Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Come out for #time4change

Twitter was all of a flutter this morning, full of praise for the actress Beverley Callard, for opening up about her 'depression' on the popular ITV programme This Morning. However it was the wording of the praise that struck me. How brave she had been to speak out? Now of course I get it, and I sadly get the wording. However when someone speaks out about epilepsy for example - are they brave?
The Daily Mirror (don't shoot the messenger) headlined it as the actress ADMITTED that she might have Bipolar? Admitted? Throw me into the confessional booth as I admit to having asthma....quickly. Do we have to 'admit' to an illness these days?
Then there was the issue that most of the reporting kept talking about her depression...but she was talking about recently having been investigated for having Bipolar II. What a great opportunity to discuss OTHER mental health issues, but as usual they focussed on the 'D' word.

Then there was the shock that she'd considered taking her own life? Depression can do that folks. . . that's why it's a killer (literally). That's why we're attempting to help people BEFORE it gets to that stage. THAT'S why when people are busy telling you where to physically and geographically go for help they need to realise that you can't move in that moment. You're not thinking rationally. THAT'S why we want people to recognise symptoms earlier, be that in themselves, or in those around them.

Finally she said those all too familiar words (and I'm paraphrasing)...'people assume that I'm a confident person because I'm an actress'. How many more times do we, as an industry, have to hear this without acting on it? (no pun intended)
Very few performers are confident. . . FACT. Loads of performers can act confident. . . FACT
1 in 3 performers are known to have mental health issues.

We could debate all day the chicken/egg question of does the industry create the problem, or was the problem already there, and the industry was supposed to aid the problem? Everybody will take a view point on this. Personally I've always said that our industry attracts people that are susceptible to mental health issues because it's escapism...you can be somebody else. You can get 'out of' your head.
Our industry embraces 'different'. So if you have some quirks - we love it. So of course we become an attractive career for people struggling and learning to cope.

A few days ago I blogged about the Evening Standard's reporting on the brilliant ArtsMind initiative http://althomasmd.blogspot.com/2016/09/reactive-not-proactive-time4change.html and how I felt that it had been unhelpful when it was suggesting that it was lifestyle that was creating the issues. So many people these days work freelance and therefore have the same job insecurities as us. Hell in the current climate, you could even argue (a tiny bit), that people are being scrutinised all the time too, as companies adhere to the laws of the survival of the fittest.

Earlier I'd blogged about the ridiculous fuss that #Stageschool had created within the industry: http://althomasmd.blogspot.com/2016/09/time4change-wk-8-spread-little.html how hypocritical we were all beginning to sound, acting out our annoyance for the world to see and hear.

Just the other morning I was tweeting my annoyance at the twitter coverage of the Emmy awards, and how all this public scrutiny of what people were wearing, what they were saying, is just crazy making. Who the hell wants to wake up and read that about themselves?

Over the past month you would have seen me retweeting several brave tweets by performers stating unequivocably that their drama college was the same as every other drama college, and not dealing with this issue adequately.  There is no doubt that drama colleges WANT to get this right, however they are still failing to see that they have to shift their position on it if they want to make a difference early on in a career.  I urge the other college Principals to question WHY so many production companies and agencies have signed the charter? If we were giving them 'healthy' performers would they be fighting now for things to change?

We should not have celebrities on TV 'admitting' to being ill, or 'speaking out' to help other sufferers, when as an industry we are not yet helping ourselves. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying to save everyone else (I believe that I'm quoting Oprah...but not sure)

It is brilliant and brave for anybody to say that they're dealing with mental health issues...but that does not make the statement correct.

Not that long ago LGBT performers were 'coming out', 'admitting' to being gay. Something so genetic, and yet still they had to 'admit' to it. Their stories designed to help others 'suffering the same fate'.  Sadly to some extent,  this is still the case BUT 'it's' becoming mainstream.  The gays are blending in. We're all just people, regardless of who we're sleeping with.
Well we're all just people, regardless of our mental health status too.
We need to stop the stigma.
We need to recognise that it's #time4change
http://althomasmd.blogspot.com/2016/07/its-time4change.html

Friday, 16 September 2016

Reactive not Proactive #time4change

Yup, another post about #time4change. . . but that's because it's REALLY important.

This week The Evening Standard wrote a great piece in support of the brilliant ArtsMind initiative set up by Equity, Spotlight, The Stage and BAPAM http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/arts/mental-health-in-the-arts-are-we-talking-about-it-enough-a3344721.html#commentsDiv However the article seems to focus on the fact that the conditions of our self employed lifestyle and all the insecurities that that brings can almost 'create' a Mental illness.

The anonymous actress who bravely discusses her struggles with depression during drama school, might....just might, have had an underlying depression for years - but the expectations and pressures of drama school training exacerbated it, leading to a crises.

The article touches on the subject of self medicating, in this instance through alcohol, but what about the drug use, the sleeping around NOT because you're enjoying it (that's a whole different ball game(pun intended), and should be celebrated if that's your thing), but because you're looking for personal approval?

The article takes a rather back footed approach to the whole thing. Now let's be clear - any 'footed' approach is good. However there are so many other things going on. Is your depression reactive or chemical...or is it both? Why did you enter the arts in the first place? Do you already have symptoms that you just consider to be quirks of 'you'? What's your genetic loading regarding Mental Health?

What about if we took a front footed approach? What if we accept that Mental Health is a thing, and that we should be on our guard about it? What IF we could make our performers strong BEFORE they go out into the real world? What IF we could diagnose and treat Mental Illnesses BEFORE they became 'a thing'?
Actually all these things are possible.

I was in a meeting the other day, attempting, as ever to promote the #time4change Mental Health Charter. The debate started as to whether this was real, or whether people were simply jumping on the latest 'band wagon'?  Now admittedly some of the PD lot might be doing that. . . but even if they are. . . it's because that there's a bigger issue going on surely? Then I heard the most devastating and apt quote of all.  This person told me that at the moment it was "like a Tsunami of people coming through with mental health difficulties".  A Tsunami of people!

I have yet to speak to a college that hasn't confessed to being overwhelmed by the number of 'issues' that they are currently attempting to deal with. College counsellors are swamped by people needing to see them.  Why is this?

Well when you've upped your intake up from 40 to 120 a year, did you employ triple the number of counsellors? We have one counsellor for a max of 44 students, and she is booked up every week. Admittedly our Mental Health provision is rather more robust than the #time4change charter insists upon. Check it out here, however I'm constantly having to monitor it and check that it's doable. Especially with our college for life policy, which means that our ambassadors check in with her too. We have another mental health specialist on 'stand by' just incase we ever get that 'Tsunami'. Fortunately the way that it works at The MTA, the Tsunami is definitely there, but we manage to break it down throughout the year, making it just a strong torrent at the front.

I was asked again this week why other colleges aren't jumping on this initiative - and to tell the truth I'm not really sure. I think that some believe that they're doing everything that they can already, and therefore won't enter a discussion with us to see how they might be able to be more effective. When your students and graduates are literally begging you on social media to sign up, maybe you're not being as effective as you could be?

Some aren't joining because they believe it to be an initiative from The MTA - yet the charter is clearly an entity in itself now.  As I explained on twitter this week - someone has to start an initiative and in this instance it was us. Get past the politics (with a small 'p') and start thinking of your students.

One college told me that they don't have the funds to sign up? A college would need to buy in the services of a mental health specialist for a day to speak to the students, and to speak to the staff. Our consultant said that she'd donate her services to get this college signed up. The twitter conversation stopped. . . that college has still not signed up?

For those colleges that have directed me to the website of various organisations, which state their collective protocols etc. . . the question remains, are these intentions actually filtering down to the students? I would suggest that with so many agencies joining the initiative, the answer is no!

Signing the charter will pay you dividends in the long run - a happy company on tour, college statistics will improve, agents won't get called in the middle of the night due to some 'crises' or another. If you can't think of the short term gains for the individual, think of the long term gains for you.

The Tsunami is real - the question is now, where do we start dealing with it?
Please read #time4change then please email me at Annemarie@theMTA.co.uk to find out how YOU can make a difference.



Monday, 5 September 2016

#time4change wk 8 Spread a little humiliation

Blimey week 8 in the battle to get our industry to recognise and accept really that 1 in 3 of 'us' are susceptible to Mental Health issues. It can't be any coincedence that everytime I speak to someone about the campaign they have a story to share about a performer or technician with mental health issues.  I am regularly fielding emails and telephone calls about some crises or another, with people wanting to check how to deal with certain situations, or people have come across someone that needs help and they don't know what to do.

Let's be clear - I'm  a musician not a mental health expert, so that's all I can do is signpost people to the real help, but it does go to show that there are many conversations to be had which people just don't know how to start.

I came up with the charter idea because I'm always amazed at how small our industry is. Befriend a cast member on FB and you instantly have 50 or more mutual friends.  We're not 6 degrees from people, we're practically next door!  However using that to our advantage, we could distribute the charter quickly, and people could hopefully start the conversations sooner rather than later.

I believe that we're a supportive industry.  I believe that we love an underdog and celebrate their success.  This year has been the year of the Understudy hasn't it? They've all suddenly blossomed in the wings and gone centre stage. As an industry we have loved these stories.

However there is the other side of 'us', the side that ironically can't wait to spread bad news too.  I blogged about this last year when Idina Menzel hit 'that' note during 'those' celebrations. Why were 'we' so quick to share, laugh, and judge? Have 'we' never made a mistake? Surely we were just lucky that our bum notes weren't filmed/recorded and shared around social media?

Which brings me to the 'share' of the moment....some You Tube clips that don't flatter the performer at all.  Cue performers all jumping on the 'how dare they cast them' band wagon, pointing out that someone else should have had 'that' job.  But why? Why do we take a pleasure in sharing something that's not good? Do we comment on the musicians playing so well behind the singer? Of course not. Yet they have to tolerate this clip being shared. People are popping up JPGs of the sheet music of that particular song as if that's going to make a difference.  Basically I'm asking why we feel the need to put somebody in the social media 'stocks'? Especially when we have substantial evidence that tells us that the performer in question is vulnerable?

We could discuss until the cows come home whose fault it is that the songs are being performed in this way? Is it the producer, the casting director, the director, the performer...the list goes on....but why are we so keen to spread humiliation? What are we getting out of it?

We're all entitled to an opinion, look at me blogging away spouting out my rubbish in a bid to make you think about mental health and encouraging systemic thinking as opposed to linear.

Next time you share 'that clip' haven't you just turned into the school ground bully?

My rule of thumb is only tweet or comment on a thing if you'd be prepared to sit down and discuss the issue with the person involved, using the exact same words as I've just written.  Would you sit with this performer and tell them how poor you think that they are, and tell them that you consider them worthless? Or would you sit with the producer and ask them what they were doing?

It's #time4change Mental Health matters. Remember we can all read your tweets. By 6 degrees of separation (and with a poor FB security setting ) we can also read your comments.  It's #time4change. Let's not be that industry eh? Please...

The Campaign: http://althomasmd.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/its-time4change.html?m=1


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Thicko's Done OK

I'm watching my twitter feed slowly fill with congratulations to all the 6th formers celebrating their well deserved A Level results this morning.  Very few are just 'lucky',  most have worked hard and indeed made some lifestyle sacrifices to achieve the results that the envelope presented them with today.

Then you go onto other forums and read the devastation of those people that equally might have put in the work, but for one reason or another, just didn't get the grades that they need. Parents talking about consoling their children, as they're seemingly left, at 18, branded a disaster.

Next week it'll be the same scenario but two years earlier. Exam results effectively dictating how people feel about themselves and their ability.

What a load of B******ks!!

Exams are such an archaic way of saying whether somebody is clever or not. What a bizarre way of deciding fate. "Here's 2 hours....prove that you've managed to cram everything that you've been taught for the last 16/18 years, then like some fairground memory test, reproduce it in a language that we can judge (so not your vernacular), within the next 120 mins". Then over the course of a couple of weeks, repeat for various subjects.

What is it proving? That you can memorise facts? Why? Where's the applied section? Where's the useful stuff that we need to learn in life? Why do we still have teenagers leaving school that can't read or write to a high enough standard? Why do we have teenagers leaving school that can't do basic maths (and I'm definitely not talking about all those strange 1a X 2b + ?c equations that we used to do all the time...which 30 years on I've still not found a use for)?

I've somehow always known that I was going to be a musician. I didn't know how that was going to happen - but it was! I understand that I was extremely lucky to have such a clear target in mind moving forward. Some people 5 years on having left HE still don't know what they're going to do with their lives. It's hard when you don't have 'a thing'.

Somehow I was in the 'top stream' at school, but interestingly have always branded myself as 'thick'. So much so in fact that my very much better half, tells me off rather regularly for using such a derogatory term to describe myself.  So why 'thick'? I guess because I never saw the value in 'classes' in school or indeed college, I always just saw the opportunities there.  So I saw school as an amazing resource where I could easily find a space, a band, and a cast - and I put on shows.  Similarly at college, of course I sat through all the various lectures, but most of my time was spent volunteering to be in everybody else's shows.  I learnt, through applying resources I guess.  None of my real learning was structured.

However I also grasped the 'system' quickly. So I knew for example, that to get to 6th form, I had to do OK in my O Levels (Yes, I'm that old...so for younger readers, basically my GCSE's). So I attempted to learn just enough.  Enough to scrape me through.  I mean, I couldn't spend hours learning everything - I had shows to play for, performances to do. And that's what I did...scraped through. The lowest pass grade possible was a C, and I got myself a load of them.

By the time I got to the next level, I had already found the perfect route for me, via what was then called a Polytechnic (or as someone actually told me...'the college for those people not clever enough to get into university'). Middlesex was a rarity. It accepted people on their ability via an audition, and then asked you for the most basic of passes to try and help scram you over the cargo net of exams.  My offer came back - two E's. That was it. I needed just 2 E's to get me to the next step.

I wanted to be a musician, but to be a musician did I really need to know dates? What difference does it make to me or indeed the world of music today, what date Beethoven wrote his last symphony? Surely what matters is that he wrote it, and what it sounded like, what was the harmonic structure of that work, how did the orchestration help...the questions are infinite...however the nature of exams meant, at that time, that I needed to know the dull stuff, as well as the interesting, useful stuff.  What's more....I needed to learn that 'stuff' about a whole load of people.  Sure the teachers tried to work out which questions would come up that year, but it was a gamble, and one that I wasn't prepared to take, so I walked out of the exam casino. I decided that the remit was so large, there was no point in dipping my toe in it.  So instead I....did shows! In my defence the shows were getting better, but they didn't facilitate me doing well in my exams.  I scraped through - I got my two E's, and off I trotted to the lesser university...the polytechnic.

Middlesex had a no exam policy (which was one of the attractions for me), and all their assessments were practical.  I mean, we literally did one exam right at the end of the course, and even that was a seen paper. Happy days.  Suddenly I was doing shows...which counted towards my degree.  I don't believe that there is a course like the old BAPA course anymore - but I was literally doing around 8 to 10 shows a term. I had never worked so hard in my life...but I was loving it.

I left college with a healthy 2:1 BA(Hons), however I still felt 'thick'

I became a professional musician, the crap jobs that I've done to facilitate that profession have ranged from cleaner right through to opening a drama college. This year I've been in the business 27 years (29 years if you count the 2 years prior to college training to be a ballet accompanist and working as an organist about the clubs and churches of Swansea).

Being a musician has literally taken me around the world, and has facilitated me having the most amazing life, providing me with a fairly good geographical knowledge of the UK thanks to touring, and more importantly a lifetime of anecdotes to facilitate small talk in awkward situations. I've managed to meet or work with with nearly every single one of the people that inspired me along the way.

Had I spent my earlier years just having my head stuck in a book, revising for the memory test of O and A Levels, I don't think that I would have made it.

For a 'thicko' I've done OK. I've realised my IQ is really high where it matters - emotional intelligence. Ironically the one area that they don't really cover in school.

Our industry will never be based on results. You will not be the next Broadway star because you got an A*....however your parents are more likely to let you give this industry a shot if you have those A*'s tucked away for a rainy day ;-)

The MTA spends a day getting to know you, working with you, in situ, to find out what you can do. Talent and hard work should be the thing that gets you into this industry not a grade.  Long may our radical approach to education empower the 'thickos' ;-)

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Make a Difference

How on earth can we be on week 5 of the #time4change #mentalhealthcharter?

So we're up to 76 companies signed, sealed and delivered. Between Pat O'Toole and myself we also have several companies/organisations considering implementing the charter.  I know that Pat has been massively busy behind the scenes supporting the larger companies to think about how they can easily introduce the charter to their organisations. Meanwhile I'm chatting to a couple of theatres, and attempting to support them to introduce #time4change.

It's so hard though - 76 companies is amazing, and so many more than I initially thought would get involved, however you get greedy don't you? I don't know how many organisations we'd need to get involved to get the industry completely covered, but I do know that it's more than we have right now. I'm aware that we need more colleges, so that young professionals entering the business are mentally prepared from the outset. Obviously the holidays have fallen at a very unfortunate time for the charter.

Similarly I'm aware how London centric our 'members' are right now, yet there are vibrant communities right across the UK that could benefit from implementing this simple PDF.

So the tweets and emails continue.

I still believe that it's the stigma of Mental Health that is preventing people either signing up or indeed just sharing the message of the charter.  I'm still receiving emails with snide comments on them, which I've now decided to just share as dinner party stories. We've come so far, there ain't no way that I'm giving up now.

The distressing thing about the campaign is just when you think you'll leave it for a bit,  a story or event reaches you that pushes you through the apathy. Mental Health 'episodes' are happening every day. You might only be noticing the obvious ones....but the point of the charter is to begin to be aware of the little things.

You can help though...please share the #time4change hashtag, if your agent hasn't signed up yet, please ask them, if the theatre that you're working for haven't signed...ask them, if your college hasn't signed...ask them. People will sign if they can see and understand the need.  Right now Mental Health is so camouflaged by people afraid to 'out' themselves we're close to finding ourselves in a catch 22 situation.  All of us....people suffering from known mental health conditions and people with no known conditions (yet) need to be pushing this charter through our industry.

Today, we could all make a difference.
Email Annemarie@theMTA.co.uk make the subject #time4change Let's do it!!
Full details of the charter can be found here: http://althomasmd.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/its-time4change.html


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Why Wouldn't You? #time4change

We are now on the 4th week of the #time4change #mentalhealthcharter as launched by Mark Shenton in The Stage in July. If this initiative is news to you, please check out an earlier post which sets out how it came about: http://althomasmd.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/its-time4change.html

I remember from last year's fundraising at The MTA for our 'Big Move', as the week's go on, it gets harder and harder to campaign in an innovative way.  I feel like I've said it in as many ways as I can now...I'm even boring myself BUT what makes this so different is that when I get that desire to call it a day, I'm reminded of the contents of the emails I was sent prior to the #time4change conference back in March.  Emails listing some of the appalling ways that people with clear mental health difficulties, were treated as part of their 'training'.  Remembering how one uneducated faculty member can actually, inadvertently do so much damage.  Remembering that if Mental Health Education isn't at the core of a college, and therefore supported by the ruling establishment, students in crises can literally be tipped over the edge.

Just this week I was sent an email by somebody that had approached us for help quite some time ago now, someone who had gone through one of the 'top' accredited colleges, one of the colleges that has already told me that 'they're OK'....'their systems work', and yet this person (who of course could have been the exception) literally slipped through the pastoral net, and had found themselves for years out in the mental health wilderness, not knowing where to look for support.  They contacted us because I 'go on' about the subject, so they thought that I could have signposted where they should go next.  Thankfully in this case we did (signpost), the person was in a place ready to hear, and they're now being successfully treated and their life has changed.

Similarly lots of tweets getting RT'ed' this past week by students (past and present) of 'top' accredited colleges, asking their Principals to consider signing up to the #time4change #mentalhealthcharter. Several of them telling me that this initiative was overdue.  Surely this implies that current Mental Health Policies, however well meaning, need improving?

So here's my big question of the week. . .WHY wouldn't you sign the charter? What have you got to lose? For agents and producers it costs them absolutely nothing. That's all they have to do is a file merge and add the Charter to their standard contracts or welcome packs.  I mean that is literally 5 mins work (unless you're on my office computer which admittedly means that it would take 30 mins....it is most definitely coming up to a much needed trip to a Genius store). The cost to a theatre is minimal. You just have to locate, in your area, the nearest Mental Health crises intervention team, locate a Buddhist centre providing mindfulness and meditation...plus a couple more things, just to add to your welcome pack. So what's that? Getting an employee to spend 30 mins googling that information (hell...we've even offered to help them out locating these places if they really don't know where to start).  The cost to a college? 1 - 2 full days of having a Mental Health Practitioner with you to deliver a speech to your students, explaining WellBeing and giving a Mental Health overview, and to give a training session(s) to your staff.   That is it.  Other than that it's the same as for everyone else - a file merge to add the #time4change #mentalhealthcharter Fact Sheet to the welcome packs.

Simple isn't it?

Inexpensive isn't it?

So WHY are we having such difficulty selling this simple concept?

This week saw the launch of The Stage, Spotlight UK, BAPAM and Equity initiative ArtsMind, prompted by a survey they did back in 2015 http://www.artsminds.co.uk/ launched by The Stage 5 days ago: https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2016/actor-suicides-prompt-launch-of-artsminds-mental-health-website/ Equity's Louise Granger had mentioned that this web portal would be launching this year back in March at our conference, and it's just brilliant that they've created a one stop 'hub' for performers to access as part of their mental health/well being tool kit. However when I was hashtag checking all things #time4change just a day after the launch of this website (a daily occurrence to ensure that I haven't missed anything important), I decided to hashtag check #artsmind and the amount or rather the lack of hashtags was shocking.  This major initiative that had taken months to build, with 4 of our major industry heavy weights behind it, yet it could barely manage a presence for longer than a few days.

Again my question is WHY? WHY wasn't everyone taking care of 'everyone else' and pointing all creatives in that direction, so that webpage could be bookmarked 'in case of emergency'?

Then I was having a conversation with someone the other night who was asking me WHY I thought that people were reluctant to get involved...and it came to me.  The stigma/fear is so great surrounding Mental Health, people are reluctant to engage in a process that might make them hold the mirror up to themselves.  To engage in our initiative you would need to educate yourself, which might mean reflecting on old behaviours, or indeed there may be an acknowledgement of having a difficulty yourself that has never been addressed.  The current consensus appears to be - if you're talking about it, you have it, and if you have it, I don't want to know. The stigma is alive and well.  Heads are well and truly buried in the ground on this one.

I have consciously never divulged my own Mental Health status whilst campaigning - yet I received a positively vitriolic attack, presuming that I had started this campaign off due to 'my own issues'. Like I was attempting to create a problem in our industry for the hell of it?

So my big question of week 4 is WHY?

If you already have a robust Mental Health Policy in place you would naturally be fulfilling the terms of the Charter = RESULT. Sign up, and let's add your name and status to the campaign.

If you're concerned that it'll take too much time - see above. We're talking a maximum of 30 mins out of your life to fulfil the terms of the charter = RESULT. Sign up, and let's add your name and status to the campaign.

If you're worried about the costs - see above.  Colleges would suffer the only financial penalty, but these are clearly costs that can be absorbed by the organisations in a bid to help and educated the young of our industry, and that after all is our job = RESULT. Sign up, and let's add your name and status to the campaign.

Finally my question is a bit more personal - to those people that I've contacted to attempt to get them interested in the initiative WHY have you ignored the email/tweet (or often both)? WHY wouldn't you just show a basic level of manners and say that for personal reasons you're not interested in this, or you think that it's nonsense or just a simple 'thanks but no thanks'? Every single time you've emailed/tweeted me, I've shown you the courtesy of an answer - WHY aren't you able to do the same.  Trust me. . . I'm very busy too, but I always find time for manners.

So.....WHY wouldn't you sign the charter, and spread the word about ArtsMind while you're at it?

If this has made you interested in Charter - info@theMTA.co.uk putting #time4change as the subject.

PS...if you signed I could stop going on about it. Now WHY wouldn't you want that?

Sunday, 31 July 2016

#time4change If Just One Person

#time4change the #mentalhealthcharter is now 3 weeks old. To date 46 companies have signed the Charter. In the wings are 3 colleges seriously looking at it (none of them Drama UK colleges I should add), and a few production companies and a couple of agencies.  

Being in charge of a small organisation it never ceases to amaze me how much discussion has to go on in other companies to make things happen.  EG in our recent Senior Faculty meeting it was suggested by our Health and Welfare consultant that we should offer our students a quiet space during the lunch hour for those people that wanted it.  Within the hour that suggestion was implemented, because I could unilaterally make a decision to take a studio and designate it to be that time.  Now I'm not saying that this is good...if I suddenly became power crazed I could equally have opted to make that studio something far less helpful to the students' welfare.  Fortunately though I'm reined in by a very opinionated faculty, and an extremely interested Board of Trustees who watch my every move.

Having worked in larger organisations, I know that big decisions like opting into the #time4change Charter can take a lot of work. For example Rose Bruford signed the Charter this week. A massive decision by a major and prolific UK college.  Behind the scenes I'm aware that Pat O'Toole worked patiently within her role there until the college were comfortable enough with the Charter to sign. Here's my point really - are YOU in an organisation that needs to sign the Charter? If so....please get that bit between your teeth and stay with it. Don't take no for an answer. Come back to us if there are bits that you disagree with, and let's find a way together that will enable your organisation to sign up.  
The world will only change if each and every one of us takes  a stand for what we believe in.

Should your college sign the charter? Let them know your feelings about it. Ask them to read it. Send it to them. Explain to them how it works.  Take a collective responsibility to get this discussion up and running.

If you do one tweet in support of the charter, as amazing as that is, it is lost within seconds. Social media dictates that we live in a 'rolling news' world, everything lives for around 1 minute(if that really)....after which more news comes in, and the original post is already forgotten.  Those people that follow me on twitter must dread those couple of hours that I've spent every day trying to get this message across, as there's suddenly a deluge of posts talking about Mental Health.  Yes, there are better ways of spreading the word, but we have no budget, and that's all I can spend is time. . . time to keep talking, because I know that I just have the hit the right people on their TimeLines once.  It's a bit like the roulette wheel. I have to keep rolling that ball.

I said today in a tweet that if Equity, Spotlight, the ITC and Drama UK got behind this initiative it would be job done for me.  Imagine a world where with your annual Equity diary you got a copy of the #time4change Charter and a Mental Health MOT sheet (Angie Peake's idea again....not mine).  Check in with yourself how you were doing, and have an annual check that things are ticking along nicely. Any niggles that raise the red flat on the MOT sheet, get yourself along to the Doctors for a check up. Simple.  Go safe in the knowledge that our industry understands mental health issues as well as we understand physical health issues.  

We almost need a mental health equivalent to 'Physio Ed's' don't we? A one stop place where people can get affordable therapy without feeling any shame or embarrasment for being there.  

So...the campaign wades on.  Suddenly organisations that have forgotten about my emails are suddenly responding with me, and arranging meetings...which is just brilliant.  Here's hoping that for each of these organisations there is a Pat O'Toole amongst them, that won't give up until the company/college/organisation is signed up. To be continued ;-)