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Shining a light on the entertainment industry’s mental health crisis

Anybody who works in Australia’s arts and entertainment industries knows that rates of mental illness are worryingly high, but a report released last month revealed just how extensive this crisis has become.

Almost half of the people working in Australia’s entertainment industry have moderate to severe anxiety (a rate ten times higher than the general population) while even more suffer from depression, and almost 60% have sought professional assistance for mental health issues at some point in their lives.

Producer Matthew Henderson last year decided to do something about that, staging his first Out From Under evening in Melbourne. This year is Sydney’s turn with  a line-up of performers including Debra Byrne, Silvie Paladino, Rob Mills, Lucy Durack, Amy Campbell, Ben Abraham, Casey Donovan and many more, addressing various mental health problems in their own industry and raising money for Entertainment Assist.

We asked Matthew about Out From Under.

What inspired the first Out From Under event back in 2015?

The creation of Out From Under came from a sense of helplessness, however the inspiration came from my desperation to do something positive. There was a small window of time where I lost a few friends who didn’t survive the battle with mental illness. I just felt like I had let them down by not helping them but more so not knowing what I needed to look out for. It truly was a line in the sand moment and I felt enough was enough.

There are plenty of fundraising concerts, but Out From Under goes beyond that. Could you tell us a little bit about who will be speaking and what they’ll be sharing?

Out From Under is very different to your usual fundraising concert in that the focus is educating our audiences. We had two incredible psychologists for the 2015 concert and I am thrilled that we have secured Jocelyn Penna and Julie Crabtree for Sydney. We will have panel conversations with the likes of Rachael Beck and Heather Mitchell and we really delve into all areas of mental health covering topics from depression, self worth and identity, substance abuse and performance anxiety.

It’s a great line-up of performers — why do you think so many artists said yes? Do many of them have their own experiences with mental illness, either themselves or friends and colleagues?

I think like me back in 2015 people feel the need to do something about this demon knocking on the door of society and especially our industry. This is very personal for me and I know all the performers and speakers come on board because they have a personal connection whether it be direct or indirectly.

When Entertainment Assist released their “Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry” study last month, many people were shocked at just how stark those statistics were. Obviously, like most people in the industry, you know there are serious mental health problems, but were you surprised to see just how extensive those problems were?

Absolutely. I was prepared for it to be bad but I never thought for a second it would be quite so dire. If anything the results of that study just proved that it was imperative that we, as an industry start the conversation and stop the stigma surrounding mental health.

How does Entertainment Assist help to tackle some of those issues?

Entertainment Assist was created to help people overcome the pitfalls of working in the Entertainment Industry. The funds raised from Out From Under 2015 went towards the launch of Intermission. Intermission is a program that gives participants training to better understand and prevent mental health issues, support their peers and encourage conversations about mental health. It is all about starting a conversation!

If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. A detailed list of support services can be found here.

Out From Under is at the Seymour Centre, Sydney, next Monday, November 21.

Featured image: Debra Byrne performing at Out From Under 2015

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