Arts mental health helpline records 'exponential growth' in calls


Even the final stage of the national cabinet’s three-step plan to ease restrictions bans venues from hosting more than 100 people, effectively preventing bigger theatres from reopening.

Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, in Hamer Hall, Melbourne.

Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, in Hamer Hall, Melbourne. Credit:Daniel Pockett

Spencer was speaking in an international online seminar convened by technology company Tessitura.

She said the website of the Arts Wellbeing Collective, an initiative she began in 2016 that now includes arts organisations from across the country, had recorded a four-fold rise in visits from people seeking support and mental health resources.

The Collective partnered with Support Act last year to deliver a sector-wide phone helpline, staffed by clinicians providing 24/7 counselling to anyone in the performing arts.

“We have seen calls to the helpline just exponentially increase week on week,” Spencer said: a 60 per cent increase in the past month, and rising.


“In part it’s due to the financial insecurity so many people are facing but it’s also a separation from community and purpose, that in itself is causing trauma.”

It was “really easy to forget the basics” of self-care amid the chaos, shock and deep uncertainty of the pandemic, Spencer said.

She also gave some hints as to how the Arts Centre will reopen: outdoors or small-scale productions and exhibitions in different parts of the building might be possible, she said.

The centre was considering a rerun of 2015’s Ghostly Machines, a White Night production that transformed Hamer Hall into a sound-and-light performance artwork.

Mental health resources for arts sector workers can be found at

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