Photo – Pier Carthew

The Arts Wellbeing Collective has today launched a ground-breaking guide to improving mental health in the preforming arts. 

The Work Well Guide responds to Entertainment Assist and Victoria University research from 2017 that found 44 per cent of entertainment industry workers experienced symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety. Recent research commissioned by Support Act (Elmes & Knox, 2022) also found that psychological distress, suicidality, and mental health conditions continue to be significantly more prevalent amongst performing arts workers than the general population. Researchers concluded that there is an urgent need to continue evidence-based prevention initiatives and education and training programs within the sector."

The resource, the majority of which was created with funding from WorkSafe Victoria WorkWell funding, provides performing arts organisations/collaborators with practical strategies and evidence-based tools and techniques for creating mentally healthy workplaces.

Creative Producer, Curator and Arts Facilitator Erica McCalman, a member of the collective’s Lived Experience Advisory Group, said the guide recognised that mental health is the responsibility of everyone and provided real steps toward systemic change on organisational and individual levels. The Work Well Guide offers a truly comprehensive, practical and honest guide tailor-made for the performing arts in Australia,’ McCalman said.

“It is a welcome addition to the rehearsal studio, board room or production office, and I invite anyone whose life and work is about creating great art to have a read and incorporate the guide’s recommendations into their practice.’’

The Work Well Guide will also form the foundation for a workplace training unit “Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces”, which will be launched in 2023 and is designed to support performing arts organisations to ensure wellbeing in the workplace.

The Arts Wellbeing Collective was founded by Arts Centre Melbourne in 2017 as a preventative health initiative to help foster mentally healthy performing arts workplaces. It draws on the expertise of the performing arts community, including a Lived Experience Advisory Group, and a range of health professionals to create resources and programs.

The pilot program was initiated by an investigation into the health and wellbeing initiatives that could be provided to Arts Centre Melbourne team members combined with the release of research by Entertainment Assist and Victoria University: Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry: Final Report (van den Eynde, Fisher & Sonn, 2016).

The report engaged with entertainment industry workers from across the sector from performers to producers, dancers to directors, and a wide variety of management, production, and technical roles. Of the entertainment industry workers surveyed 15 per cent experienced symptoms of moderate to severe depression and 44 per cent experienced symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety.

The Work Well Guide informs the approach, the case for change, role of leadership, defining mental health, creating a vision and strategic actions to creating a mentally healthy workplace. Actions are centred around the key areas of support, connection, leadership, enablement, engagement, courage, protection, and safety.

The guide is free to download from the Arts Wellbeing Collective website along with many other resources designed to support positive mental health for performing artists and arts workers.

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