Sarah Alekna, Annabel Clayton and Sam Peterson in the CGA video.

The Casting Guild of Australia (CGA) aims to raise awareness of mental health support channels available for those in the entertainment industry through a new video featuring various members of the organisation.

Completed in response to the recent wave of lockdowns, the four-minute iMovie encourages actors and industry professionals to seek help when they need it, while also highlighting where assistance can be accessed.

CGA president David Newman told IF he came up with the idea a couple of weeks ago following conversations with actor agents.

“I don’t think I ever heard the stress levels in the agents’ voices as they are right now with the number of people on their books that are floundering,” he said.

“We put a call out to casting directors in recent days and they sent videos in, which allowed us to cobble it together and get it out there.

“We also joined up with the Actors Benevolent Fund because [actors] are really in dire circumstances right now.”

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the broad entertainment sector has been nothing short of devastating, with many losing their ability to work, as well as cover necessary expenses.

National not-for-profit support network, Alliance of Australasian Performing Arts Benevolent Funds, is witnessing the full extent of the damage as they field demand for food and grocery vouchers, help with basic utilities, and rental support across the country.

VIC Actors’ Benevolent Trust (VABT) president Sally-Anne Upton said as Victoria entered its 6th ‘hard lockdown’, there were requests for support at levels never-before-seen in the charity’s 63-year history.

“To date, through our COVID-19 Assistance Fund alone, the VABT has provided in excess of $114,000 in supermarket vouchers; helping to put food on the table and keep pantries stocked at a time when so many are unable to practice their craft and earn an income,” she said.

It’s a worrying picture for an industry that has historically been prone to mental health risk.

Research from Entertainment Assist published in 2016 found that the levels of moderate to severe anxiety symptoms amongst Australian entertainment industry workers were 10 times higher than in the general population, while the levels of depression symptoms were five times higher than in the general population.

It is for this reason that Entertainment Assist and fellow entertainment-focused charity Support Act stepped up their efforts to keeping the lines of communication open during the pandemic last year, with the former conducting free mental health webinars, while the latter used part of a $10 million funding package to open up the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline to all members of the arts and screen industries.

Newman said it was vital that people were aware of the support networks that actually focus on the entertainment industry.

“We really want people to understand there is help there and all elements of the industry are concerned, from the agents’ sector to casting directors and other industry organisations,” he said.

“We are concerned about the health and wellbeing of those in our industry and them getting through it.

“Knowing there is help out there and the cliche of ‘It’s okay to not be okay’ is really important. 

“In these times, reach out if you need to because there are people there.”

Key national entertainment industry support services include:

Support Act – 1800 959 500

Entertainment Assist – 1300 659 467

Arts Wellbeing Collective

Alliance of Australasian Performing Arts Benevolent Funds

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

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