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Long hours and inconsistent pay are damaging sound workers’ mental health, warns body

Long hours, a “highly demanding” working environment and inconsistent pay are among the factors contributing to poor mental health for sound professionals, an industry body has warned.

The Association of Sound Designers has launched a campaign to open up the conversation about mental health for people in the sector.

This follows the membership body’s 2019 annual general meeting, in which members expressed a need to openly discuss mental well-being in the sound profession and explore ways that support can be provided.

The initiative will launch with a mental health awareness seminar at the National Theatre on May 31, which is free to all members. It will be run Siobhan Ogden, who is founder of mental health awareness training company SO-Training.

Additionally the ASD has planned an open meeting, in partnership with other theatre associations, at the ABTT Theatre Show on June 6 to discuss mental health at work.

ASD chair Dominic Bilkey said: “In the backstage and production sector it would be fair to say there are a number of professionals who are affected by poor mental health and well-being.

“While the factors that affect this are different for all individuals, long hours, the balancing of multiple shows, long periods away from families, a highly demanding environment and inconsistent pay scales all contribute to the stresses placed upon our members.”

Writing in the ASD’s newsletter, Bilkey added: “We have deadlines to hit at 7:30pm each evening. Mistakes can be extremely costly. Often if a show doesn’t do well, it closes at short notice and the result is job and income loss.

“Our future reputations and employability can be affected by how well our current show is doing. This can lead to immense pressure, if not always directly on us, it is certainly on those we are working with.”

Following the initial events, the ASD plans to use member feedback to inform and organise more talks across the country and to determine ways in which it can better signpost mental health advice.

The initiatives follows concerns raised by membership associations that backstage theatre workers are being “pushed to breaking point” due to a lack of work-life balance.

Backstage theatre workers ‘pushed to breaking point due to lack of work-life balance’ [1]