“The reports speak for themselves; people are suffering for their ‘art’ and they just don’t have to.”
Eve Morey, Actor and Equity Wellness Committee Member
Three years ago our National Performers’ Committee was troubled by recurring anecdotal reports of unhappiness, stress, depression, harassment and alcohol abuse amongst actors. We decided to do some research.
We know that work is intermittent and income is unpredictable. We sense that the black dog lurks in the shadow between jobs. We’ve heard stories of actors freezing on stage or unable to go on. We have seen broken relationships. We know all this instinctively right? But we have no figures on this.
The Equity Foundation, together with the Departments of Drama and Psychology at Sydney University, has released a ground-breaking study into actors’ well-being. It is the largest research project ever undertaken into actors’ lives in Australia, and amongst only a few such studies in the world. More than 800 actors participated.
Poverty is the big issue. Almost 60 per cent of all actors earn less than $20,000 per year from their craft. Forty per cent earn less than $10,000. Only five per cent of Australian actors earn the national average wage.
Even if you add income from non-acting sources, actors are poor. Generally actors earn more from their other jobs: hospitality, teaching, retail. Even combining income, one quarter of actors live below the poverty line.
Finances are not the only source of stress for actors. The survey results reveal strikingly high levels of stress, depression and performance anxiety amongst the acting community. Scores for depression amongst actors are twice as high as the general population. More than a quarter have experienced acute debilitating performance anxiety.
Equity is working with our performer members and health professionals to address these alarming findings.
The mission statement of the Equity Wellness Committee is:
The EWC is excited to be part of a shift in the way our industry views mental health and seeks to support our community by encouraging a positive attitude towards not only mental health, but physical health and wellness in general.
In doing so the EWC hopes to ensure our industry feels like a community. A collective of creative individuals that are connected and supported, an environment we believe conducive to living a balanced and fulfilling life. In turn enriching the creative work of our industry, fostering safe and vibrant artistic expression.
Equity Wellness Committee members:
Liam McIlwain (co-chair)
Sarah Borg (co-chair)
Lifeline (24 hr crisis): 131114
Beyond blue (24 hr crisis): 1300 224 636
Kids helpline (24 hr crisis for people aged 5-25 yrs): 1800 551 800
e-headspace (online chat crisis service): www.eheadspace.org.au
Suicide call back service (free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone suicidal or bereaved by suicide): 1300 659 467
State crisis phone contacts:
NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
VIC Suicide Help Line: 1300 651 251
QLD 13 HEALTH: 13 43 25 84
TAS Mental Health Services Helpline: 1800 332 388
SA Mental Health Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service: 13 14 65
WA Mental Health Emergency Response Line: 1800 676 822
NT Top End Mental Health Service: 08 8999 4988
ACT Mental Health Triage Service: 1800 629 354
In honour of Mental Health Week (October 8-14), the Wellness Committee have created a series of new resources for their fellow performers.
The Equity Wellness Committee was formed last year in response to two surveys which showed troubling levels of anxiety and depression among performers. The committee is made up of passionate and generous people with experience and interest in helping our industry adopt a more holistic approach to wellness. Find out more about the Committee and how you can get involved.
The Wellness Committee members share their top tips for keeping your mind fit and healthy. We hope you find encouragement and inspiration, and we invite you to share this resource with your colleagues to continue the conversation around wellness at work.
1. Step out of performance mode by Sarah Borg.
A short grounding practice to help transition out of performance mode. Great for those times after an audition, rehearsal, a day on set… especially those performances that might be tricky to let go of.
2. Mindfulness of your cuppa by Sarah Borg.
Prepare your favourite hot beverage and use it as an anchor in this short practice to help centre your mind in the present moment.
3. Pre Audition calm-down and energise up by Simon Ward.
Pre Audition calm-down and energise up (by Simon Ward). In the hallway before an audition. Everyone else is better than me and I have to go in! A mindful way of calming down and keeping your focus.
4.Post performance solo or group cool down by Simon Ward.
A brilliant performance! Welcome yourself back to the world without a bumpy re entry.