This section includes information for helping you thrive on tour. For more information on touring, download the complete copy of Tour Well.
Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing on tour
LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER
The pressures and practicalities of touring may increase your vulnerability and susceptibility to mental health problems, or exacerbate an existing condition. Be aware of your own mental health, and the mental health of your tour mates. If you’ve noticed that someone’s not quite their ‘usual self’, act on it and start a conversation.
What is mental health?
The phrase ‘mental health’ is often misunderstood. You might hear it used as a substitute for mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community’.
Mental health is not merely the absence of a mental health condition, but about being mentally healthy in the way we think, feel and develop relationships.
It can be helpful to think of mental health as being on a continuum:
Your mental health is not fixed. It is normal to move up and down the continuum throughout the course of your life, the tour, or even the day.
You might be feeling pretty good after a fun travel day, but then get really stressed out after a tight bump in. This is a normal response to a situation that most people would find stressful, and the stress resolves when the situation resolves.
Something becomes a mental health problem when the feelings are of such long duration and high intensity that they start to impact on your ability to function in everyday life.
Two of the most common mental health problems are anxiety disorders and depressive disorders.
Read more at headsup.org.au/your-mental-health/what-is-good-mental-health or consider undertaking an accredited Mental Health First Aid course
We’ve all felt anxious at one time or another. Anxiety is a common response to a situation where we feel under pressure. An anxiety disorder is more severe, longer lasting, and impacts on your everyday functioning.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Physical: hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
- Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, mind racing or going blank, indecisiveness, impatience, feeling on edge, confusion, nervousness
- Behavioural: avoidance of situations, obsessive or compulsive behaviour, distress in social situations, increased use of alcohol or other drugs
The sooner people with an anxiety disorder get support, the quicker their recovery journey may be. If you spot signs or symptoms of anxiety in yourself or someone else on tour, act quickly and seek help. Even on tour, a local GP is a good first port of call.
While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, depression is more than just a low mood – it’s a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health.
- Your mood is low most of the day, on most days
- You can’t enjoy things you used to enjoy
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Changes in appetite, weight, motivation, concentration, memory, sleep (especially waking up early and being unable to get back to sleep), reduced interest in sex
- Social withdrawal, anger, increased reliance on alcohol or other drugs
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, disappointment, indecision, irritability
- Suicidal thinking, planning or attempts, lots of thoughts about death
Depression is serious. If you spot signs or symptoms emerging in yourself or someone else on tour, professional help is needed. Visit a local GP, but if someone does become significantly unwell, they should go to a hospital emergency room. Find out more beyondblue.org.au
START THE CONVERSATION: What have you noticed?
Mention specific things that prompted you to check in:
- ‘You seem less chatty than usual. How are you?’
- ‘You don’t seem yourself lately. What’s happening for you at the moment?’
- ‘We haven’t talked in a while? How are you going?’
- ‘I’ve heard you’re going through some stuff – I’m here if you want to chat.’
- ‘I’ve noticed that you’re a bit flat – how are you coping with the tour?’
- ‘I’m worried about you. Do you want to run anything by me?’
Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach. Ensure your genuine care and concern for the person leads the conversation – this is not an opportunity for gossip. Unless you have concerns for the person’s safety or the safety of those around them, ensure confidentiality and privacy.
LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGEMENT
Just listen. You don’t have to solve their problems or ‘fix’ anything.
Ask open-ended questions:
- ‘How are you feeling about that?’
- ‘How long have you felt that way?’
- ‘How would you like me to support you?’
Use all your best listening skills:
- Repeat back what you’ve heard and ask if you have understood them properly
- It is not always helpful to say ‘I know exactly how you feel’. You could share techniques that you use to manage your own mental health, but keep the focus on them, not you
- Take what they say seriously
- Don’t interrupt or rush the conversation
- Sit patiently with silence
- Let them know it’s ok to feel the way they do
- Be a friend – not a therapist
Encouraging someone to seek appropriate professional help is one of the most important things you can do.
- Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times
- If you can, offer practical support – perhaps helping to find an appropriate professional, making a phone call on their behalf, or giving them a lift to an appointment
- Pop a reminder in your phone to check in.
- You could say: ‘I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going.’
- Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them.
- Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.
Visit ruok.org.au for more tips on having conversations about mental health
When you’re living in each other’s pockets on tour, tiny issues can quickly become big problems. Keep conversations frequent, open and honest. You could even try a simple ‘vibe check’ at the end of each day to get a gauge on how the group is feeling.
The sooner you can address an issue, the better. Have you ever had the experience where you’ve let something ‘stew’ for weeks, and then blurted it out at an inopportune moment? The longer you let something go, the more difficult it will be to have the conversation.
Be as specific as possible about the behaviour or issue
Avoid general or ambiguous statements. For example, ‘You need to be more talkative at bump in.’ What does that mean? What counts as ‘talkative’ to you, might not constitute ‘talkative’ to someone else. Say something specific and think about the task you want accomplished.
For example, ‘You have really good ideas about how to make the bump in more efficient. Could you share one or two suggestions during our OH&S briefing? It would bring so much to the team.’
Consider your phrasing
It can be easy to sound accusatory or angry, for example, ‘You never set up the rehearsal room properly.’ Consider instead saying, ‘The rehearsal room was missing the tea and coffee stand when I came in this morning.’ This opens up an opportunity for discussion, rather than an accusation.
Let the person know what you appreciate about them. Find something which is genuinely felt, rather than being positive because you feel you should.
Your feedback is a personal statement about how you feel; not a judgement on their behaviour on behalf of the organisation, or judging their behaviour as good, bad or otherwise.
Do you both share the same version of success?
Consider the earlier example, ‘The rehearsal room was missing the tea and coffee stand when I came in this morning.’ Had you agreed on what time the stand should be set up? Make sure everyone’s clear on what needs to be achieved and when.
Ever had a travel day where some people wanted to sleep and others wanted to hold singalongs? Long and tedious travel can test even the closest of friends. Acknowledging that these days can be challenging is the first step to making them less stressful.
Read the mood
Sometimes, everyone will be in a good place and enjoy music, games and chats. Other times, everyone will be sloths and just want to rest, or be irritable and just want to get it done. Be aware of those around you and know you are all in this together, so work together to find a happy medium.
It is well advised for all tour members to limit or ideally avoid drinking and smoking the evening before (and during the travel day) as dealing with someone who is irritable, smelly or hungover can be uncomfortable for everyone else in the car.
Travel naps are inevitable, but long naps can impact your sleep schedule on arrival, so if possible, try other activities such as reading, writing, listening to music, meditation, podcasts or audiobooks.
Pack your headphones, charge your phone and download music, podcasts and books before you hit the road.
When you take a break, aim for a quick walk to get in some exercise and alone time to give yourself a break from the group.
Remember to respect the additional responsibilities of the driver and to keep the car calm for them, help them stay focused, and offer extra breaks when needed.
It is ok to ask for help. If you, or someone on tour is having a rough time, don’t carry on alone.
These services are designed to be there for you when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Don’t ever worry that you’re not distressed or upset enough. Touring can be tough, and you’re only human.
If life is in danger, call 000.
BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636 (24/7) or visit beyondblue.org.au to chat online (3pm to midnight) or join an online forum
Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7)
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (24/7)
SANE Australia: 1800 187 263 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)
QLife (LGBTQI): 1800 184 527 (3pm to midnight)
Mensline: 1300 789 978 (24/7)
Griefline: 1300 845 745 (12pm to 3am)
DirectLine 1800 888 236
Gambling Help: 1800 858 858 (24/7)
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (24/7)
Support Act Wellbeing Helpline: 1800 959 500 (24/7)
Actors Benevolent Funds and Trusts
Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust
vabt.com.au | 0411 524 929
Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW
actorsbenevolentfund.org.au | 02 9333 0915
Actors & Entertainers Benevolent Fund (QLD)
abfqld.com.au | 07 3846 0044
Performing Arts WA
New Zealand Actors Benevolent Fund