In a recent surveys of people working in the creative industry (undertook by the university of Ulster) almost two thirds of participants reported to having suicidal thoughts. In the fashion industry, people are 25% more likely to encounter mental health problems at some point in their life.
This makes us think weather the creative industries have a detrimental affect on people’s mental health? Or weather there is a correlation with being creative and suffering mental health issues? With more and more discourse and people coming forward about mental illness in the fashion industry, we are now fortunate to be in a society where it is less taboo to voice our inner thoughts and feelings. It is also important to understand the pressures and affects the fashion industry has on its employees alone, as it is the UK’s largest and arguably most influential industry.
Correlation or causality?
From an outsider perspective the fashion industry oozes glitz and glamour. Everybody wants to be the next big thing or predict the next trend. But from fast fashion to haute couture, the fashion industry is also known for its fast-paced life style and high demand. This can cause stress throughout all departments. As it is evident that environmental stress can be a direct cause to mental health issues. Look at Zara for example, every time you go in you can never find the same items as the previous time. Within one company there are nearly 200,000 employees running a tight ship striving to maintain their unbelievably fast lead time. This will undoubtably cause added stress. So it’s no wonder we question the pressures not only put on the faces of the industry but the production as well.
The high risk and often thought of a little rewards associated with the creative industries, could be another factor for why mental health issues are high in the sector. Over 20% of people in the creative industry are being paid below the poverty line, this can often lead to financial worry which can also affect someone’s mental health. This is often the case due to people in the creative sector not having fixed contracts. So financial worry and working from pay cheque to pay cheque is an added factor on an already stressful environment. For example, models and freelance creative workers don’t necessarily work for one brand thus not having a monthly wage. Could this issues alone be the cause why mental health issues are so common?
Being creative is a positive…
Although creative jobs can be seen as a positive for people suffering with mental health issues, as creativity can often become an outlet for inner thoughts and feelings. For example, many well-known creatives have made work stemming from mental health issues such as Louise Bourgeois who created art when she was battling with insomnia. In addition, it is also common to use art as a form of therapy to aid mental health issues, as it allows us makes sense of emotions and the world we live in. Although this can be seen as a double edged sword within creative industries. Due to the fact that there is more of a personal reflection when work is drawn from experience. Thus criticism upon work can be very personal. Meaning that the common nature of rejection is taken allot more personally.
It’s also important to take into consideration people who are working in creative industries are following a passion. Meaning levels of fulfilment and productivity are high. This reflects through another recent survey where the majority of people reported to be happy at work and two thirds had hope for the future. This suggests that working in creative industries may be high stress, but doesn’t necessarily correlate to unhappiness in the workplace.
Therefore there are aspects of the fashion industry that could be detrimental to mental health issues. Meaning it’s important to be aware of the risks associated. Although this isn’t a reason to not try and make it in creative industries. As there are many ways to seek help with mental health issues and working creatively can certainly help.
Disclaimer: I am in no means a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the issues raised in this article, please speak to your GP or visit the NHS website.