What’s Going On Behind the Scenes? Mental Health and the Entertainment Industry

Jennifer Leff is a licensed clinical social worker in New York.
Co-Chair, Behind the Scenes Mental Health/Suicide Prevention Initiative Steering Committee

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many industries. However, the entertainment sector was the first to be shut down and will remain closed until it is fully reopened. Entertainment industry workers, specifically those behind the scenes, have long experienced mental health challenges and stereotypically, haven’t easily accessed services. The pandemic has brought out the worst in entertainment workers and there is a strong demand for mental health professionals that can offer support and tailor their services to those who work behind the scenes.

The Need

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health), 1 in 5 adults will have experienced or had a mental health problem. In 2019, this individual represented 19.1% of U.S. adults – that is to say about 47.6 million living with a mental illness. This number has been tripled. Individuals working in the entertainment industry — actors, musicians, stage production, roadies — those in front of and behind the set/stage — are approximately three times more likely to struggle with mental health challenges. In this population, substance abuse is a major problem. While Arts and Entertainment can transcend emotions and benefit our well-being, it’s somewhat ironic that production and tech workers — The onesWe don’t see — are, in fact, suffering. Behind the Scenes is a non-profit foundation that supports entertainment technology professionals. The Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Initiative was created to support the entertainment industry workers and promote psychological safety and mental health.

The Unique Pressures of Technical Workers

The unique stressors and rigors of the entertainment industry work can have a negative effect on mental health and well-being. The common industry themes include financial instability, irregular work hours, transient work and its effect on relationships and its impact upon the family, and lack permanency. Bullying, harassment, and intimidation can occur, and leaders often don’t know how to provide support. This can make people more vulnerable. It’s also not uncommon for those working in the entertainment industry to lack insurance that covers behavioral health costs.

We need therapists who get it

It is crucial to have a group of therapists who are well-versed in the industry and are able to recognize how anxiety, depression and PTSD can be triggered in these workplaces. They are also able to adapt their practices to meet the needs (e.g., by incorporating sliding-scales). Behind the Scenes is passionate about helping industry workers and their families access support and find mental health professionals who get it — and we’re excited to partner with GoodTherapy to help make those connections.

The old adage “the show must go on” is exactly that — old. The show can’t go on if a show’s production — sound, lighting, costume design, and more —  comes to a halt. We’ve seen an uptick in the entertainment industry talking about mental health and wellness; the pandemic has further fueled this discussion. This conversation and the cultural shift in how we view mental health can continue to be a part of the show’s future. It will be healthy and sustainable for everyone.

Mental Health Trumps Reputation

If you go behind the scenes, “reputation” is ubiquitous. Industry workers don’t want to jeopardize their reputation or perceived reliability should they take time off or admit to needing support. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s human to need help.

Let’s not wait for Suicide Prevention Week or Mental Health Month to highlight mental health or encourage permission to address mental health needs. Talk to your friends and colleagues. Next time you’re watching TV, enjoying a music festival, or sitting in a theater audience, think of the rigger or the lighting tech and recognize their work and challenges. If you’re in the industry, know you’re not alone. There is support available.

Are you ready to find a therapist who gets it. Search for therapists near you, then filter your results by Industries & Communities Served > Entertainment Industry.




© Copyright 2021 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Jennifer Leff, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York (NY), granted permission to publish 

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