Out From Under: Messages of hope from the Australian entertainment industry to those suffering mental health issues in the arts

On Monday 21 November, stars of the Australian entertainment industry will come together at the Seymour Centre to perform in a ONE NIGHT ONLY concert – Out From Under 2016. The event is in response to the issue of mental health within the profession and aims at removing the stigma surrounding mental health by bringing it out of the shadows.

We asked the stars to answer two questions-

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about the song you are going to perform and its relevance to this important cause?
  2. What message are you personally hoping to deliver to those attending Out From Under (and the wider community) about mental health in the Australian entertainment industry?

Read their responses below-

Gorgi Coghlan – Host (Presenter on The Project)

  1. I’m passionate about mental health and I love any opportunity to help share our stories on what goes on inside our heads.  We often share very similar feelings and worries but we don’t talk about it enough and we often don’t know what to say when people talk about their mental health.  The entertainment industry is an environment that naturally precipitates our mental fragility due to it’s employment uncertainty, creative pressure and competitive nature, so it’s vital we come together to look after each other, nurture our fears and talk talk talk about it.  This is why Out from Under is such a powerful and important event.
  2. A lot of performers – on stage, on television, in the news, in the creative arts, musical theatre, drama – have varying degrees of challenging mental health issues.  For some people, this can manifest as crippling anxiety through to depression -for others it’s the constant degrading self critic and hopeless self doubt. I’m looking forward to listening.  Listening to the honesty, the fear, the challenges people in the industry face and learning how by sharing our stories we can come together to support each other.  Listening to the stories come out from under the blanket of trust.

Lucy Durack (Glinda in Wicked)

  1. I am performing a version of Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. I love this song – it has a strong message and a beautiful melody.
  2. I hope Out From Under helps to shed light on a subject we could probably all learn more about and helps make people feel ok when they don’t feel ok in realising there is a lot that can be done and that they are not alone.

Michael James Scott (Genie in Aladdin)

  1. I’m singing a song about the beauty of time and how it can heal us.
  2. With the amazing and important cause of Out From Under I think it’s important to recognize that it takes time to heal and to make changes and to not under estimate the change over time and what has already beautifully been happening.

Adam Jon Fiorentino (Kassim in Aladdin)

  1.   Don McLean said it so simply – “I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy. He had an illness”. Mental illness is such a tricky condition for people to understand. It’s easy to look at someone in a wheelchair and understand that it’s out of their control. However, with mental illness unless you have been through depression you can’t easily grasp that you can’t just ‘snap out of it’, or ‘just be happy’.
  2. That there are others who have gone through and/or are going through the same thing. It’s not something to shy away from but to accept and find support to help you through it. It won’t go away by just ignoring it.

Rob Mills (Sam in Ghost the Musical)

  1. I’m singing IF THIS IS IT by Newton Faulkner. For me, it’s a song about hope and overcoming adversity. Whether trying to get up for a performance on stage or overcoming personal struggles. We all remember those perfect moments when we do, yet the fears that we once had, often creep back in. This is a great song to celebrate the wins in life.
  2. In a nutshell… that it’s ok to not be ok.

Jordan Pollard (from The Tap Pack)

  1. The Tap Pack are performing on the night under the direction of Nigel Turner-Carroll and we are combining our powers with the esteemed Drummer Queens! It’s so important to be a part of the conversation about mental health as we, as entertainers, constantly question ourselves in our pursuit to better present our art. We battle the stresses of choosing a life in the arts and our work is always open to people’s opinion and criticism and so we need a strong community to help band together and look out for each other and offer support.
  2. Making people aware that it’s okay to be affected by stresses of the job. We all experience elation and rejection, most likely in equal measures, so it’s important to know that we aren’t alone when we experience these things and there will be a community to support you when it gets hard. Personally, I am hoping to let people know that there is strength with being around people. We can all share the load when it gets tough.

Diana Rouvas (Singer Songwriter, performing with Damien Leith) 

  1. The song we are performing is a song Damien wrote. He asked if I’d been keen to record it with him as a duet – and I was honoured! The song is about two people taking a risk and realising together that they can do just about anything, removing fear and just taking that leap into the unknown. Quite relevant!  FEAR is the very thing that cripples a lot of us but realising we aren’t in it alone can set us free if we allow it.
  2. The message I think is important for people to really hear, is that although this business can kind of beat us a bit sometimes – and we are vulnerable because our work and dreams are there for everyone to judge and criticize – the thing I keep learning on my journey is that it actually takes incredible strength to stand up and be vulnerable and open and raw. When I am that way I feel empowered, connected and centred. Owning all that makes us who we are, strengths weaknesses, ‘mistakes’ and successes disarm the greatest of critics because in that moment we are a great mirror for all and we see ourselves in each other, and give the gift of acceptance. In saying “I KNOW who I am and so I KNOW who YOU are too…” and in that we are allowing OTHERS to Accept themselves. So the message is – be the great mirror. Connect, in honesty. And honour the paths we have walked and the scars we wear. NEVER be ashamed, you are NOT alone , and NO ONE can truly judge ANYONE for they DO NOT know the path we’ve walked or how FAR we have come.

Monique Montez (Singer,  Actress)

  1.   I’m really thrilled to share “Rise Up” at OFU as it’s an anthem to anyone who needs strength and courage to believe in themselves, push through the hard times and never give up.
  2. My personal message is “life is full of trying moments and challenges, especially in our industry. Mental health is more common than spoken about, and it’s ok to ask for help”.

The Idea Of North (a cappella vocal ensemble)

  1.  We’ve decided to sing ‘Flame Trees’ by Cold Chisel. This is a classic song from this legendary Australian band that has themes of sentimentality, remembrance, longing and loneliness. We felt these themes were appropriate for this cause – a cause that has many origins. Mental health in the Australian music industry is far more prevalent that the general public would like to know about, and having artists write songs about their life challenges, including emotional and psychological challenges such as those explored in ‘Flame Trees’ gives an important insight into the general psyche of the artists. All too often are they just ‘songs’ to people – but these compositions are often deep insights into the composers and their human experience.
  2. By being part of this event, we hope to deliver the message that mental health in the Australian entertainment industry is a legitimate challenge, and regardless of its origins or the reasons it exists, it is a cause that requires our attention to ensure the ongoing health and maintenance of our performers and the industry in general.

Heather Mitchell (Actress)

  1.  I have been invited to be involved on the panel. I feel passionate that the topic of mental health in our industry become a regular and ongoing discussion. I have worked with hundreds of performers and crews and either been aware of individuals personal struggles with anxiety, depression, addiction, bullying and isolation or discovered it later at a time when they were no longer able to cope. In an industry which prides itself on being a “community” we have very few resources available to us to protect and support its members.
  2. My hope is that the perennial exhilarating highs and devastating lows of our industry be acknowledged and individuals become more aware and unafraid of seeking professional and community support when necessary. I would love the wider community to gain an insight into the needs and demands of a “ creative” person and an understanding of the nature of the work and the skill and personal challenges involved.

Matt Heyward (Associate Producer of Out From Under)

  1.    I am one of the Associate Producers of the event and I also devised the mental health content of the evening with psychologist Lucinda Sharp.
  2. Primarily the message for me is about removing any stigma attached to mental health issues, starting a conversation about it and realising that you aren’t alone and it’s ok to speak up and reach out if you need a hand.

Luke Hunter (Musical Director of Out From Under)

  1. I became involved in Out From Under after talking to Producer Matthew Henderson. We’d both known people in the industry who had taken their lives. I was heartened by Matthew’s desire to ‘do something’ and help try and address the complex issues involved. As a Musical Director, I’ve worked with people suffering from debilitating performance anxiety, and I hope the event can provide information and break down the stigma around the issues our industry face.
  2. The most important message is that these issues are ones could affect us all, over our careers. It’s OK to reach out, and it’s important we break down the stigma of being affected by mental illness. The prevalence of mental health issues in the entertainment industry is more apparent than in the general population, so it’s important we recognise this as we begin to confront them as a community. 

Amy Campbell (Choreographer)

  1. I am choreographing a special number for the incredible Lucy Durack and dancer Morgan Choice. I am beyond excited to be creatively involved in this important stand in raising the profile of Mental Health in the Entertainment industry. I have been dancing professionally for 15 years and know first hand the importance of looking after your own headspace and being able to support your friends and co-workers without any shame or embarrassment.
  2. Knowing how tough this industry is and how hard you have to fight to achieve your dreams I want my friends to feel like they are not alone, ever.

“OUT FROM UNDER 2016” – ONE NIGHT ONLY AT THE YORK THEATRE, SEYMOUR CENTRE MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER. Tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster or the Seymour Centre.