Health and Wellbeing · 23 March 2018

Creative industry workers three times more likely to suffer mental health problems

Pressure to reach high standards and financial insecurity were found to increase the likelihood of mental health problems

People working in the creative industries in Northern Ireland are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general public, according to a new study.

The research, from wellbeing charity Inspire and Ulster University, found that the most common diagnosed disorders amongst creative employees were anxiety, 36 per cent, and depression, 32 per cent.

It revealed that 60 per cent reported having had suicidal thoughts, with 37 per cent having made a plan for suicide and 16 per cent actually having made a suicide attempt in their lifetime.

Whilst most people said they felt they could admit that they had a mental health, alcohol or drug problem those who were concerned about disclosure cited workplace factors, their personal lives, service provision and stigma as reasons for not revealing that they had a problem.

The research discovered that specific characteristics of the creative sector work environment contributed to the likelihood of developing mental health problems.

Examples of this included pressure to reach high standards, both externally and internally, irregular work including contracts, financial security, hours, and working outside the sector, the perceived lack of value placed on their work and inadequate financial rewards.

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“There might be a popular image of the struggling artist but that becomes a much less romantic notion when it crosses a line into making people mentally unwell. Attracting skilled, creative people is a key element of Northern Ireland’s economic strategy and work artists and creatives produce is an important pillar of our tourism offer,” said Peter McBride, chief executive of Inspire.

“We specialise in workplace wellbeing and so we were interested in learning more about what it’s like to work in the creative industries in Northern Ireland and identify any possible areas of concern that may need attention and intervention.”

Last year Ulster University launched its £5m Institute of Mental Health Sciences as well as its Creative Industries Institute.

Commenting on the report’s findings, professor Siobhan O’Neill from Ulster University said: “The results are concerning and unfortunately they corroborate evidence from our broader mental health research programmes at Ulster University, which show the high levels of mental ill health, and suicidality in the Northern Ireland population, and particular subgroups who may be more vulnerable.”

She added: “We look forward to working with policy makers here to ensure that our evidence can be used to inform strategies and plan services, to help our population flourish.”

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