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Mental Health in the Creative Industry

We all have down moments, dark phases and get in weird funks. We reach points where we will rather be left alone to reflect or wallow in our anguish and hurt till we can muster the will to rise again. As a coping mechanism, some of us delete all social media platforms or switch off mobile devices, some others turn to narcotics and alcohol. The most common of all coping techniques and search for rejuvenation is entertainment – Music, Movies, TV shows, Books, anything engaging, fun or deep enough to get us hooked, binge on, and momentarily shut the world out.

More often than not, our preferred healing bubble is created by a creative. A writer, an artist, a speaker/podcaster, vlogger etc. At our lowest we turn to the Creative Industry, but even the best therapists need therapy. According to a study carried out by Inspire Wellbeing, a mental health service provider in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in conjunction with Ulster University, the likelihood of a mental health problem in the Creative sector is three times that of the general population. The most common diagnosed disorders were anxiety (36%) and depression (32%). High proportions (60%) reported having had suicidal thoughts, 37% had made a plan for suicide and 16% had made a suicide attempt in their lifetime. 63% of the population sample admitted to having a mental health, alcohol or drug problem.

Players in the Creative Industry cut much deeper than the known faces in the limelight. There are Publishers, Editors, Videographers, Directors, A&Rs, Managers, Distributors, Photographers, Accountants, Marketers, Social Media handlers, Lawyers, the list can almost run in perpetuity. These people are the backbone of the Creative Industry, and in numerous ways play a role to ensure creative output is delivered promptly, effectively and profitably.

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It is not uncommon to hear of drug overdose being the cause of death of famous creatives, while some see the use of drugs as a key that unlocks the dam of creativity and gets the juices flowing, for others drugs serve as ocean tides to drown the pain, and as more is ingested, less is felt. There’s an expectation that certain careers with lots of traumatic incidents – say doctor, firefighter – come with mental health risks, yet research shows those in creative professions are also prone to depression at a higher rate than the general population. So why?

The Creative Industry is a high pressure environment. The reports are overtly available for all and sundry on charts, best selling status, award nominations, YouTube numbers and so on. Success or lack of is visible to the general public, hence the existence of doctored perception. This takes a toll on all parties involved, as something which started off as passion gradually morphs to work, or worse, a chore.

Like sport, the Creative industry is a numbers game. The big bucks only exist in the big leagues for the most part. Each unit of intellectual property costs little or nothing and success lies in scaling – from 100 views to a million, from one copy of a book sold to a billion copies sold. Intellectual property is limitless and the possibility for it is endless, however till the crossover to the major leagues is made, the envelope is hardly stimulating.

Also worthy of note is how society views the Creative Industry and it’s players. Introducing yourself as a vlogger, podcaster or staff at a film production Company will bestow upon you the perception of “cool” to a Young generation and possibly “unserious” to an older generation, and it stops there.

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