News

25 May 2022

Support Act’s first mental health survey: The results

by Support Act

Support Act reveals the startling findings of its first ever industry mental health and wellbeing survey

  • 66% of participants had high/very high levels of psychological distress, more than 4 x general population. 
  • 59% had experienced suicidal thoughts, 4.5 x the proportion of the general Australian population. 
  • 35% reported a current mental health condition, which is 1.7 x the proportion estimated in the general Australian population.
  • 29% reported having a current anxiety condition and 27% reported currently having depression, both more than 2 x that of the general population.
  • Over ⅓ reported incomes from their work in music/live performing arts as less than $30,000 per annum, which is below the poverty line. 
  • Just 15% said they felt safe at work all of the time, with 35% saying they were exposed to unsafe working conditions in the last year. 
     

Music charity Support Act, in conjunction with the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, today unveiled the findings of its first ever Mental Health and Wellbeing in Music and Live Performing Arts survey at its Head First conference discussing mental health and wellbeing for the music industry.

Just over 1,300 people* who work professionally in the music and live performing arts industries took part in the survey in March and April this year nationally, and the results are a stark wake-up call for the sector.

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When asked about their mental health, 66 per cent of participants said they had high or very high levels of psychological distress, more than four times the general population. This was more common among non-binary people (83 per cent) and women (72 per cent), younger people under 35 (75 per cent), people with a disability or long-term health condition (81 per cent) and people with a very low income (81 per cent).

59 per cent of respondents had experienced suicidal thoughts, four and a half times the general population. In addition, 20 per cent had planned to take their own life and 13 per cent had attempted suicide.

The proportion of people reporting a current mental health condition was 35 per cent, or 1.7 times higher than the general population. 29 per cent reported having a current anxiety condition and 27 per cent reported currently having depression, both more than twice that of the general population.

Over half (54 per cent) said they had used drugs or alcohol to help with the stresses of life over the past two years and 25 per cent had tried to cut down, control or stop their use in the past year but were unsuccessful. 17 per cent said their drug or alcohol use impacted their ability to function well at work or in other activities.

On the topic of work, over a third of participants reported income from their work in music/live performing arts as less than $30,000 per annum, which is below the poverty line. 47 per cent said they had an unpredictable work schedule and almost a third (31 per cent) were worried to a large or very large extent about becoming unemployed.

Just 15 per cent said they felt safe at work all of the time, with 35 per cent saying they were exposed to unsafe working conditions in the past year. 28 per cent reported being exposed to bullying, 15 per cent to unwanted sexual attention, 14 per cent to racism and 32 per cent to ageism.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic featured prominently in the results, with over 47 per cent losing their jobs as a result. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) said the pandemic had impacted their mental health, 61 per cent said it had affected their feeling of being part of an industry community, and 56 per cent noted increased feelings of loneliness or social isolation. 

On a positive note, 69 per cent of respondents said they had sought help to support their mental health and wellbeing, and 36 per cent had used a Support Act service in the past two years.

Dr Aurora Elmes, Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, explains: “This research indicates that people in music and live performing arts continue to face job insecurity and work environments that can be unsafe for physical or mental health. On top of existing issues with working conditions, it reveals the ongoing effects of added stressors arising from the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s work, income, social connectedness and mental health. 

“Participants in this research identified a need for further financial and mental health support for people working in music and live performing arts, as well a need for broader change within the sector and government support to enable this. 

“People want to see action towards improved working conditions and work environments that are safe for everyone’s mental and physical health – including addressing identified issues such as ageism, racism, bullying and sexual harassment.”

Clive Miller, CEO of Support Act, adds: “We all know how difficult the past few years have been, but these startling statistics reinforce once again the many and varied challenges that music and arts workers face in pursuing their chosen careers. 

“They also highlight the urgent need to continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of music and arts workers through access to industry-specific psychological services, as well as evidence-based prevention, education and training programs, such as the ones that Support Act provides.

“We hope that governments, industry and music lovers across Australia will continue to support our efforts to help create more mentally healthy workplaces that prioritise psychological safety and wellbeing and that will, in time, see a turn around in these shocking rates of mental ill health.”

The survey was conducted to provide an updated picture of the mental health and wellbeing of people working in music and live performing arts in Australia, the factors that are impacting people’s work and lives (such as COVID-19), and the kinds of support or services that are making a difference or may be needed. 

It was open to anyone aged 16 and over who works in music or live performing arts in Australia including musicians, songwriters, live production crew, managers, producers and live performing artists.


For further information and to read the full survey summary results, visit https://supportact.org.au/mental-health-survey/ 

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