Working in entertainment is one of the most high pressure, cut-throat industries anyone could find themselves in. While the glitz and glam of music, film and everything in between may look appealing, it is relentlessly critical at even the best of times, and increasingly being recognized as a hotbed for mental health issues.
Numerous articles and studies have criticised the toxic environments created in these sectors in recent years. In September pop star Taio Cruz opened up about having “suicidal thoughts” as a result of hateful comments on TikTok. Other global stars like Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish among a plethora of others have opened up about feeling crippling anxiety and depression, with many of them channeling these feelings into their art.
As we increasingly try to break the stigma around talking about mental health, it’s becoming more apparent just how prevalent it is across so many different sectors within entertainment. By operating in high pressure situations that most would never find themselves in, it’s not at all surprising that people within the industry suffer so severely.
And the reality is that this happens at every level of entertainment in various different avenues. Up-and-coming Canadian actress and singer Megan Soo battled with depression and anxiety to the point where she almost failed in Drama within her last year of high school. Eventually pursuing a Kinesiology degree, she started to fall back into depression when she was lacking fulfilment. Then she noticed a casting call for the 2017 Vin Diesel movie, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
After landing a callback, she was overwhelmed with imposter syndrome at the audition and had to suppress an anxiety attack. But she got the role, and managed her nerves to shoot the minor scene, rekindling a fire inside her. “Even though I had this intense fear of speaking in front of my peers in class,” she explains, “when I was in front the camera and on set – it felt like I was in an alternate reality and that fear I usually had in class was gone.”
For many people in the industry, it’s not about eradicating these feelings, but more about managing them. “I still have days where I battle with my anxiety and depression, and I’m still working towards achieving my goal,” Megan explains.
Los Angeles based brand owner, singer and former model Ekin Ozlen suffered from similar issues in what she describes as “anticipatory anxiety” across all facets of her professional career. Having worked as a model in New York, she explains that “rejection was a daily occurrence…it’s almost entirely based on your outward appearance.” But when she moved into music, most recently collaborating with Mexican sensation Vadhir Derbez, she found that every element associated with performance would cause anxious feelings, from the performance space and the crowd, to the performance itself.
She explains that working with a vocal instructor who focused on breathing techniques to settle her anxiety helped. But in a similar way to Soo, she feels relief once the performance begins. “Everyone feels that flutter in their chest when they walk out on stage and for me once I am there I feel amazing and I feel alive,” she explains. Working simultaneously as a performer and the owner of hair and skin care brand Keracell, she explains that she suffers “tremendous anxiety” in the arena of business too, but emphasizes that it’s all about finding ways to manage it with the help of her team and taking time to herself.
Just because someone breaks into one of the most competitive industries in the world, does not mean that their life becomes automatically better. Mental health problems don’t arrive with warning and while some people can learn to manage it, it may be something that never goes away. There’s often a misconception that all of the difficulties that come with the entertainment industry are just “part of the job”, and that the overwhelming benefits of it most of the time should overshadow this. It is crucial that support is continued to be offered to entertainment professionals to help manage mental health issues in an industry that is often viewed through rose tinted glass.
|Hollie GeraghtyWriter & Publicist | Otter PR|