Taking Care of Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

It has only been about a month since the World Health Organization branded the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. Yet it feels like this will be how we will define our history moving forward. The time before COVID-19, and the time afterward. And while it’s been only a month, that old way of living – our “normal” – truly feels a lifetime away. And it might forever stay out of reach, as leading experts have warned that we should start thinking of a “new normal” instead.

If there is one thing that we could’ve all done without in 2020 (or, well, ever), it’s a life-threatening pandemic. And it’s threatening in more ways than one. The infectious disease itself forms a danger to people’s physical health, but it has also completely uprooted our financial system – laying bare all its flaws and weaknesses. And it’s people who pay the price. Their financial health is affected, which in turn may exacerbate their physical health, too. But mostly, it’s affecting people’s mental health as well.

For many, the anxiety and uncertainty resulting from this public health crisis alone are already unsettling. We are suddenly having to process the fact that life as we know it is gone. And there is no clarity on what life will look like next, or when this crisis will end. It’s almost a bit like grieving, mourning the life you do not get to lead anymore. Add to that the lack of social contact and feelings of loneliness can start to grow as well. Connecting virtually is not an option to everyone, and might not be as satisfying as seeing someone in real life.

And for many, the financial repercussions of the pandemic will add yet another layer to their existing distress. Being out of work is daunting already, but it is particularly the case when looking for a new job seems like an insurmountable task. The creative industry is mostly based on self-employed, freelance or project-based work. As such, the crisis is hitting them particularly hard. 

This is especially troubling when you consider that most of us actively use creative content to self-soothe and distract ourselves. Our production of dopamine goes up 9% when we listen to music, for example. But what about the people who create such content? What about the people who facilitate such creative processes to even take place?

Movie theatres, studios, and concert halls have closed their doors; and it is not safe to film, produce or record content with a large crew either. Festivals and other projects are being canceled left and right, leaving many workers without a job or income. Additionally, not having the same creative outlet or purpose to your daily work can leave you feeling depressed and anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic has ruthlessly exposed and highlighted all the existing vulnerabilities in an industry so dependent on a combination of relentless hard work, chance and luck.

In other words, the impact on artists’ livelihood is enormous. For every millionaire artist out there, there are hundreds of creative industry workers who are struggling to get by and make a decent living. While they may be able to rely on some form of economic assistance from their governments, a collective effort to provide people with mental health support has been lacking so far. Some artists have started their own initiatives to share tips and advice, such as Swedish-Iranian artist Ayelle. Taking to Instagram Live, she’s shared her own take on self-care and mental health for artists. Other artists like Miley Cyrus have started their own online talk shows with special segments aimed at improving mental well-being. 

Essentially, it was just a bit more specific about small things everyone can do – Miley Cyrus focused on crafting (channeling your creativity into something else, while also being environmentally friendly by eg decorating/upcycling old clothing or other materials) & Ayelle on mindfulness. I wrote this down as something that is super easy for anyone to do: “I’ve put up little post-its with mantras like “I choose kindness” that help bring me back into a positive mindset whenever I feel myself slipping into self-pity or a sense of helplessness for what’s currently going on in the world. I know that in order for me to be able to show up and be a positive influence in anybody’s life I need to first look after myself and my own energy.”

In light of these initiatives, we have curated the list below with resources that may be of use to you or someone you know.

Mental Health Support Services for Creative Industry Workers

1. Backline
Backline is an organization that connects music professionals to the mental health resources they may need. It is currently offering four different initiatives to aid music workers and their families in response to COVID-19. Together with The Tour Health Research Initiative, Backline is organizing bi-weekly Zoom meetings to provide music workers with a support group. In collaboration with Frequency Mind, Backline is offering both Breathwork and Meditation sessions through Facebook and Instagram. Finally, Backline is also partnering with Fit on Tour in order to co-host weekly Yoga sessions. 

2. Show Makers Symposium
Show Makers Symposium is hosting live webinars to support touring professionals and crew members in navigating COVID-19 caused stress. The webinars are called “I’m With the Crew”, and are free to attend. 

3. Music Industry Therapists Collective (MITC)
The MITC is a group of psychotherapists located both in the UK and US. Aside from offering personal counseling, they have published a guide on “Anxiety Relief & Self Isolation.” It contains useful tips and advice for everyday situations. 

4. nabs
Nabs is a Canadian charity. It is specifically designed to support the health and well-being of those working in the media, marketing, and communications industry. They offer a support-line, as well as free digital content 

5. Film and TV Charity
The Film + TV Charity in the UK has a strategic partnership with mental well-being organization Mind. They offer a support line and list useful resources and advice for mental well-being. Additionally, they also offer financial advice. 

6. Mental Health At Work
As the name already suggests, this organization focuses on maintaining good mental health at work. They have provided an overview of various resources as part of a toolkit. While they do not strictly apply to workers in the creative industry, they might be useful still. 

7. Entertainment Assist
This Australian organization raises awareness about mental health and well-being in the entertainment industry. In order to support industry workers during the pandemic, they have produced free mental health support videos. The webinars provide an expansion to their already existing mental health programs. 

8. Safe in Our World
Safe in Our World is a British mental health charity aimed at the gaming industry. Many of the resources they have collected may also apply to others in creative sectors. There are articles on keeping active, the importance of routines and coping with isolation or stress. Additionally, they offer gaming suggestions to take your mind off of things for a bit. 

9. ActSafe
ActSafe, Canada’s leading health and safety association for the arts, has developed a support app. They are also continuously updating a list of resources that may be of use to Canadian industry workers. 

10. Help Musicians
Help Musicians offers UK nationals – be it located in the UK or abroad – sources of support and useful information on the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes links to reliable sources of information and advice, as well as signposting to other organizations. Help Musicians has a financial hardship fund, and a specialized health and welfare team. They also run a mental health helpline for musicians under the moniker “Music Minds Matter.” This line is available day and night, for both urgent and non-urgent assistance.