The Actor and Mental Health

  • Jeffrey Sewell

The work of the theatre requires us to be vulnerable. It requires us to bare our souls, and to open ourselves up to the collaborative experience we have with our partners. A lot of actors are empathetic people, who can feel and vibe off of the emotions of others. This can also be very draining. It causes us to be somewhat more sensitive, and if we are not treating our mental health with same effort as other things and putting it at the back burner, you’re going to find yourself at a breaking point. And it’s ok to stop and breathe and ask for help in the midst of the chaos!

I’m someone who will openly tell you that depression and anxiety have been a struggle for me pretty much my whole life one way or another. And it’s something that so many people also go through, and don’t talk to each other about much either. I remember a particular experience when someone not very close to me asking me was asking where I was heading to when bumping into them on the street. I was on my way to see my therapist for an appointment later at night.

I thought in my head “I can’t tell him I’m going to a doctor, it’s too late, “do I need to tell them I’m on my way to ‘therappppyy???’ I found myself lying saying I was going somewhere I wasn’t, because I thought I’d be opening up a can of worms if I revealed I was going to see a therapist. As if it was this Big Bad thing, but it’s not. As if he would think I have all these issues since I see a therapist, when I don’t really see myself as a wreck or anything, I just have a little less serotonin then the average person. It’s just as normal as being physically sick with a cold and needing to be checked in with the doctor and tune some things and settle some things. And I’m glad I recognize now that it’s not something I need to be embarrassed about our ashamed of!

It’s literally as simple as you needing aspirin when you have a headache, if you are struggling with anxiety and mental health issues, it is totally acceptable to be taking medications that can help you. Talk to your doctor and be open to those possibilities because they are nothing to be ashamed of.

Mental health is so important, and self care is so important. Self awareness to know that it’s okay to ask for help is important. And please, ask for help. I’ve done it, and it is worth it— there are people out there to relate to and share stories with. You just have to reach out, keep striving. Winston Churchill said, “if you’re going through Hell, keep going.”. There are solutions! And everyone is worth it to keep striving and just keep loving!!

And that’s what make theatre so amazing, and it’s why people like you and me love it. We see us. It’s a healing experience that takes us out of our everyday lives and for just a few hours takes us elsewhere. It’s something we all appreciate and love about theatre. I am so excited to be joining Onstage Blog as a contributing writer, and I would like to contribute my time on here to connecting and telling stories that are important!