To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with Jodie Cariss (MA, Badth, HPC), the founder of CarissCreative and Self Space, to find out more about the creative industry’s relationship with mental health.
What is driving the heightened conversation about mental health awareness within the creative industries?
There is less shame and stigma associated to the topic in the last year or so, which makes conversation more liberal. However, we still have a significant way to go in making talking about how we feel an intrinsic part of both our culture and the way we communicate.
Burn out has been a massive issue in the industry and for employers it is hard to ignore. The reality of it has bought mental health to the fore. Additionally more awareness around mental wellness and its value to us being creative and productive and the importance of reaching our potential, or at least trying, is also more present for people.
Creative industries have become more aware that people generate the creative thinking. What makes us human fundamentally is what will drive brilliant work, work that connects to people and makes impact. In a digital age we are searching more and more for those things we find meaning in.
And why is it so important?
Mental health is what makes us human and understanding it better is paramount to positive change in the way people feel. Mobilising conversation and action in this area means we become closer to living truthfully, feeling well, knowing where to go when we don’t, not feeling embarrassed, cementing a new language around feelings and managing those feelings. This will ultimately help shape the next generation in a more evolved and hopefully mentally well way.
As an employer, whilst we don’t hold ultimate responsibility for the mental health of our employees (this is the individual’s own), what we can do is create a culture where people are supported, where we disallow overworking, comparing, silencing problems and start to talk more openly and in an accepting way.
As an employee, try not to hide what’s happening and if you aren’t sure what it is, start some dialogue about not feeling great. Get enough sleep, try to eat well, drink in moderation, be active, stay connected to people and try not to shut off. Try not to judge yourself. Ask for help. Although it can be really hard, it can change things dramatically.
In your experience, what are the main challenges within the creative industries in regards to mental health?
Creative industries have a challenge in terms of mental health in the area of creativity – the constant pressure to be at the forefront of change. To create ‘brilliant’ ideas, which have the focus on the output not the process, can negate the heart of creating, which is in purest form, for the process not the outcome.
Creative work is very reflective of the creator and can be and feel personal. But the nature of the industry means it is open to critics internally and externally, and this can have a negative effect on how people feel. But with those lows also come creative highs, which is why so many great people are in the industry.
What should employers be doing to help?
Employers should ensure policies are strong and echo a culture which supports mental health. Making sure this is happening in action not just on paper – in meetings, in the language used in communications – and has integrity.
Employers should also provide internal support workshops alongside one-to-one sessions with external experts. Pay for support where needed. Understand absences and pioneer open dialogue around it as opposed to ignoring absences or obvious mental health struggles. Create an environment where people can be their best selves at work.
What resources are there available for those who want to seek help?
We just launched Self Space, which is a contemporary approach to mental health support for people and companies in the industry, focused on every day mental maintenance.
Also, contact the Samaritans and the British Association of Psychotherapy.