Good Practice for Producers

Some things to consider if you are
supporting artists to make work about mental health

As part of our Performing Anxiety project we are developing a good practice guide for making creative work about mental health, drawing on conversations with over 30 writers, performers, directors, producers and programmers who have professional experience in this field.

We are updating these guidelines in response to feedback, so that this resource can evolve as we continue to learn. If there are things you think we’ve missed – or that we’ve got wrong – contact Andrew Eaton-Lewis at smhaf@mentalhealth.org.uk.

Be clear about what your capacity is, what part of yourself can you offer, what can you not offer? We know that if we don’t set up the conversation with ‘we’re very busy, it’s quite unlikely we’ve got the space right now,’ it can feel as if we asked someone to excavate some personal trauma and then went, ‘nah.’

Stephanie Katie Hunter
producer

When you implement support with access and inclusion in mind, everybody benefits. And it means that from word go on contract, we know what that person’s needs are moving forward.

Stephanie Katie Hunter
producer

Be clear about what your capacity is, what part of yourself can you offer, what can you not offer? We know that if we don’t set up the conversation with ‘we’re very busy, it’s quite unlikely we’ve got the space right now,’ it can feel as if we asked someone to excavate some personal trauma and then went, ‘nah.’

Stephanie Katie Hunter
producer

To achieve complete impartiality is impossible so this is by degrees. It might just be a nominated person within the project who is relatively independent. We’re all responsible for our own wellbeing but ideally there needs to be a support structure for that you can trust. If there is a power dynamic, how do I feel about talking to the person who is also my director? It might feel great but what if it doesn’t?

Ruby Lawrence
artist

This means you’re not placing the burden on anyone to come forward and single themselves out; it’s just a pro-active design element. Bad practice is waiting until people are triggered, exhausted and in crisis.

Ruby Lawrence
artist

But also be mindful of the limits of this, given that effective relationships with therapists tend to be very personal and often long term. Consider including a budget line for team members to source their own therapy, on their own terms – this could be time with their own therapist, or just time at a sauna or swimming pool. 

For me part of that aftercare process is reflecting on what just happened but also what’s next. I think a lot of hurt and broken relationships happen at this point, after the project ends.

Ruby Lawrence
artist

I was working on a project a few years ago where I felt very exposed afterwards and it was because in the eyes of the production company the commission had ended.

Luke ‘Luca’ Cockayne
artist

Ultimately people’s wellbeing throughout the project needs to be of more importance than the end product, and this principle should be built into the project plan.