by Julius Grafton
Production crew from music, AV and theatre suffer a mortality rate that is a lot higher than the Australian societal average. Proof came when the ARCA reunion events several years ago resulted in a list of former crew from the 70s and 80s that grew to around 400 names – with the sobering realisation that over 130 were indeed no more.
Since then the suicides and early deaths keep rolling, and research by Entertainment Assist proves that a career backstage can produce very negative health outcomes – even if you are lucky enough to work full-time and have things like worker’s compensation and superannuation that many never had.
Last year Support Act established a Wellbeing Help Line and recently they advised that crew are not using it much, as the research suggests they should. This is part of the reasoning behind the Roady4roadies events that raised funds and awareness for crew welfare last April.
The Wellbeing Help Line is a free counselling service run by trained clinicians and psychologists attached to a service called AccessEAP. It is staffed 24/7 and provides immediate support that more typically is only available for employees of large organisations like fire-fighters or paramedics – places where immediate support is proven to help after trauma.
Clive Miller, Support Act CEO, says the perception of the Wellbeing Help Line as a last resort emergency service is wrong – he says it is most commonly a counselling service for any of the many things that bring anxiety and depression to crew. Those could be work-life balance, exhaustion, stress, relationships, money, drug or alcohol reliance, and workplace issues.
It’s a ‘circuit breaker of the mind’ and a service that most people can’t obtain, but all crew can – anyone who has worked in Australian music or the performing arts. It is not tested against where you work or who you work for, it is simply there for you or your mates. You can still access it even if you have left the industry.
Clive says backstage crew are an isolated cohort who are usually reluctant to reach out for help. This includes financial support, which is available as part of Support Act’s Crisis Relief service, for any working crew with five year’s experience. The financial help covers anything reasonable – rent, crisis accommodation, medical bills, car expenses, legal bills and a whole lot more. It can also fund referral to rehab which some of us really do need.
Support Act dished out more than $350k last year, (with a maximum of $10k per grant). These grants are provided confidentially – the only person who knows your name is the case worker at Support Act.
If you are comfortable establishing a more public fundraiser, you or a friend can set up a ‘Help a Mate’ appeal. It’s the Support Act version of a Go Fund Me appeal. It is a proven way to raise funds direct from people who know you, or know of you, or who want to help and also obtain a tax deduction for their donation.
The Wellbeing Help Line number is 1800 959 500; and the number for Crisis Relief is 1300 731 303. Share them out.