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 in your cast or crew is 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.
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.