Every year suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally. Worldwide, suicide is responsible for over 800,000 deaths each year, which equates to one suicide every 20 seconds. The risk of suicide amongst those in the Performing Arts is higher than in the wider population, with some statistics suggesting an increased risk of 69% for women and 20% for men.

But why such an increased risk? Working in our industry has its challenges. For many, job security is a major concern – many colleagues will be on zero-hours or fixed term contracts, and the uncertainty of funding places whole organisations in fear of the cuts which may have to be made. Particularly worrying has been recent announcements from Arts Council England that even agreed NPO funding may be reduced or withdrawn. Anti-social hours can isolate us from friends and family, and our work can open us up to sometimes overwhelming criticism – both via professional channels such as critics reviews and audition feedback, and on a personal level via social media. With the pervasive nature of social media, criticism and feedback can invade our personal lives 24/7.

Research has shown that 1 in 4 of us will experience problems with their Mental Health each year. The majority will, with support, recover from or adapt to manage their mental health issue. Suicidal thoughts or ideation can range from fleeting thoughts about a “way out” to active planning, and is more common than you might think, with 17 in every 100 people experiencing such thoughts. For some, this progresses to following through with these thoughts, resulting in loss of life in far too many cases. Suicide is often linked to self harm, deliberately injuring yourself, not always carried out with the intention of being fatal. However there is an increased risk of dying from suicide amongst those who self-harm.

Often the cause of these feelings can be treated, or the feelings can change over time. Starting a conversation with someone experiencing difficulties with their mental health can be difficult as we often worry about saying the wrong thing. Stigma and fear of judgement can make it difficult for people struggling with mental health to talk to colleagues, friends and family.

Fortunately however things are changing. The taboo surrounding Mental Health is lifting – albeit slowly – which has paved the way for organisations such as Andy’s Man Club, Time To Change and Unmasked Mental Health to offer peer support in their local communities. Within the Arts Sector, the charity Arts Minds aims to support performers and is a collaborative initiative between BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine), Equity, Spotlight and The Stage. Conferences such as the Arts Marketing Association conference have begun to run sessions and streams on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

So why a blog post on suicide today? 10th September is Word Suicide Prevention Day, a day intended to raise awareness of the problem of suicide as a major threat to life, and to encourage people to talk about suicide, breaking down the stigma.

At PatronBase, we believe that mental ill health should be treated just the same as physical ill health – employees are encouraged to take a positive attitude to mental ill health and to share any concerns or difficulties they may have. We are committed to supporting those experiencing mental ill health and are charter signatories of the Mindful Employer scheme, showing our commitment to the mental health and well-being of those we employ.
Recently, we’ve been delighted to lend our support to SCUFF (Scar Cover Up Freedom Fund), a relatively new organisation in Bradford who aim to fund cover up tattoos for those with self-harm scars. Although tattoos may be seen as a luxury by many, a well placed tattoo can help rebuild confidence, provide an alternative focus to manage self-harm impulses and provide an incentive not to self harm (to prevent damaging their artwork). During September, SCUFF’s founder Jess is embarking on a 127 mile walk to raise funds to help achieve registered charity status and fundraise to help more individuals. We’re proud to sponsor a day of Jess’s walk, and to use our expertise to help the group with marketing.
To find out more about World Suicide Prevention day, visit the official website at www.iasp.info. To find out more about SCUFF, check out their website here www.scuff.org. If your, or someone you know, needs to talk to someone about your Mental Health the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 which is a free call within the UK, or visit the Mind website for advice and resources.
Above all, please don’t be afraid to talk about mental health or wellbeing – your own, your friends’ your family and your colleagues’ – simply asking how someone is and going beyond “fine” can make all the difference.