed by anxiety. 44% of workers in the entertainment industry have moderate to severe anxiety. This is ten times higher than the general populous. So I am not alone. Symptoms of depression are also five times higher than the general population.

Now we need to get the word out. The CX Network has recently thrown its support behind The Australian Road Crew Association (ARCA). These guys have added Julius Grafton to the board   “and resolved to fight harder to help current and former crew facing difficulties. ARCA has called on promoters and industry to donate 5c a ticket sold directly into the Roadie Fund administered by Support Act, matching donations by Michael Chugg, Air Supply, Crowded House and Paul Kelly.” (PROTech News, 2016)

ARCA had already been on the ball in regards to the toll the industry has on road crews. This recent report has just more impetus to do more for road crew around Australia. In 2012 they collated a departed list, this identified suicide as a major risk facing road crew.

ARCA urges promoters, industry and concerned individuals to donate directly and tax free into the Roadie Account. This is at http://supportact.org.au/donate/ and make sure the Roadies box is ticked. Under a year-old agreement with Support Act, every dollar in the roadie fund will go to those in need.

Need help? Call Piggy on 0415 667 221 or Julius on 0408 498 180 for a referral to Support Act.

So what should we do?

We need to be aware of our own mental health and also the health of our fellow co-workers. It is job not the concert industry where these problems exist. It is all areas of the industry. Do not be afraid to ask for help. One of the issues we need to deal with is unemployment. We may have short contracts, the tour comes to an end, or we are just laid off. A lot of folk in the industry are not employed full time, with the benefits that it entails. You could be a freelancer going from gig to gig. There are so many variables of employment that it is no wonder income is an issue, or the lack of.  If you look at the report in regards to income.

35% of all Australian entertainment industry workers earn an annual industry income below $20,000 
63% of Performers, 28% of Support Workers and 20% of Technicians/Crew earn less than the Australian National Minimum Wage of $34,112 
72.5% of entertainment industry workers earn less than $60K annually from the entertainment industry 
65% have a combined income below $60K from earning within and outside the entertainment industry 
54.6% have been generating their primary income from the Entertainment Industry for 2-15 years.

So as you can see income is also a major worry along with uncertainty of employment.  It is yet another worry for all members of the entertainment industry.
Unemployment is destabilising for anyone. The uncertainty and lack of control tend to lead to feelings of helplessness. Humans have a need to feel useful, to contribute, to connect and to grow. We function best if we work and rest in good measure. If we work too much or not enough, we start to spiral. (aussietheatre.com.au/blogs/stage-door-shrink/amanda-harrison-rachel-cole, May 2016)

We need to make sure that we have a decent life/work balance. Too many technicians seems to work excessive hours, working under the mindset that they need to make hay while the sun shines. That sounds like forward thinking but it is not. Your health, relationships etc will suffer under this sort of lifestyle. You need to have a well balanced life/work ratio. You need to work to live, not live to work. Yes we all love our jobs but we need to be able to step back and smell the roses. We need to, as one good colleague of mine said, take a mental health day. Turn off the phone and chill out.

Most entertainment industry workers do not know where to get support from in the entertainment industry and identify critical barriers to seeking support including:
1. lack of resources such as time, money and lack of good support resources;
2. problems inherent in the industry such as lack of trust, unsupportive environment, disjointed lifestyle, lack of respect for industry from outside;
3. a perception that seeking support may compromise future employment opportunities.(Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry_Summary of Key Findings,Oct 2016)

So we need to spread the word to our collegues, places that we work, organisations that we work for. Some workplaces at the moment don’t recognize mental health issues. So we need to make sure that the message gets out there. We need to help educate the workforce that it is okay to ask for help, that you are not alone.

Places for help and information

LifeLine 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service  Ph: 1300 659 467





For information about mental health crisis services specific to your region in Australia, see table below.

Mental Health Advice Line
Ph: 1300 60 60 24
For immediate, expert health advice from a nurse
New South Wales
Mental Health Line
Ph: 1800 011 511
24-hour telephone service, operating 7 days a week
Australian Capital Territory
Mental Health Crisis Team
Ph: 1800 629 354 or
(02) 6205 1065
24-hour/7-days a week service, for assessment and treatment of mentally ill people in crisis situations
Queensland Government
24-hour/7-days a week service for health information, advice or referral
Northern Territory
Mental Health Support
Ph: 1800 NT CATT
Free and confidential 24-hour hotline for mental health inquiries
Western Australia
Mental Health Emergency Response Line
Ph: (08) 9224 888
1300 555 788 (Metro)
1800 676 822 (Peel)
Psychiatric emergency assessment and advice for mental health clients and their carers
Rural Link
Ph: 1800 552 022
Specialist after-hours mental health telephone service for rural communities
Mon-Fri: 4.30pm-8.30am
Saturday, Sunday, Public holidays: 24-hours
South Australia
Mental Health Services
Ph: 13 14 65
24-hours/7-days a week advice and information in a mental health emergency
Mental Health Helpline
Ph: 1800 332 388
Free statewide 24-hour/7-days a week service for mental health crisis reaching all regions

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