It is practically a professional requirement that actors be emotional and vulnerable, but only recently has protecting their mental wellbeing become a priority

Actor and playwright Milly Thomas is sick of the image of the tortured artist. “There’s nothing romantic or glamorous about depression,” she says. But Thomas believes that the idea persists, particularly for performers. Actors are expected to expose themselves emotionally, often with little regard for how it affects their states of mind. At the same time, they work in a profession characterised by instability, in which self-worth often rests on their ability to get the next role.

Until recently, however, little attention had been paid to the relationship between acting and mental health. One of the reasons Thomas wrote her solo play Dust, an unflinching look at one young woman’s suicide, was because she was frustrated with reductive understandings of mental health. She recalls her own experience of depression: “I was very, very ill, but also completely able to get out of bed every day and go to work and do my job, and I think that’s a blessing and a curse. I just thought, ‘We’re not talking about this.’”

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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17 November 2018