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A culture that allows us all to be open about our mental health

So, as you may have seen, we are developing a piece that focuses on mental health and the ups and downs of one artist’s life, namely my Uncle’s. It therefore seemed logical that we used this project to pilot some ways of working with our creatives to support their mental health and wellbeing. After all, it would be cruelly ironic to make a piece about the deterioration of an artist’s mental health and ignore the mental health of the artists we are working with.

At times, it has been an emotionally draining piece to start developing because of the themes involved. So…. we chatted with Rachel Jepson (singer/songwriter, psychotherapist, and founder of Counselling for Musicians) and our brilliant consultant producer Antonia Beck before we started the R&D, and they gave us some advice on how we could create an environment of care and compassionate practice.

Firstly, all creatives were given the opportunity to complete access riders before the process began with the following headings:

Introduction to you:

Here you can write a brief intro paragraph about you and your work/arts practice. You can also write about your condition if you wish to disclose that and how it affects you. You should list the things that are essential to understanding how to work with you.

Your access needs:

Here you can outline your main access needs. You can also separate them into sections according to different aspects of your work.

Emergency Information:

Here you can write what should happen in the case of an emergency and who to contact.

Further Information:

Here you can link to more information about your condition, and things you think people should know. You can also link to any theories you use in your practice and daily life.

Secondly, and for me this was vital, we started and ended each R&D session with a check-in and check-out to monitor how people were getting on/feeling. As part of this, we asked them to focus on one thing that they felt they had achieved during the day (thanks to Hoax Theatre’s Ayesha Tansey for this suggestion). We also tried to create an open environment for discussion and made it clear that leaving the sessions to achieve some mental space was always possible and encouraged.

Thirdly, we signposted organisations creatives could contact if they needed help with wellbeing or mental health support, handing out info sheets to them and emailing them reminders of these.

Lastly, we held an online discussion event with Rachel Jepson and Grammy nominated, double Ivor Novello Award winning lyricist, musician and founding member of Squeeze, Chris Difford. The event was called Under Pressure – let's talk about mental health and the music/arts industry, and a full video of this can be found here.

From the feedback we received from the everyone afterwards we think this support was a success but what can we do now to make it even better?

Well to start off with. next time……

We plan to have free counselling on standby provided by Rachel Jepson or other counsellors with similar background, so any of our artists can talk to a professional if they wish to. We have also been in discussion with Tonic Rider UK and they have offered to run zoom workshop/ wellbeing session/s for all involved.

However, this is just the beginning, and we welcome any ideas that might help us support our creatives better - so please get in touch if you have anything to share. I believe that only through discussion can we create a culture that allows us all to be open about our mental health and improve our wellbeing.

Written by Bryony Thomas 25/07/2021

Co-Founder of KimBo Theatre

Co-Writer on Fib


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