I called this session because, when it was said at the beginning of the day 'search your heart for what's important to you right now', I realised that a large number of my friends who also work in the arts (I am predominantly a freelance director/writer) deal with various forms of mental health problems and - whilst I don't have power to provide things like spaces, resources, guaranteed audiences or anything like that, I'm keen to think of how I can support them. This is especially considering that I'm aware I have a great deal of privilege, which - for instance - grants me more stability than many others (so how do I then put that privilege to good use?).

The discussion veered between personal support and what can be done more formally in a professional context, so I'll split the notes into those.

Giving support to friends/on a personal level:

- Make sure you consider not just what you can do, but also what you can't. Offering support should not escalate into self-exploitation or pushing yourself into compassion fatigue.
- Physical touch is deeply important and often overlooked.
- Help people feel proud of who they are, with all that involves, and empowered to be themselves publicly. One way of doing this is reminding them of/reinforcing everything that they can and should do in terms of asking for help, taking care of themselves, and what kind of support they can professionally demand.
- Help them draw lines between 'work' and other activities or time. One possible way is going out into nature - finding somewhere calm, still.
- There is a method of sharing/communicating called a 'Dyad': two people sit with each other. One speaks for 5 minutes whilst the other listens and doesn't interrupt. Then, after 5 minutes (a timer is set/a bell is rung to make this clear), it switches so that the other person talks and the first person listens. It's important there's no interruption - it's about being present and listening to someone. It was suggested this could also work with 5 minutes of silence together - at the end, or maybe in the middle. This goes for 40 minutes (or at least has in the experience of the person who mentioned the method).
- Potentially try to support friends in a wider group of friends so that the support doesn't fall solely on you - and if you're in a position where you're less able to support in this instance, someone else can hopefully step in more, and vice versa
- Cultivate friendships and focus more on quality than quantity
- Do what you can to dispel the myth of the necessity of artistic martyrdom - that people have to suffer for their art, or that suffering produces better art. All it does is seem to legitimise pain.
- Reinforce and remind them of the following: part of your job is getting enough rest to do your job effective; there are artists who tour with wellbeing practitioners and clauses in their contracts about what might prevent them from performing, so those kind of measures exist and are possible; you can layout formal action plans in case of specific events, so that those around you can give you the apt support.
- If they're not getting a formal decompression period in rehearsals or similar, you might be able to provide this yourself by meeting them afterwards to talk/listen.

Providing better support in a professional context:

- Pre-emptively ask people what their needs are, don't make it so that they are forced to approach you. Assume that everyone in the room has needs of some form - that the normal baseline is that of having needs to be catered to, so it's not characterised as 'other'. Even those who don't consider themselves to have needs will actually have the need to understand the others in the room better.
- Regularly check in with everyone - make it a regular and open process so that, again, someone doesn't have to bring something up but, more likely, it will be spotted and you can go to them.
- Don't just check in with people, check out as well - have decompression periods at the end of rehearsals or similar. Post-rehearsal drinks seem to be an informal mode of this, but because they tend to involve alcohol, that can exclude people and affect the effectiveness of it.
- Put provisos in contracts regarding health issues - not just physical injury and sickness but mental problems too.
- It was mentioned how at LIFT Festival, artists would submit 'manuals' of how they work, what kind of support they might need, and suchlike, which made it easier for the festival to ensure this was provided and available.
- Work with/involve mental health professionals to ensure things are being handled appropriately. Treat mental health problems like physical health problems - you wouldn't have an untrained person deal with a broken limb, etc.

The session provided a lot of food for thought. In terms of my specific angle of thinking of providing help and support to friends, what people said about tackling the isolation of the industry, providing something separate or 'other' from work, physical contact, the Dyad system of talking/listening, and my own general thoughts - I'm going to speak to various friends about what they need, and whether me trying to provide some kind of monthly space for people to talk, be listened to, do something totally separate to work and suchlike would be of use (above and beyond more casual support). If it isn't, then I will speak to them about what might help them - as a huge element of the discussion was about people's individual and specific needs, and understanding these.