The impact of COVID-19 is being felt far and wide. With millions of people facing economic turmoil, and feeling anxious and hopeless about the future - how is this effecting creatives and the industry as a whole?
There seems to be no aspect of our lives exempt from the effects of coronavirus. Our health, our income, our family, our economy, and notably, our mental state. As Mental Health Week has come to a close, we reflect on how these times are affecting the livelihood and mental health of those in the culture and creative industry; an all-important industry that doesn’t seem to be receiving the support it deserves.
United Nations health experts have warned that a global mental health crisis is looming, and that governments should expect an upsurge in the number and severity of mental illness. This is a pressing matter, especially as the number of people who have lost, or are at risk of losing their means of income is rising. Millions of people are facing economic turmoil, and feel anxious and hopeless about the future.
Many of the people facing this turmoil are in the culture and creative industry - an industry that is being hit hard due to being heavily made up of small companies and freelancers. A study by the PR Calvary found that in the weeks following lockdown enforcement, 50 percent of freelancers lost 60 percent of their income, with 33 percent reporting a loss of 80 percent or more.
We are at a time where culture and creativity is more important than ever. Even during lockdown, the availability of cultural content is contributing to our mental health and well-being . This week, a new cultural programme has been unveiled in support of Londoners’ mental health and wellbeing, which includes a positive and thoughtful archive of digital content like podcasts, photography, artworks, films and talks.
Artists have risen to stress the importance of the industry. Singer Rufus Wainwright says artists and creatives “protect the minds and souls of a nation” and it would be criminal not to support them as they continue to work to produce online content for the nation to enjoy during lockdown.
In support, Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has also commented on the situation. She says creative industries have become a vital, successful part of the UK economy, however have been left without much support during this crisis. For this reason, many are now considering their futures, meaning we are at risk of losing many talented people. If we lose these skills, it will prevent the sector from surviving and playing a part in the recovery stages of the virus.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans to support freelancers who were adversely affected by the crisis, however concerns have been raised about a delay until June to access funding. Also, more than two thirds say they are not eligible for the chancellors package as they are either directors of their own limited company, or have been working as self-employed for less than a year.
An open letter to the BBC calling for them to press the government to support their PAYE freelancers points out: “getting through these difficult times is tough enough, but our ineligibility for the existing income support schemes is further impacting on both our finances and our mental health.”
Right now, we need to be supporting our creatives, especially as we’ll desperately need them once we begin recovering from the devastation the virus will undoubtedly inflict. While government support is available, for some this is not a viable option. Here are some other initiatives that may help those in need.
A final note: the theme for Mental Health Week 2020 is kindness - and small acts of kindness can go a long way in helping people cope with our current reality by reducing stress and anxiety. So, if you have any creative pals - reach out to them. Show them some kindness.
If you’re a creative yourself, show yourself some kindness - be mindful and be present. This time won’t last forever, and you can get through this. Don’t forget - your mental health is really important, so if you’re struggling, find further support at Mind, Mental Health UK, and Samaritans.