Issue 27



20 February 2015

While the media alerts us to the death of high profile performers, there are other groups of entertainment industry workers reporting serious psychosocial distress. Disturbing accounts are emerging of high rates of suicide and premature death among those working behind the bright lights, particularly production and road crews.


Growing concern for the mental, physical and social health of Australian entertainment industry workers has prompted deeper investigation by charity organisation Entertainment Assist in partnership with Victoria University College of the Arts.

The research team aims to provide accurate evidence on the negative effects of the “risky, itinerant and speculative nature” of the entertainment industry, identifying critical issues and determining what sort of support is needed to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers. The aim is to encourage funding into the area, and develop tailored mental health support and prevention programmes.

It is the first time research of this type covers all sectors of the industry, from performers to producers, directors, sound and lighting technicians, backstage crew and roadies. The first stage of the research, conducted late last year, were in depth industry interviews that found more than half the operators, technicians and crew interviewed reported depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder [see extract and link below].

The next stage is a large scale industry survey and this is where they need your input. The research team is looking for 3000 industry workers to complete the survey by the end of March [link below].


Mental health ambassador Shane ‘Kenny’ Jacobsen is also patron to Entertainment Assist and is throwing his weight behind the initiative:

Having worked in this industry as both a performer and crew member, I’m thrilled to see such an investment being made to shed light on how many within the Australian Entertainment Industry manage insecure work and maintain health and well-being The research will provide an evidence base for targeted support and prevention programs vital to the future health and well being of industry workers both in front of, and behind, the camera lens and stage curtain.”


Here’s an except of the report published in December 2014 on the results of interviews conducted with sound technicians, camera operators, projectionist, light technicians, television equipment operators, roadies and performing arts technicians:

Major themes that emerged from the analysis of the interview data include … drug and alcohol use, mental health issues, and suicide, suicide ideation and attempted suicide.

Road crews, riggers and light technicians all reported on their unhealthy lifestyle on the road. Their work conditions include long and irregular hours, sleep deprivation, work irregularity, insecure job, no health insurance or long service leave, no sick leave nor superannuation. Lifestyle problems were apparent, where they did not eat properly, drank too much alcohol and used too many illicit drugs.

[The group] reported the highest incidence of mental health concerns. More than half of the men who worked in broadcasting, film and recorded media equipment operators self-reported depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder. Suicide and suicide ideation was prevalent. High levels of illicit drug use were evident, and the participants clearly articulated their abilities to self-medicate in an attempt to manage the demands of their workplace.”




Entertainment Assist:

Research information and survey link here

Pride, Passion & Pitfalls: Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry, December 2014 [pdf] here



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Issue 27