Twitter was all of a flutter this morning, full of praise for the actress Beverley Callard, for opening up about her 'depression' on the popular ITV programme This Morning. However it was the wording of the praise that struck me. How brave she had been to speak out? Now of course I get it, and I sadly get the wording. However when someone speaks out about epilepsy for example - are they brave?
The Daily Mirror (don't shoot the messenger) headlined it as the actress ADMITTED that she might have Bipolar? Admitted? Throw me into the confessional booth as I admit to having asthma....quickly. Do we have to 'admit' to an illness these days?
Then there was the issue that most of the reporting kept talking about her depression...but she was talking about recently having been investigated for having Bipolar II. What a great opportunity to discuss OTHER mental health issues, but as usual they focussed on the 'D' word.
Then there was the shock that she'd considered taking her own life? Depression can do that folks. . . that's why it's a killer (literally). That's why we're attempting to help people BEFORE it gets to that stage. THAT'S why when people are busy telling you where to physically and geographically go for help they need to realise that you can't move in that moment. You're not thinking rationally. THAT'S why we want people to recognise symptoms earlier, be that in themselves, or in those around them.
Finally she said those all too familiar words (and I'm paraphrasing)...'people assume that I'm a confident person because I'm an actress'. How many more times do we, as an industry, have to hear this without acting on it? (no pun intended)
Very few performers are confident. . . FACT. Loads of performers can act confident. . . FACT
1 in 3 performers are known to have mental health issues.
We could debate all day the chicken/egg question of does the industry create the problem, or was the problem already there, and the industry was supposed to aid the problem? Everybody will take a view point on this. Personally I've always said that our industry attracts people that are susceptible to mental health issues because it's escapism...you can be somebody else. You can get 'out of' your head.
Our industry embraces 'different'. So if you have some quirks - we love it. So of course we become an attractive career for people struggling and learning to cope.
A few days ago I blogged about the Evening Standard's reporting on the brilliant ArtsMind initiative http://althomasmd.blogspot.com/2016/09/reactive-not-proactive-time4change.html and how I felt that it had been unhelpful when it was suggesting that it was lifestyle that was creating the issues. So many people these days work freelance and therefore have the same job insecurities as us. Hell in the current climate, you could even argue (a tiny bit), that people are being scrutinised all the time too, as companies adhere to the laws of the survival of the fittest.
Earlier I'd blogged about the ridiculous fuss that #Stageschool had created within the industry: http://althomasmd.blogspot.com/2016/09/time4change-wk-8-spread-little.html how hypocritical we were all beginning to sound, acting out our annoyance for the world to see and hear.
Just the other morning I was tweeting my annoyance at the twitter coverage of the Emmy awards, and how all this public scrutiny of what people were wearing, what they were saying, is just crazy making. Who the hell wants to wake up and read that about themselves?
Over the past month you would have seen me retweeting several brave tweets by performers stating unequivocably that their drama college was the same as every other drama college, and not dealing with this issue adequately. There is no doubt that drama colleges WANT to get this right, however they are still failing to see that they have to shift their position on it if they want to make a difference early on in a career. I urge the other college Principals to question WHY so many production companies and agencies have signed the charter? If we were giving them 'healthy' performers would they be fighting now for things to change?
We should not have celebrities on TV 'admitting' to being ill, or 'speaking out' to help other sufferers, when as an industry we are not yet helping ourselves. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying to save everyone else (I believe that I'm quoting Oprah...but not sure)
It is brilliant and brave for anybody to say that they're dealing with mental health issues...but that does not make the statement correct.
Not that long ago LGBT performers were 'coming out', 'admitting' to being gay. Something so genetic, and yet still they had to 'admit' to it. Their stories designed to help others 'suffering the same fate'. Sadly to some extent, this is still the case BUT 'it's' becoming mainstream. The gays are blending in. We're all just people, regardless of who we're sleeping with.
Well we're all just people, regardless of our mental health status too.
We need to stop the stigma.
We need to recognise that it's #time4change