Tour Management Manual: Mental Health & Wellbeing – Part 1
Working in the arts and tour management is incredibly rewarding, but it can be challenging. An intensive working environment, long travel days, and separation from friends and family can leave company members vulnerable to stress and poor mental health. We know from contemporary research, anecdotes, and company discussions that the cost of poor mental health can be significant.
As a producer (and we use this word to refer to anyone who is involved in the design and delivery of tours), you are in a unique position to actively contribute to the positive mental health of the touring party through simple choices that can be made at every phase of the tour planning and delivery.
It might feel overwhelming, but don’t underestimate the value and impact of a lot of small changes.
Designing tours to promote positive mental health and wellbeing has the added benefits of:
- Reducing the risk of burnout, exhaustion, and company conflict
- Greater artistic outcomes from a team that is flourishing
- More positive experiences from venues, presenters and programmers, who are reaping the benefits of working with a happy, healthy team
- A more positive experience for you, the producer, to hopefully reduce work stress so you prioritise your own mental health during all phases of the tour
- Ensuring the team finish the tour with energy, and are keen to work with you and your company again!
- We can all play a role in promoting positive mental health so that our artistic endeavours inspire, our industry is well, and our practitioners thrive.
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:
Mental health continuum
Your mental health is not fixed. It is normal to move up and down the continuum throughout the course of your life, or even the day.
You might be feeling pretty good after receiving funding to support an upcoming tour, but then get really stressed out after a difficult contract negotiation with a presenter. 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.
Read more here.
Sometimes when we think about supporting mental health while on tour, we tend to think about what we would have in place should someone present with a mental health problem.
The good news is that you can take an integrated approach to positive mental health that simultaneously prevents issues and reduces the negative impacts of touring, embraces and promotes the positive aspects of touring, and manages mental health problems should they arise, regardless of cause.
Tour Well for Tour Managers is divided into three sections, pre-tour, on tour and post-tour, with suggestions for prevention, promotion and management in each, allowing you to select the tips and techniques that are most relevant to your touring context, whether it be short- or long-term, regional, rural, metropolitan or internationally, or any other kind!
Prevent mental health problems on tour through increasing awareness of mental health, encouraging choices and actions that enhance wellbeing, and minimising practices that might be harmful.
Promote the positive aspects of touring – look for ways to positively engage the company, build a sense of community and collegiality. Essentially – you want to find ways to do more of the good, more!
Manage mental health problems in an effective, compassionate and meaningful way. For example, access to professional support, and clear policies and procedures on what to do if someone becomes unwell.
Aim for incorporating a few ideas from all three sections at all three stages. An integrated approach helps ensure your efforts are more effective, connected, and focussed on meaningful and sustainable positive change.
End of Part 1: Click here to Read Part 2