Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Whole Truth...and nothing but the Truth

The truth seems like such a simple concept doesn’t it? It’s what actually, physically happened surely? Simple. Yet for every event, ever occasion we will all have our own truth of what’s actually happened. We can all witness the same event, but by seeing it from slightly different angles, with slightly different agendas, we can create a truth that isn’t actually truthful at all.

  1. the quality or state of being true.
    "he had to accept the truth of her accusation"

    • that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
      noun: the truth
      "tell me the truth"

    • a fact or belief that is accepted as true.
      plural noun: truths
      "the emergence of scientific truths"

So this is what google has just told me as the definition of truth. It’s the latter definition that is really the most confusing one though…we ‘accept it to be true’. Why is that? Why do we just ‘accept’ at all? Isn’t our job as intelligent beings to actually question the truth to go out and discover a collective truth?

Now I’m not trying to get all philosophical here - in simple terms I’ve read a few things online recently which I personally don’t believe to be true…they have not been my experience of the truth.  I’m not calling the writers liars, as I believe that they own every word that they’ve written, however they’ve been so one sided - where is the other truth, and shouldn’t all truths be told for readers to make informed decisions?

Infamously most of us ‘get this’ with the Daily Mail don’t we? They write ‘a truth’ that thousands of reads believe, then the Guardian gives another truth which sheds more light on the Mail article.

For example:
People have been appalled that ‘so called’ refugees have been coming over to this country ‘with their mobiles’ so we’ll negate the fact that their homes were bombed, and they fled with whatever they could carry, fearing for their lives, we’ll forget entirely the fact that they were leaving a developed country, they weren’t your ‘mud hut’ refugees that you understand a bit more, we’ll brush over the perilous journey that they had undertaken to get ‘this far’…and we’ll focus on their mobiles shall we? ‘These people’ are ‘us’. I’m sorry but to everyone that knows me, they know that if I had to flee my home, after ensuring that my family were safe, the first thing that I’d take would be my mobile, my communication to other friends and relatives, an opportunity on a contemporary smartphone to find out what was really happening in my country. Surely a mobile makes the most sense? Oh yes…and ‘these people’? They are doctors, and lawyers and students and shop workers..and….they are ‘us’.

Two truths….in that very paragraph above…you chose which ‘truth’ suits your agenda….your deep seated belief will actually decide for you, without you actually realising.

‘THEY’RE NOT CHILDREN…THEY’RE ADULTS’ they cried….next day ‘NOBODY SAID THAT THEY’D BE TODDLERS’ (I’m paraphrasing both headlines) tomorrow it will be the ‘TODDLERS ARE BEING TRAINED TO KILL headline again. All are true…yet all have the bias of the author or the publication attached to them.

How do ‘these people’ fight back? Do they have a platform to write ‘their truth’? If they don’t we’re left with very one sided discussions aren’t we, with the rest of us basing deep rooted decisions based on one person’s interpretation of that word ‘truth’.

Over the years in this profession, indeed in my life (says old granny Thomas) I’ve had various run ins with people saying that the college couldn’t work, I didn’t know what I was doing, calling me a liar (which is a fascinating one to try and disprove because of all the above)…and back in the day I used to get really worked up about it. I would be adamant that ‘my truth’ be heard…as I didn’t want the last word to be my ‘untruth’. Social media took off and I began to realise that you couldn’t police it all. FB and Twitter allows anybody to write anything about you - and you can’t really stop it. You’ve given up the will to live by the time their ‘authorities’ look into it. Our own personal FB pages gives us the freedom to vent….and if we don’t like what the other people say…we delete their words….and eventually we delete them.  I’ve done it myself on numerous occasions - life is just too short to be arguing all the time.

So maybe it’s good for us all at times to stay curious about that word truth, as it’s actually not an absolute. It’s a transient word based on one person’s experience, and one person’s agenda…and might…just might, not bear witness to a collective truth.  

My head goes above the parapet so often I just as well buy a stool (I’m too short to actually just stand), so I am bound to come under fire again at some point…so I would say, the next time you hear a ‘truth’ about me…ask me about it….as we should all have the opportunity to collect THE ’truth’

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Audition Time

From 20th October potential students can apply to be part of #theMTAway.

Personally the 'start date' always feels like it should be heralded with a fanfare or something, as the next round of the carousel takes off. 

It's always an interesting few months auditioning people. Every year is always so different, which of course in turn leads to every year group being so different.  As we are student led, as opposed to 'course led' - and by that, I mean that our entire course is essentially written around the year group that we have, as opposed to having the 'model course' which the year group need to fit into. This approach keeps us on our toes, and as teachers makes us have to work even harder.

This is the reason that I will only employ people that are actively working in the industry, as our course also needs to adapt each year to what the industry is asking of performers. So for example, last year for the first time we had to add a self tape component as that is the 'audition preference' of the moment. Who knows what it'll be be this year.  However I know that I have a great team within my faculty who will shout out (loud) if we're getting wrong, and more importantly shout loudly if we've suddenly become dated.

I don't know how students are going to chose their courses this year. I mean it's appalling that the Drama UK site is still live, when the organisation itself closed a few weeks ago?  It still implies that there is group of colleges that have been approved under a strict criteria. Now if you've followed any of my blogs you'll know that I've always had an issue with this, as it's clearly been an 'stamp of approval' peer led, by the same group of people for years.  I mean it's worth stating again that all the colleges on that list were not re-tested to get accredited back in 2013 or whenever it was it reformed - so they are NOT an elite list. They are a list of convenience.

That said there are some brilliant colleges on that list that are truly doing the business...but there are also some colleges that aren't delivering the goods at the moment.

It's hard...we're about to audition our 9th year group, which still makes us a baby in real terms. 
Even since I started the college in 2009 there's been such a change in the industry. So many more courses, the existing courses suddenly doubling their intake (and yes, this is a dig...doubling their intake without doubling their pastoral support systems).  So what advice to give to the incoming class of 2017?

It's the usual actually - audition in as many places as you can afford and go with your gut instinct BUT start asking for facts too. As there are some pretty big, well established colleges, actually doing rubbish out there....and there are some smaller colleges doing exceptionally well. So get the facts and ensure that you stand a good chance of recouping your fees at least by working.

I would add one thing to parents. . . get advice from 'real people' - not the online experts. Phone colleges up and ask them what the 'real deal' is? If you were buying a car for £30k you'd want to know cold, hard facts - you wouldn't be satisfied with hearing a mate telling you that they had bought one and it was'd want to invest your money wisely surely? 

Finally...and we're a long way off this. I wish that people would include what pastoral care their students were really getting into the equation. Don't fall for the 'we've got this and that' and 'we've got a policy on this and that' - go to the shows, and speak to the students and ask them what care they are getting in real terms.

NB: Blatant Advertising:
Auditioning #theMTAway involves spending the day with us. You'll be auditioned by the people that are going to train we see no point in getting in 'experts' as they won't know what the course is able to do for you. You'll do a few workshops, you'll sing a solo, say a monologue, you'll have time to look around, chat to the current students/staff, very often time to chat to graduates as they're always around. That evening you'll get written feedback and our decision. No faffing about with recalls etc as your audition day will only have between 15 - 20 applicants in it. So we will really be able to 'see' you.  We then ask all auditionees for feedback to ensure that we're giving value for money etc. In 8 years of auditioning 100% of applicants have felt like they've received value for money, a large majority of them have actually thought that we've delivered more than required. Most applicants like the fact that we know your name by the end of the morning. Most applicants wish that they could sing more than one song too....but there you go ;-)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

#worldmentalhealthday #time4change

105 Organisations have now signed up to the #time4change Mental Health Charter. In reality that 105 individuals that have gone to their partners, Boards, associates and said that Mental Illness is real and that we ALL have a moral obligation to do something about it.  More than that it's 105 people that weren't afraid of saying those 2 words....'Mental Health'

Today is World Mental Health Day, as ever their message is to talk.  This year their hashtag is #Iamwhole with a campaign for "Tea and Talk"
Mental Health is such a taboo in the UK we have to be persuaded to 'talk' about it. Man when I get ill I want everyone to know,  so that I can garner at least one version of 'poor you', 'are you OK?' 'can I help?'. Yet when people are ill, but not in a physical way, there is often no conversation. Even with themselves, the conversation can simply be 'it'll pass'.

I used to suffer from migraines. I wanted everyone to know about it. I'd walk around with the face of someone begging 'recognise that I'm ill'. People were thoughtful, asked me if light was bothering me (did I need to sit in a dark room for a bit)? Was noise an issue? As maybe discussions could happen somewhere elsewhere.

What if you're depressed though? What do you do then?

The general population think that the depressed person should either 'pull themselves together' and just 'get on with it', they think that it's 'a phase'. I mean. . . if they were really  depressed they'd be crying,wouldn't they? They'd be the person huddled up in the corner of the room, with everyone else feeling awkward about it?

So here's the thing. . . very often the most severely depressed person is the person sitting next to you smiling. Asking you  if you're OK? They're probably listening to your  problems. The depressed person is seldom the one that you think.

What about the 'anxious' person - well they all need to just 'take a deep breath' because it'll be 'OK'. You encourage them to go and do the activity that's making them anxious, as 'they'll feel better when they're there'. Anxiety is surely just nerves, butterflies in your tummy?

Here's the thing though. . . those bits of advice, however well meaning they might have been, might have just been wasted air.  Did you ask them what they needed to help them in that moment? Does your 'anxious' mate prefer to be alone or with company during an anxiety attack? Have you asked them? Have you found out what their anxiety attack looks like? It might not be the panic attack that you've heard people talk about. I mean what exactly is a panic attack anyway? Then you see one - it scares you because you've never seen one before;  someone gasping for air, scared that they just can't take air in, scared that they might even die, the sensations are so bad? Everyone is so different.

Eating Disorders are easy to spot though, aren't they? I mean people just suddenly look thin, and you ask them if they're OK...and then you tell them they need to eat more. Sorted!
What about Bulimia though - they tend not to lose the weight? How do you spot them?

We need to talk EVERY day about Mental Health, just like we do EVERY day about our physical health. If you have a cold...don't you tell people when they ask you if you're OK? That's a viral thing, a thing that couldn't be helped, a thing that took over your body that you had no say in. My migraines were physical, I had no say in them, they just arrived and I had to deal with them. Mental Health is a thing that takes over your brain that you have no say in. What's the difference?

When you're physically ill don't you look for treatment to help you get better? Why is it so different for Mental Health?

This week I was thrilled when the owner of the website 'Not A Pushy Mum' got in contact with me to find out how they could get involved in #time4change. They have a unique 'in' with the parents of children going into the arts.  As we're hearing in nearly every government review at the moment Mental Health in the young is on the increase. If all those parents that are so desperate for their children to do well in life read the charter, they might, just might read something that starts to ring some bells for them.  Then if they're very brave. . . they'll address what they've just discovered. They'll do this because they'll want the best possible start for their child's life (even though they might be scared of what they've discovered/realised)

The majority of colleges have now had their Fresher's week - I'm already hearing the figures of people that have presented at counselling services looking for support. The figures are staggering. The person that once mentioned a Tsunami is not wrong.

Many students arrive at college wanting to be different, wanting to reinvent themselves. It is BRILLIANT when part of that reinvention is dealing with a mental health issue. It's sometimes easier to address this when away from your parents.

How sad then that I'm also hearing about long waiting lists, about counsellors not even returning calls as a 'holding' strategy.

We need more colleges on the #time4change charter. We then need to sit down and look at how we talk together, in a way that promotes best practice, and in a way that maybe manages to support each other too.

These are the stats released today:
Latest suicide statistics* highlight young suicide in the UK at its highest for the past 10 years. In 2015 1,659 young people under 35 years took their own lives; an increase of 103 more than in 2014 and 58 above the previous highest recorded figure (1,631 in 2011).
“Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. It is a national crisis that can no longer be ignored,” said Ged Flynn, chief executive of national charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide.

These well-meaning campaigns should not be happening, because Mental Health is real, it's happening, and we should be discussing those illnesses like we discuss a migraine or a cold.

#time4change is ongoing. Are YOU an individual that could make a difference today?

Saturday, 1 October 2016

100 thanks

The #time4change #mentalhealthcharter has now been 'signed' by 100 organisations. 100! 63 agencies have agreed to send out the fact sheet to all their clients, present and future, 7 colleges/training organisations have signed up to promote good mental health provision within their faculties. People within those organisations have worked hard to ensure that their institution can commit to all the points that the Charter asks of them. 4 theatres, have agreed to 'source' and clearly 'signpost' mental health resources to all of their visiting companies. Finally 26 organisations from Accountancy firms to Vocal training groups...including nearly all of the 'new breed' of production company currently producing the goods off West End and in some instances around the World. Importantly this section includes technical theatre too with White Light and the Stage Managers Association agreeing to distribute the fact sheet.

This blog is just a huge thanks to these 100 companies who are trying to make a difference.  Thank you for allowing me to bombard you with emails and tweets. Thank you for making a commitment to do things differently.  Thank you in lots of instances for sharing your stories of why your organisation felt like it had no choice but to sign up to the charter.

The biggest thanks of all goes to Angie Peake who actually wrote the charter.  Donating time to the cause to both write up the charter, and in some instances supporting organisations/people to implement it.

These last 3 months have been such a rollercoaster ride. The excitement as the numbers started to grow, quickly followed by the lows of constantly having to bang on about a subject that just seems so obvious and evident in our industry, but yet wasn't really being addressed.  The highs of working closely with organisations to support them to be able to sign up to the charter, followed by the lows of other people's agendas hindering progress on a larger scale.  The highs of actually connecting with a lot of new people, followed by the lows of being perplexed by long term work colleagues, and even friends, coming up with silly excuses as to why they were unable to commit 'at this moment in time'.

The highs of hearing about shows starting with all the cast/crew being presented with the charter just as a matter of course, followed by the lows of finding out that someone had signed the charter but hadn't actually sent it out to their cast/clients.

The best highs of all - the emails from people that the charter had resonated with, and indeed had helped.  I said at the beginning that even if we were doing all of this for one person, then it would be worth it, but we already know that it's helped more than one.

The campaign goes on, colleges have to sit down and discuss how we can ensure that the Charter's practises are working? How peer supervision will work to keep the charter alive?

More colleges need to sign up! We need to work together to solve this problem. We need more theatres outside of London to sign the chances are that people could find help in their home city. . . but they wouldn't have a clue where to start should they be working away from home.

The charter will be an ever evolving piece of work - however having committed the last 3 months to promoting it, plus a few months before that prepping it, hosting the #time4change conference etc, it's time for me to return to my 'crap' job, as The MTA gets ready to welcome our 8th year group and begins to hunt down a 9th.  It's also time for me to really focus on my 'real' job, as I need to write a panto, and produce some backing tweak an older show...and start work on a brand new show.

Now that we've started the conversation - let's all try not to block it.  Let's keep talking about #time4change and encourage people to commit to it - as therein lies the secret. A simple, free charter, low maintenance to implement. . . but potentially a game changer for a lot of people.

The moral of this story though - never tell a short Welsh person that something can't be done - it's a little bit like a red rag to a bull.  Don't dismiss an idea before you've tried it. Just because you can't visualise it. . . remain curious, and give it a go.

In impro we teach not to block and to be accepting of new ideas.  Not a bad motto in life I reckon.

So. . . . who's next?

Monday, 26 September 2016

Is there a drama UK?

The news today that Drama UK have finally disbanded is clearly no surprise to anybody in the industry. The writing was on the wall the moment RADA, LAMDA and all jumped ship a few months ago. Or if you were to believe me...the writing was on the wall even further back.

For the three of you that follow my blogs you'll know that I have never been a fan of this organisation. I've been appalled with their lack of guidance and indeed interest over the ever increasing Mental Health difficulties facing our colleges (which eventually grew into our #time4change initiative).  I regularly put hand to keyboard to type my disgust at their latest initiatives e.g. going over to China to raise brand awareness for Drama UK? I mean what the hell was that about? Colleges paying a minimum of £6K a year for students to get a showcase in NY? That's right...because it's really easy for a UK resident to just break into the NY acting scene isn't it? Green card anyone?

In my blog the other day I noted how the drama colleges were taking in nearly three times the number of students than they had originally, yet the counselling provision in those colleges had remained the same. Where were Drama UK then? Why weren't they questioning the fact that a college could one day train 40 students, but the next day feel like they had the resources to train 120 students? Why weren't they limiting the number of courses colleges were running? Resources were getting diluted and Drama UK did NOTHING to stop it.  Instead they took their 'subs' and ran....seemingly to China and New York to 'make connections'.

There's another part to this story though that maybe not everyone is getting. Yes, all of 'us' knew that the writing was on the wall for Drama UK (literally everyone would mention it to me whenever accreditation came up)...but actually Joe Public and their parents, those same people who felt like getting their child into an accredited college was the Holy Grail of training, didn't have a clue.  Just last year I was challenged on a popular forum over the fact that we weren't accredited, and when I pointed out that we were vehemently against it, I was literally called a liar, and a 'parent' hypothesised that we must have tried but had been rejected.  It was beyond the realms of their thinking that we wouldn't be aspiring to join this disjointed organisation.

So what happens now? Has it levelled the playing field for a new college such as ours? Well of course it hasn't as we don't have a track record on our side. We don't have decades of training to 'prove' the quality of our graduates. Here's the rub though - do we really know what's going on in all of these well established colleges? We know that Lord whoever trained at the Royal Wherever in the Year whatever but do we know what happened to last year's graduates. . . and I mean ALL of them?

We all hear the sound bites of X, Y and Z who all left 'established college' to walk straight into a Broadway lead (no Green card problem in this fantasy world), but do we know what happened to the other 95% of the students that graduated that year?

The only available stats that we've ever been given by Drama UK was a survey based on the graduates of 2012, but even that was diluted as it lumped together their 5 'best colleges' (which at the time would have really given me the goat if I was the Principal of one of the 'lesser' accredited colleges not mentioned in the survey. A hierarchy amongst the hierarchy it would seem). That survey might have been really unfair to college 'A' which had outstanding percentages, as their stats were watered down by college 'D' that had had a difficult year. Of course, good news for college 'D' though who suddenly weren't doing that bad at all.

Has a college's success been diluted since increasing its numbers? How would we know without regular stats?

Our industry needs to be regulated, I don't know what that should look like. I would like mental health to be part of the regulation e.g. if you're not offering the appropriate pastoral support you're excluded from  'the club' until you do.
I'd like it to cap numbers of students training - because there are too many colleges, offering too many students a false dream. That false dream has a hefty price tag attached to it. Our industry is saturated as it is.  Controversial I know....but when have I ever said anything that wasn't ;-)

I would propose that we all start with transparency. Every year since we've had a graduating year group I've published our stats. That includes our industry 'drop out' rates. These stats are on our website for everyone to see.  Imagine if we all did this, so that we could finally get a true picture of what's going on out there?

I know that this won't happen - it's too costly to be that accountable to the industry, and indeed to their 'business'. However we all want to see rogue colleges closed down. . . and complete transparency as the norm would do this quicker than you could say "Drama UK".

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 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 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: 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

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 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 to find out how YOU can make a difference.