Are we afraid to talk about Mental Health for fear of looking less professional?

This week, I recorded a radio show for about ‘Healthy Acting’ with host Tim McArthur who talks to people in the creative industry about their mental health.

If you’ve got an hour to spare and want to find out more about my mental health struggles you can click here to listen to the show.

One thing we discussed, which I wanted to also talk about in a blog post as I think it is very interesting (and a discussion I would like to see more about online) is the question “Are we afraid to talk about mental health for fear of looking less professional?”

Everywhere we turn on social media these days, people are talking about their mental health (which is amazing) but how many of us are really talking about it, in detail and in real-time?

In April 2018, Patti Murin (who played Ana in the Broadway production of Frozen) posted about her anxiety on Instagram and how it had caused her to not be able to perform the previous evening. She said:

So last night I called out of the show because I had a massive anxiety attack in the afternoon. It had been building up for a while, and while the past month has been incredible, all of the ups and downs and stress and excitement really takes a toll on my mental health. I’ve learned that these situations aren’t something to “deal with” or “push through.” Anxiety and depression are real diseases that affect so many of us. It requires a lot of rest and self care to heal every time it becomes more than I can handle in my daily life. While I hate missing the show for any reason at all, Disney has been nothing but supportive of me as I navigate my life and work, and I’m so grateful to them. Just remember that you’re not alone, your feelings are real, and this is not your fault. Even Disney princesses are terrified sometimes.”

But how many of us are willing to talk about our mental health with this much honesty? I would love to see more people speaking out in real-time about how mental health affects them without sugar coating it.

In the radio show, I talked about how on a few occasions over the years, my anxiety attacks have caused me to have to cancel shows I was booked in to review. But instead of telling the truth and saying “I’ve been curled up in a ball all day crying and shaking” I would simply say I was unwell and couldn’t make it. But is that because I fear that talking about my anxiety might somehow make me less-invitable to productions, who don’t want to run the risk of inviting me when there is a small chance I might not make it?

I wonder if it is the same for actors. If a producer is casting a theatre role and there are two people in the final round – can we honestly believe that if one is known to have taken time out from a show before (due to mental health reasons) that this will not be considered as possibly unreliable?

Whether or not that is true is hard to say but the only way we are going to really normalise mental health is to start talking about it. REALLY talking about it, so we can normalise just how common these things creating less of a stigma attached to it.