Over 90 arts bodies in Victoria have united to form the Arts Wellbeing Collective, an organisation dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of Australian arts professionals.
Launched on Thursday 9 February, the collective is running a twelve-month pilot program, offering workshops, training, resources and a website. According to its website, “collective partners have recognised the need for the creation of formal networks within the industry – linking people together to improve wellbeing and combat mental health issues collectively and systematically, rather than addressing them individually.”
In addition, the collective is a response to a 2015 study, funded by the Pratt Foundation and undertaken by Dr Julie van den Eynde, Professor Adrian Fisher and Associate Professor Christopher Sonn of Victoria University. They found that 25% of Australian performing artists had attempted or contemplated suicide and that 33% had sought professional assistance for mental health concerns.
“There are clear patterns of suicide, of suicide ideation and thoughts, especially for performers whose careers are in decline, and as a result of the professional and financial pressures that exist. It is an area we are worried about and need to research further,” Professor Fisher told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a leading psychologist and academic, and Greta Bradman, an opera singer and performance psychologist, are among the experts developing the collective’s workshops. Ms Bradman is currently researching mental health and wellbeing in the arts, and calling on prospective participants to complete an online survey.
In the short-term, the collective’s goals are:
- to improve support services for Victorian arts workers
- to collate and share information
- to effect industry cultural change
- to improve support networks within and between arts organisations
After the twelve-month pilot is over, the collective aims to continue to:
- foster connectivity and a culture of support throughout arts communities
- increase understanding of the benefits of nurturing good mental health
- reduce stigma associated with mental illness
- build capacity of leaders and people managers
- encourage and normalise help seeking behaviour
- create a portal for accessing support resources and sector-specific data