PerformingArtsTutor.com invited Terry Hyde MA MBACP, psychotherapist and specialist counsellor for dance and performing arts to write on the subject of mental health concerns for dancers and performers in training. Having had a career as a dancer himself, starting ballet classes from the age of 5, Terry has a great understanding of what a performer, and in particular a dancer goes through, in addition to all the other stresses of life. In a serialised blog Terry explores some of the ways in which a mental health issue can be indentified. The blog may inspire a lesson around mental health specifics for performers in training.
Q&A for Performing Arts student’s Mental Health
In which we explore symptoms of mental health sufferers, inspired by questions sent to me from performers on their mental health.
Recognising mental health symptoms
Question 1: “One of my biggest challenges, and I’m sure this goes for many others, was recognising my symptoms for what they were, a mental health issue. What sort of symptoms may point to a larger problem than your typical stress, ups and downs, or perfectionism?”
It is difficult to talk about individual symptoms, we are all unique and each symptom may manifest itself in a different way in each of us. In addition, everyone has their own level of resilience to issues which are causing difficulties. It is often the case that people around us recognise any changes in us more so than we do ourselves. So you may find that supportive friends and family are the ones who bring these matters to your attention.
You may find yourself wanting to be alone when you are normally gregarious. You may also be feeling tearful, tired or lethargic and irritable. Another common symptom is being short tempered with people who are close to you. You may feel fearful of something but you don’t know what the something is. You may have lost your appetite or obsessively control your eating (the start of anorexia/bulimia). You could also become controlling in other aspects of your life. These are only a few of the symptoms that you may experience. As mentioned above, each one of us is unique and therefore the symptoms will manifest themselves in different ways. In addition to the above symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration. Hormonal issues around puberty, adolescence and for females, the menstrual cycle.
Most importantly, symptoms are a manifestation of underlying issues and your body’s warning that you need to deal with them. Unfortunately, the worldwide medical profession, on the whole, only treat the symptoms, usually by medication, rather than dealing holistically with a patient to find out what is creating the symptoms.
Being a ‘rock’ in isolation and being ‘strong’ is sometimes detrimental to oneself as it saps energy from our own self-healing system. The British resolve of the ‘stiff upper lip’ doesn’t work at all, it only exacerbates the problem by keeping it inside of us, which is toxic to our mental and physical health. For you to ask for help when you recognise the symptoms, is in itself the first step to healing. For some who are normally resistant to showing signs of ‘weakness’, it’s the bravest step.
The stigma of psychological therapy
In the USA psychological therapies have been around since the first world war. It was recognised then that the returning troops needed psychological help. From this point psychological therapy became part of the way of life in the USA.
Whereas in the UK, the British resolve of, as I mentioned above, the ‘stiff upper lip’, created a mental health stigma. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about my personal issues”. “No one else will understand my problems”. “if I don’t think about my problems they’ll go away.” “Don’t talk about family issues outside of the family” etc.
Mental Health Attitudes
Hopefully now with Mental Health Awareness Week and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s ‘Heads Together’, it will help those who have been suffering in silence to get help and talk to a professional therapist about their issues.
Please visit my website, www.counsellingfordancers.com. If you have any questions relating to mental health issues, please send them to me and I will do my best to answer them for you.
Do you have any day-to-day simple calming techniques for dancers who feel overwhelmed?
Some young dancers unfortunately find themselves in unhealthy situations with coaches or teachers. Some may feel too attached to their school or coaches to be able to leave, but may actually feel bullied. What would you say to a young dancer in this kind of negative scenario?
For what benefits do you suggest dancers seek counselling from a therapist such as yourself, specialising in dancers’ mental health?
Terry encourages dancers and performers to contact him with mental health concerns and you can visit his website here:
PerformingArtsTutor.com supports #Time4Change a mental health charter for drama and performing arts schools. We encourage all our members to read, sign up and implement the charter HERE