It is practically a professional requirement that actors be emotional and vulnerable, but only recently has protecting their mental wellbeing become a priority. Actors are expected to expose themselves emotionally, often with little regard for how it affects their states of mind. At the same time, they work in a profession characterized by instability, in which self-worth often rests on their ability to get the next role.
Until recently, however, little attention had been paid to the relationship between acting and mental health.
One in five people working in entertainment have actively sought help for their mental health – but this figure may well underestimate the true extent of the problems in the sector.
In 2015, a survey by the Stage, Equity and Spotlight found that one in five people working in entertainment have actively sought help for their mental health – but this figure may well underestimate the true extent of the problems in the sector. Respondents to the survey, the majority of whom worked in theatre, identified issues such as performance anxiety, mood swings and depression. When asked about the state of their mental health, 46% described it as either poor or average.
Research into the connection between acting and mental health is scant. Anecdotally, at least, there seems to be a connection between the pressures of the profession and conditions such as depression and anxiety.
While emotions are important on stage, behind the scenes there’s a need to appear confident and capable.
While the industry now feels more open to dialogue around mental health, there’s a danger that it’s all talk and no action. Employers, ultimately, are the ones who need to make a commitment to change.