It’s the midway point in the Edinburgh Festival. Exhaustion has set in and it seems that there’s no end in sight yet. Keep breathing guys, it gets easier from this point onwards, honestly.
Edinburgh is an experience and a half, there’s no doubt about that. No training in the world can prepare you for the intensity of the festival, the pressure to have a good time, the constant push for audiences, the barrage of reviews that range from glowing to humiliating, the feeling that if you’re not constantly on the go then you’re missing out on something, the nagging suspicion that whatever you are doing, there’s something more interesting happening somewhere else, the drinking, the parties, the sensory overload, the lack of vegetables, the lack of sleep – it’s a pressure cooker alright.
It’s a year that is being lauded as a great year for Mental Health at the Fringe – according to Changing Ideas there are 42 shows at the Fringe this year dealing with Mental Health and Fringe Central has been running a range of drop-in sessions including a session on performance anxiety and workshops by NHS Lothian.
That’s all great, but if your mental health is taking a battering right now, there seems to be little support for performers and the information is hard to track down. Doctors are oversubscribed right now with performers being told they have to wait two, three, four days or even a week for an appointment. Equity’s ArtsMinds website, a support resource for performers, doesn’t mention Edinburgh at all and if you’re looking for help on it you’re referred to the Samaritans, Mind, Papyrus or the local A&E. Equity’s website has the following link which details the support available at Fringe Central. I haven’t been able to find anything on Spotlight’s site about Mental Health in Edinburgh either. With over 3,500 shows, many of which will have young graduates in their cast, this is worrying.
I have several clients at the Fringe this year and I’ve been regularly checking their twitter feed to keep an eye on them and have had several conversations with clients there, at all times of the day and night, to let them know they’re supported. This is because of our commitment here at my agency to working with The MTA’s Time4Change Mental Health Charter. I have read the tweets about clients weeping in the streets because of exhaustion (I remember that feeling well) and I have had major concerns about other clients who are struggling more than they expected to.
Where can you go if you do need help? It’s important to realise that help is available and it should not be thought of as a sign of weakness – if you injured your body you’d go to the doctor. Treat your mental health the same way.
I contacted Fringe Central for advice and they were very helpful, stressing that if you need someone to talk to you can always drop in. They also directed me to the resource page on their website here, which includes links to Breathing Space, The Edinburgh Crisis Centre and the NHS Mental Health Assessment Service which is a 24 hour assessment service to help you get the support you need.
Talk to your agent, talk to your friends, talk to professionals. Start by talking. Don’t suffer in silence.