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Changing the mental health outcomes of the Australian entertainment industry

Research has shown that individuals working in the Australian entertainment industry face numerous health and wellbeing challenges. These include higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.

With these concerning figures, organisations such as Entertainment Assist have been championing change and raising awareness about mental health practices in performing arts and entertainment industry workplaces.

The Ahead for Business team had a conversation with Rae Bonney from Entertainment Assist to discuss the INTERMISSION program and the importance of undertaking mental health and wellbeing training for small business owners and sole traders within the entertainment industry.

Rae is dedicated to creating generational change and improved mental health for the Australian entertainment industry. Rae's key area of focus is to deliver Entertainment Assist's bespoke industry mental health and wellbeing training program; INTERMISSION. Combining a formal counselling qualification with more than 30 years in the corporate sector with roles in media, entertainment, public relations, marketing and human resources. Rae's goal is to provide a positive impact across organisations, communities and individuals, reminding people that it really is ok, to not be ok!

Q: What are the things that you enjoy most about working in the entertainment industry?

A: Since I can remember, a passion for performing and being on stage burned bright for me. I would never have imagined working in such a critical part of the Australian entertainment industry, with Entertainment Assist, and taking a different kind of stage - entertaining audiences about mental health. I love what the industry represents for the health and wellbeing of our community, by way of providing such joy and distraction from some of life’s sharper edges. Witnessing the incredibly steadfast dedication of people from across many segments of the industry is endlessly inspiring. It motivates me to help create better environments that promote good mental health and wellbeing.

Q: What do you believe some of the biggest challenges are for those working within the entertainment industry?

A: The most current and pressing challenge is the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, which all but stopped the global entertainment industry in its tracks. Not only has COVID-19 created new problems, but exacerbated many challenges that are particular to the industry, such as incidents of substance misuse, lack of social support, sleep disturbance, mental health problems and suicidality. Entertainment Assist’s world first research project (alongside Victoria University and Victorian College of the Arts) released in 2016, reported these alarming health concerns as comparatively greater than the general population. We have a long way to go, but Entertainment Assist’s focus on influencing generational change and creating early intervention programs is a positive and sustainable proposition.

Q: Tell us about the INTERMISSION program, and why was it developed by Entertainment Assist?

A: Because of the challenges highlighted through Entertainment Assist research, INTERMISSION was created to address these issues directly with industry participants, in a way that recognises the different needs of the many segments of this vast industry. The mental health model for INTERMISSION originated back in 2014 with me, and when I was approached in 2018 by Entertainment Assist’s Chairman, David Mann, to come aboard and develop programs that reflect the outcomes of the research, I was chuffed. I’ve been really proud and thrilled to see how INTERMISSION has come to life and already influenced hundreds of industry people. I think the bespoke nature of the program sets INTERMISSION apart from other, more generic interventions. It’s been specifically designed to be adapted for any setting or industry segment, so the audience has an experience that is more closely aligned to their unique challenges and stressors. For example, creating a program for students entering the industry, is very different for say, health and safety workers at the Sydney Opera House, tech and crew people and, say ballerinas.

Q: When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, how did you adapt and change the INTERMISSION program?

A: It may sound ridiculous, but in some ways, COVID-19 has been a bit of a blessing for how we deliver INTERMISSION at Entertainment Assist. The circumstances have allowed us to adapt INTERMISSION as an online program. That provides an opportunity to broadcast to unlimited and remote settings that we may not have reached before. Additionally, we produced a range of webinars to help industry participants manage better during changing times, along with resources and pathways to guide people to support. Topics include Managing Boundaries, Grief and Loss, Sleep, Staying Connected, Finance and Healthy Habits. The webinars are free and can be found on Entertainment Assist’s website.

The great thing about our webinars, is that whilst they are great resources during COVID-19, all are useful outside of this time and the industry.

Q: As many individuals in the entertainment industry either own a small business or are sole traders, what do you think the biggest benefit would be in undertaking mental health training?

A: We have observed through our conversations and other anecdotal evidence that often, entertainment industry workers don’t identify as small business owners and miss out on support and benefits they are entitled to. The beauty of INTERMISSION is that it also provides its audience with broad ranges of support pathways and links to resources like Ahead for Business, that they may not have been aware of previously. Feedback from participants that have experienced an INTERMISSION program validates that learning about identification of mental health signs and symptoms within a particular environment is invaluable. Also being introduced to ways of having safe and effective conversations and ultimately, how to create better environments to support the good health and wellbeing of everyone, whether you are a leader of a large company or a one-man band.

Q: This has been a tough time for many, do you have any tips that you could provide to someone going through a tough time?

A: Our free series of webinar topics provides a lot of really useful tools and tips that can easily be shared with others too. Join our Facebook page - we post daily with more resources and prompts about how to stay connected, safe and well – and importantly, remind people that it really is ok to not be ok.

Further reading


Working towards wellness in the Australia entertainment industry

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