The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the Australian live entertainment industry, leaving thousands of gig-to-gig onstage and offstage professionals with unlimited unemployment. The crisis has not only been – and continues to be – financially crippling, but it has also affected our mental health.
Prior to the pandemic, the prevalence of mental health problems across the Australian entertainment industry was already concerning, with those surveyed showing that symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety were 10 times higher than in the general population, symptoms of moderate to severe depression were five times higher, and suicide attempts more than double that of the general population.
COVID-19 has compounded the mental health of an already at-risk sector. It has magnified existing challenges associated with the gig economy – low job security, low financial security – while also denying many of the positive protective factors associated with live performance – connection, meaning, purpose, engagement, sharing, storytelling.
To be released throughout Mental Health Month (October 2020), SOUND MIND is a series of six new 12- to 15-minute online music-centred episodes exploring mental health and the performing arts.
Each episode showcases a unique performance by a collaboration of performing artists who’ve come together especially for this series. Artists, who include stage and screen stars Nancye Hayes, Casey Donovan, Alinta Chidzey and Ben Mingay; dancers Adam Bull and Deborah Brown; and choreographer Alice Topp, are interviewed regarding their insights into mental health and the performing arts, as well as performing for the series.
Each artist reveals difficulties they face with creativity and collaboration during this time and how they find a sense of meaning, purpose and positivity. Each episode also shares vital tips to help promote positive mental health, and highlights pathways to mental health resources. By relating each discussion to a piece of music, viewers also experience the value of music as an essential healing, learning and uplifting mental health tool in itself – not just for those working in the arts and entertainment but for everyone.
Produced by The Arts Wellbeing Collective and Maker Productions, SOUND MIND will provide a strong sense of community and a resounding message of hope, encouragement and empowerment during this time of immense difficulty.
“When COVID-19 first hit and the live performing arts industry was shut down, and we weren’t given support by the Government, I was concerned about where the collective mental health of our industry was heading,” said producer Alex Rathgeber of Maker Productions. “So, I wanted to create something that had the potential to bring people together to work creatively and to also open up and share some of our mental health stories. The fact that we have this incredible collection of performers and hosts who’ve been so willing to get involved with SOUND MIND says so much about the need to address mental health across the performing arts and entertainment industry at the moment. A lot of the population are really struggling and turning to entertainment on screen and online to keep them inspired, motivated, distracted or from losing the plot! It’s so important that the people who make this entertainment are thought about in the process of the consumption of it all. Working in any area of the performing arts takes guts at the best time of times, let alone at a time as challenging as this year has been. I want to help make sure our industry can push through this time with enough in the tank to keep working on creating the next special live performance that’ll bring everyone together, and the one after that, and so on. The idea with SOUND MIND is that it’s a creative approach to starting mental health conversations, exploring ways of finding connection and a stronger sense of community in this time, and celebrating the immeasurable value of the performing arts in all of our lives, especially right now.”
Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer AM shared, “We are thrilled to be a part of the inaugural series of SOUND MIND. When we launched The Arts Wellbeing Collective Pilot Program in February 2017, we had no idea that this program would become more and more relevant as our industry faces challenges, disruption and change on such an astounding level. SOUND MIND is a joyous celebration of the power of storytelling and live performance to connect, empower and inspire us. The stories, insights and experiences shared by every collaborator are reminders of the resilience, capability and adaptability of this sector. It was a privilege to work with so many incredible performing arts workers in creating this unique and very special series. We are honoured to support it.”
SOUND MIND episodes will be published on The Arts Wellbeing Collective website and Arts Centre Melbourne’s YouTube page and on the SOUND MIND Facebook page leading up to World Mental Health Day on 10 October.