Head of London Drama College Leads Way in Charter for Mental Health
At The Balanced Performer we specialise in helping singers, actors, dancers, musicians and all other performing artists with physical, emotional and spiritual well being issues that they feel are holding them back in their lives and careers. We do this using natural medicine including nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, vibrational and energetic medicine. Over the last year we have supported many professionals and students with anxiety, depression and physical conditions like IBS, migraines, skin issues, thyroid and hormonal conditions, asthma, hay fever, jaw tension and more. We are passionate about helping as many performers as we can feel their best enabling them to perform more powerfully and live more comfortably.
This is why we are so excited to hear about the marvellous Annemarie Lewis Thomas, principle of The MTA drama college, heading a charter for mental health entitled #Time4Change. She is taking big bold steps in the direction of opening up conversations, removing stigma and offering a knowledge base around mental health in the performing arts. The charter launched in July 2016 and by September of the same year 100 organisations had joined. We are proud to be number 103.
I spoke to Annemarie about #Time4Change and about her passion for it. This is what she had to say...
1. Can you encapsulate the Time For Change Charter for us in a short and simple sentence?
The start of a conversation around Mental Health issues within our industry.
2. Why is this issue so important to you personally?
As it’s clear to everyone that there is an issue here that needs to be addressed. Research shows that 1 in 3 of our industry are susceptible to Mental Health issues. Personal experience as an MD and as a teacher and now as a college Principal would more than support this evidence. If there’s an opportunity to help people before they hit a crises point - shouldn’t we grab it with both hands?
3. Are mental health issues in the performing arts really an issue that needs this much focus?
Mental Health issues everywhere need this much focus - however the stigma attached to mental illness means that it’s swept under the carpet, and becomes the elephant in the room. However for us in this industry I don’t think that it can….people are made to feel too vulnerable all the time.
4. What do you hope to achieve with this charter?
To start a conversation and raise awareness. If one person reads the charter and recognises symptoms that could be helped then that’s mission accomplished. Ideally we’d get more colleges involved so that people enter the industry well.
5. You've managed to get a lot of big agents, schools and theatres on the list of supporters. What's been your greatest challenge in doing so?
Getting people to publicly admit that there’s a problem. Too many people saying privately that there is, but aren’t prepared to go public for fear of prejudice.
6. I was expecting to see certain other names on the list and am surprised not to. Why is it that some still aren't on there when it's such an important cause? How do you feel about this?
I’m not surprised that it’s such a battle. Most people believe that they have a ‘policy’ in place and therefore are already achieving the aims of the charter. Unfortunately if they asked the individual students they might be surprised by the answer. I’d love to see more theatres on there. I’d love to have a nationwide network of support and understanding, after all we have so many performers and techies on tour.
7. You must be so proud that The MTA is leading the way in this area. What makes studying at The MTA unique compared to other colleges?
We have so many unique selling points - we were the first accelerated course in the UK, we were the first MT course to split the focus of our acting course 50/50 between stage/screen, we were the first course to do public performances every term, we have a college for life policy, providing graduates with ongoing support (inc free classes) throughout their careers…however our most unique selling point I believe is our pastoral care policy. We have 2 members of staff on call 24/7, 365 days a year. Our ‘counsellor’ is actually a Mental Health nurse - who is qualified to diagnose and prescribe (not that she does the latter), which means that when we suspect that our students have a mental health issue that needs a medical intervention, our ‘counsellor’ is able to liaise with GP’s, discuss treatment plans etc..which supports them staying at college whilst working through their issues and illnesses.
8. Give us one short simple reason why anyone reading this should join the charter.
Why wouldn’t you? It costs you nothing and could make a huge difference.
To read even more about #Time4Change on Annemarie's website CLICK HERE