Back in February, Tone Deaf reported on a groundbreaking pilot study that came out of Victoria University, which shed light on the unsettling truth about working in the Australian entertainment industry.
According to the study, which evaluated the mental health and wellbeing of Australia’s entertainment industry, the country’s 25,000 entertainment industry workers are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.
The study found that workers are paid significantly less than the rest of the community and have higher rates of suicide, due to a work environment that is “unhealthy, often divisive, competitive and lacking social support”.
“There are strong indicators these creative workers have a disproportionate rate of mental health issues,” researchers wrote in the study, which was launched by the charity Entertainment Assist as a response to the death of 70 roadies from suspected suicide.
Now, with funding from the Pratt Foundation, Entertainment Assist have commissioned Victoria University to conduct a new study, the largest ever conducted on industry workers anywhere in the world, which provides some hard and troubling figures.
As Fairfax reports, the survey featured 2,900 participants, ranging from singers and actors, to roadies and riggers and found that the rate of attempted suicide in the industry is more than double the rest of the population.“40 percent of performers have been diagnosed with a mental illness.”
In the past 12 months, workers in the entertainment industry considered taking their own lives almost seven times more than the general population. According to the study, one in every 14 performers surveyed admitted to making an attempt on their life.
The figures for those working behind the scenes, such as roadies and technicians, were even more shocking, at almost one in 12. To put that in context, the figure is roughly one in 30 people for the wider Australian population.
“Sadly, it was pretty much what we expected,” Susan Cooper, general manager of Entertainment Assist told Fairfax. “Anecdotally, we have known there has been a problem forever, but we didn’t have statistics to stand up and take notice. Now the problem cannot be denied.”
According to the study, more than 40 percent of Australian performers have been diagnosed with mental illness, the most common condition being depression and anxiety. Cooper said that a range of factors are to blame.
“I think, the nature of the industry, it attracts people who are artistic,” she says. “By that very nature have to have a sense and sensitivity to be a performer, but it’s also a cut-throat industry and there you have problems.”
“Then it’s the nature of the industry. The majority of people are shift workers. That causes an enormous impact on family. Income is a real issue. And there just aren’t enough jobs for the supply of workers.”
“That means fewer jobs fewer opportunities, and the stress and anxiety of not knowing where your next pay packet is coming from.”
Pay disparity between entertainment workers and the rest of the community is so deep, 63 percent of professional performers earn less than the national minimum wage of $34,112.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, please call Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636 for help or information.
Entertainment Assist Industry Survey Figures
63% of performers earn less than the National Minimum Wage of $34,112
10% of professional singers have attempted suicide
59.5% of entertainment industry workers have sought help for mental health issues
40% of performers have been diagnosed with a mental illness
36% of roadies reported “suicide ideation” in their lifetime
Lack of sleep, low pay, drug and alcohol abuse the contributing factors
Source: Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry survey, Victoria University