Work and Wellbeing · 23 March 2018

Creative industry workers three times more likely to suffer 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 and depression.

It revealed that 60% reported having had suicidal thoughts, with 37% having made a plan for suicide. Around 16% had attempted suicide during their lifetime.

Most people said they felt they could admit that they had a mental health problem. The group that were concerned about speaking out cited workplace factors, service provision, and stigma as reasons for not revealing their issues.

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 and the lack of financial security. The perceived lack of value placed on their work and inadequate financial rewards also take a significant toll.

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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.”



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