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Intermission: support for a struggling performing arts community

In July 2021, an announcement was made the Victoria was to enter a ‘snap five-day lockdown’ to stop the spread of COVID 19 - after residents had already endured 173 days of lockdown in the previous 16 months.

For those in the Victorian performing arts community, this was especially hard news to digest. Being one of the first industries to be shut down in March 2020, and destined to be one of the last to recover, many arts and entertainment workers were facing extreme financial uncertainty that was deeply impacting their mental health.

With the support of Freemasons Foundation Victoria, Entertainment Assist – an organisation founded in 2009 to raise awareness of mental health issues in the entertainment industry – pivoted to deliver their programs online to help this cohort get through a difficult time.

“Prevention-based programs are needed more than ever now to arrest the decline in poor mental health leading individuals to depression and suicide.” Julia Edwards, CEO, Entertainment Assist

Previous FFV funding had enabled Entertainment Assist to develop content, provide staffing, infrastructure and operational support for the organisation. Achieving success in training delivery to a range of industry sub sectors (event management, live production, performing arts, animation, etc), they were able to appoint a marketing coordinator, begin collaborating with influential organisations and receive acknowledgment of their work on a broader level at conferences and on panels. They even published a second piece of research with national Mental health partner Everymind.

FFV support enabled the work to continue and to innovate when it was needed most, in the changed environment of a global pandemic.

The Community grant enabled the organisation to produce the flagship program for online delivery. The program – creatively titled INTERMISSION - is a tailored, industry-specific mental health course that empowers participants with conversational strategies, knowledge to identify warning signs in self and others, tools to create a self-care plan and support pathways and resources.

“The generous support funding by Freemasons Foundation enabled Entertainment Assist to produce a two-phase webinar series. More than 10,000 people clicked through to access these links to view content from across the entertainment industry.

“These webinars gave people skills and tips on how to better manage uncertainty, self-care planning models and how to support others. The series provided several resources and pathways to support what has been an unprecedented time for our entertainment industry workers.”

With the funding, Entertainment Assist also developed additional modules around Drug and Alcohol self-management, produced publications for the induction and training of ambassadors and the first edition of an Entertainment Assist magazine.

It was reported that 94% of performing arts workers said attending INTERMISSION was beneficial in learning how to self-manage their mental health and wellbeing.

The research report, “Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry”, found that in this cohort, suicide attempts are more than double that of the general population; moderate to severe levels of anxiety are 10 times higher than the general population; depression is five times higher; and sadly, five people try and take their own lives each week.

Julia explained that that building mental health management skills across the industry remains a priority.

“Even before 2020 and 2021, our industry was in crisis with troubling statistics around mental health and wellbeing.” Julia said. “We need to continue to support our creative people as they navigate their return to work after months of uncertainty. We are committed to providing the essential support and tools to help manage mental health and wellbeing during this time and in the recovery of the sector.”

Julia Edwards, CEO

“I think the pandemic has brought out the best in many individuals and organisations and has shown that working together can provide better solutions and caring for those in the entertainment industry who have needed our help.” - David G Mann AM KSJ FAICD


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