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Website to provide mental health support for performers

Alice Brockway
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A website to provide mental health support for actors is being launched by a performer who believes the issue has been “grossly neglected” by the industry.

Alice Brockway was inspired to set up Playing Sane by her experience of working in theatre, where she says mental health problems are widespread.

Launch of the website follows an article in the The Stage that highlighted how performers in the sector are battling with anxiety.

Performers open up about anxiety battles in a bid to break taboo around mental health

As well as setting up the website, Brockway is undertaking a PhD to conduct research into mental health specifically in actors, with the goal of creating a set of best-practice guidelines for the industry.

Playing Sane will include signposting to support for actors and regular articles from mental health professionals as well as actors and creatives who have experienced issues such as eating disorders.

Brockway, who sits on the NW committee of charity Rethink Mental Illness, argues that there is little mental health information geared specifically towards actors. She hopes to provide guidance on how specific aspects of an actor’s job may impact on mental health, including the audition and rehearsal process, and the process of embodying difficult emotions when playing a character.

She said: “After engaging with some work the Royal Exchange in Manchester was doing on actors with disabilities, I realised that mental health in actors has been grossly neglected from all sides and decided to do something about it.

“Actors trade in emotions, yet we don’t have any best-practice guidelines and there is little support for people dealing with mental illness.”

She added: “As we have such a prevalence of these problems, we just can’t justify ignoring them.”

Alongside the website, Brockway also aims to undertake research into the specific aspects of an actor’s job that affect mental health, looking in detail at the audition process, rehearsals, and the way actors are given feedback.

She said: “We know a lot about the broader issues actors face, such as financial instability, but in terms of the real detail, we don’t know a lot.

“Part of the problem is that actors don’t want to talk about it. There’s an unspoken understanding that if you are seen as ill or difficult or problematic in any way, that you just won’t work.”

Brockway is launching a public funding campaign to go towards the future running of the website, with the aim of eventually developing the venture into a charity and holding workshops and talks.

The Stage is a partner on website ArtsMinds, which aims to provide support to performers suffering from mental health issues. Artsminds.co.uk

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