The Show Must Go On is the debut documentary by former home and away actor, Ben Steel. An intensely personal and soul-searching investigation into why entertainment industry workers struggle with their mental wellbeing.
It’s the first film I have seen which tells the story of the mental health of the 42,000 people working in the Australian entertainment industry. While ‘show business’ is often seen as glamorous, fun, exciting, and well paid, recent and alarming world-first research from Entertainment Assist and Victoria University paints a darker picture for entertainment workers. Anxiety symptoms are ten times higher, sleep disorders are seven times higher, and symptoms of depression are five times higher than the national average. Suicide attempts in the industry are double the national average.
These statistics were true of the industry when the documentary was released in 2019. Given that arts and entertainment were among the first and the hardest hit when COVID lockdowns came into place, it stands to reason that all of those risk factors have increased. In fact, 65% of the people who work in the industry survive below the poverty line. Which means when up-coming work goes away, it hurts. It leaves them unable to pay rent and cover even the basic necessities.
You might think this only happens to people you have never heard of, but it’s not the case. Due to the way the industry works, you can have a hit album or be a key character on the biggest TV show in the country, but by the time people are hearing the album or watching the show, you may not have had money coming in for months.
This crisis hit everyone but has highlighted how many people are living so close to the edge, both emotionally and financially. Thankfully organisations like Support Act are doing what they can to support entertainment industry workers, but there are lots of things we can do to help each other.
When you get onto a plane, they tell you to fit your own mask before helping those around you in case of an emergency. In this context, it means taking care of your own mental health. Even when you feel like you’re in a good place, it’s a good idea to be doing things like eating well, keeping active, getting enough sleep and checking in with your friends. All of those things can help improve both your physical and mental health. Despite all those things you could find yourself in a dark place or see that happening to a friend. Never be afraid to reach out for help and seek advice from your doctor if you feel like you are starting to struggle. No one would let an infection that was easily treatable with antibiotics get out of control because they think they should be strong enough to deal with it themselves, yet that happens all the time with our mental health.
The thing I disliked most about the messaging around COVID is that the phrase social distancing has become commonplace. What health experts need you to do is stay physically distant (at least 1.5 meters) not socially disconnected. Your mates are usually the first ones who can pick up that something might be wrong. R U OK Day 2020 falls on September 10 and highlights the need for connections and real discussions about mental health. Local venues including Shoal Bay Country Club and The Beaches are supporting the event by encouraging patrons to grab a friend for a cake, coffee and conversation, as a conversation can save a life. Cupcakes sold on the day will help support the great work done by R U OK day.
If you need to, reach out to your GP or any of the following services:
Lifeline – call 13 11 14 for this Australia-wide crisis support and suicide prevention service.
Suicide Call Back Service – Call 1300 659 467 for this free service for people having suicidal thoughts or for family or friends affected by suicide.
SuicideLine – call 1300 651 251 for free and anonymous support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week across Victoria.
Kids Help Line – call 1800 55 1800 for free counselling for young people between the ages of five and 25.
Mensline Australia – call 1300 78 99 78 for this free telephone support service for men with family and relationship issues.
Beyondblue – call 1300 22 4636 for support for issues relating to anxiety and depression help.