Column: We need to talk….

‘Hell yeah we want cream with that!’  

We’re delighted to have Melbourne’s burlesque darling, Camilla Cream, to bring us a sneak peak behind the curtains of the performance industry in her column for Good Vibes Melbourne

Well hello there! And welcome to the first article about a really important topic that is very close to my heart – mental health in the entertainment industry.

A lot of people are affected by mental illness, but did you know that performing artists are twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population? Or that forty four percent of artists report symptoms of anxiety versus three point seven per cent of the general community? Well I’m sure you’d agree that those statistics are quite alarming. But more importantly, a cause for action!

Like so many people, I have been personally affected by anxiety and depression. It’s not fun. It’s not easy.  There’s no simple fix. How wonderful it would be to ‘just snap out of it’, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that.

I am lucky enough that, at the time I was at my lowest, I had a brilliant boss who really understood how I was feeling – and that was approachable enough that we could have the conversation about mental health in the first place. We worked through a few things together and they were happy for me to work part-time, supporting me through any dark periods I had. From this experience I realised how important it is to be able to have these conversations with people from all facets of your life – work, friends, family, doctors. I think, and many health organisations would back me up here, that regular open conversations with all these people will help reduce the stigma of mental illness.

It’s seems like such a small thing, but if everyone took the time to talk about it, it could create big change. Sometimes all that’s needed is a simple conversation starter about mental health like ‘hey, I’ve noticed you’ve seemed really down/worried/stressed lately, have you been able to talk to anyone about it?’ or even more open-ended questions such as ‘so, tell me about…..’  will facilitate more open and deeper discussions rather than just a yes/no answer. During these conversations, if you’re the listener, it’s important to be patient and supportive, big chats like this take time, especially if it’s the first one after recognising the symptoms of a mental illness.

I think these open, consistent conversations are a great step forward to making mental health part of everyday life, not a taboo topic, and can lead to deeper understanding and caring of mental health.  It’s my hope that one day all workplaces will treat mental health the same way as physical health. I think that begins with the education of mental health of people from a higher position within a workplace.  From there it filters down to everyone below as an expectation.  Of course, having education on mental health from an early age is preferable and something that is beginning to hold more weight within the primary school curriculum (it’s not just about healthy food and exercise anymore, hoorah!).

My personal experiences with anxiety and depression, along with close friends and colleagues’ experiences of mental illness, drove the formation of my company – Cherries and Cream Productions. Together with my business partner, we aim to foster the development of the performer as a whole, not a commodity. Our Cherri’s Angels program is all about making sure the performer is okay mentally, physically and socially. That they always have someone looking out for them.   Someone watching over them and when they need it, someone to lean on when times get tough so that they can thrive in their on-stage performance. We have created a safe space for people to feel comfortable talking about their mental health issues and feel connected to others in the industry (sometimes that feeling of belonging helps, especially if someone has just moved from another state or country). We also strive to provide performing opportunities to our Angels whenever we can, and have big dreams for the program this year.

When conversations get a bit heavy and outside our realm of expertise, we suggest an organisation or two that can help further than just having an open chat on the couch.  There are some amazing organisations and charities out there that help support mental health (there are quite a few specific to the entertainment industry too!)

If you feel the need to talk to someone anonymously, here’s a few great organisations to contact:
-Entertainment Assist
-CASA House (03) 9635 3610
-Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
-Lifeline 13 11 14

So, I hope you’ll join me in the battle for mental health to be viewed as a normal part of our lives, starting with a simple, open conversation with a friend or colleague.  You never know what’s going on until you ask. And don’t be afraid to seek for help – it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Take care and #haveheart

Written by Camilla Cream for Good Vibes Melbourne 

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