Fringe performers to get mental health support

Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe will be offered mental health drop-in sessions from a team of experts.

Edinburgh Fringe, Royal Mile

A team of mental health professionals, including clinical psychologists, art therapists, nurse therapists and psychologists in training, will offer taster sessions to performers this month to show what kinds of therapies they can access.

Over the past few years, mental health has emerged as a prominent topic at the Fringe. Mental health was the most-talked-about issue in the Fringe last year, featuring in 42 shows.

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The Fringe provides a shot at success for unknown theatre and comedy acts. Anyone can pay the fees and book a slot. With long hours, high costs and pressure to drum up their own audiences, there's no doubt performers are under pressure and that can take a toll on mental health.

However, what has changed in recent years is the increasing number of shows featuring people explicitly talking about personal experience of mental health. This awareness can help tackle stigma, experts say, but it also exposes performers to the after effects of reliving trauma on stage - in front of audiences.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, who runs the arts program for the Mental Health Foundation said, "I'm really pleased to see Fringe performers being supported in this way. The Fringe can be an incredibly stressful environment in which to create shows, particularly shows that directly address mental health as many are doing once again this year. The number of shows exploring mental health is increasing all the time."

The Mental Health Foundation introduced a Mental Health Fringe Award in 2017, a prize for a work of outstanding artistic merit on the subject. This year there are 40 shows on the shortlist.

The new, free drop-in sessions will see health workers drawn from NHS Lothian and the British Psychological Society’s Scotland Branch. Beth Hannah, Chair of BPS Scotland, says:“The Edinburgh Fringe is a great event which takes over the city for a month, but there is a pressure on performers to sell tickets and get up on stage every day.“Our team of applied psychologists and other therapists will be on hand to show performers some simple techniques which can help them to look after themselves and their mental health during the Fringe and beyond.”

The wellbeing sessions will cover mindfulness, relaxation, cognitive strategies, art therapy, self-soothing and relating to others and will be offered in two-hour long sessions at Fringe Central in Appleton Tower on two dates:Friday 9th August 1-3pmFriday 16th August 1-3pm