Wellbeing for performers: a growing issue or a changing culture?

I have been banging on about performers wellbeing for years. It so bothered me, I went and wrote the book on some of the issues for vocal performers, as I saw them, based on the 7 years of research I undertook.

This came out of my own need 14 years ago to understand how I felt a lack of wellbeing whilst doing the thing I had such a passion for. It also came from a having a career teaching dancers, actors and singers at further education and professional level and coming across:

Eating disorders – bulimia, anorexia, body image issues. I personally experienced being told I was too fat at 8 ½ stone and that is why I did not get a job I went for!

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts, attempts and stories of suicides
  • Bullying in the workplace on every level by men and women in every corner of this business. Including sexual harassment.
  • Leading to people performing from a place of disempowerment and real fear of losing their livelihoods and being replaced
  • People who struggled with their sexuality and had experienced rejection in their family of origin because of their sexual identity
  • Exhaustion
  • Extraordinary levels of rejection.
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Non-equality of the sexes
  • Ageism against women – particularly something I experienced personally in my 30s!!
  • People who had lost the identity or were struggling to find their identity

It seems now it is something the unions are fighting for. FEU, the Federation of Entertainment Unions, launched an anti-bullying campaign, including a survey – ‘Creating Without Conflict’.

The survey is being launched across five unions – BECTU, the NUJ, the Writers’ Guild, Musicians Union and Equity, – to investigate how widespread bullying is across the entertainment industry.

East of Scotland Equity Branch is holding a meeting on Monday 12th August saying…

as you will undoubtedly be aware, our industry is unique in the unusual stresses and strains it places on us. Though recent news of suicides highlights the extreme end of the issue, stress and depression in our industry are both pervasive and chronic.

I have some answers and inspiration:

1. Get to help

There is more out there now as the zeitgeist of our times offers a gathering momentum for wellbeing for performers.

a) Dr Montello of New York University ‘who specialises in the treatment and prevention of performance related disorders in musicians’ is offering Skype consultations through the Musicians Union on the 22nd/23rd August

b) The Performers Clinic Edinburgh is offering FREE 1 to 1 and Skype sessions on Thursday 15th August

c) 10 tips for survival

d) Creatives in crisis – bursary fund appeal


2. Education from the bottom up is crucial

– get educated on self care if you work in the industry, empower yourself! Your are of value.

Ken Robinson talks of the actor being the only essential component in performance other than an audience.

Performers need to understand their self worth and empower themselves

I have developed tools to do this. I have The Psyche approach – it is about finding your identity / voice and using it.


3. Have great role models in your life

…championing equality and using their voices well. One of my role models is Stephen fry, who’s common sense, compassion for all minorities and who speaks up, because he can, has so inspired me in the last few weeks.

4. Know that the issues raised above are part of bigger societal issues.

For example a friend and film maker has just finished this documentary on the continuing gender divide. Beautiful film, and well worth under 15 minutes of anyones day, I think!


I have come across remarkable resilience and have huge respect for all in this industry. It is tough and the vibrant people I have met are extraordinary. In this time of reduced resources it’s time to speak up. Get support, you are of value…

Get support, you are of value…I know I said that before…

Get support, you are of value… Get support, you are of value… Get support, you are of value… Get support, you are of value… Get support, you are of value…

If you’re suffering or just looking to take a break and creative health check, we welcome you to book a practical one-to-one session with Denise or Ali.