ARTISTS: Susana Meza & Miranda Newman

How can creatives maintain and support their mental health and wellbeing?

brown hand pointing upwardsIn 2022, Susana Meza and Miranda Newman collaborated to create a resource to help creatives maintain and support their mental health and wellness. It’s an integral part of creative practice, but one that educational institutions rarely address. First, we completed a research review of evidence-based, trauma-informed care practices. Then we conducted a community survey aimed at creatives, and compiled a list of additional resources to better support their wellness. We have defined the term “creative” broadly, from artists, musicians, and writers, to dancers, to art teachers and facilitators. We operate from a perspective that is anti-oppressive, anti-colonial, anti-racist, community-based, queer, and sex-positive. We produced this project in collaboration with our global art communities and the guidance of our mentor, Justina Zatzman. We are deeply thankful for their contributions.

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This project was created on the Territory and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit and the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Wendat, and the Haudenosaunee, which is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. These lands are protected by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. Susana and Miranda are grateful to live and work here.

A black-and-white figure sits cross-legged in front of a background of black dotsThe research we conducted showed us that creatives are at higher risk for a diminished wellbeing as a result of their working conditions. However, an arts-based practice can be a protective factor in youth and adults struggling with mental wellness.

READ THE FULL Research Report

A black-and-white figure sits with one leg bent at the knee on a background of black dots.Drawing upon a body of literature about trauma-informed care, compiling equity and creative development toolkits, we created broad recommendations for artists and arts organizations that support the mental health and wellbeing of creatives.

1. Creating a Trauma-Informed Arts Practice

2. Coping With Traumatic Events

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3. Organizational Best Practices

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A black-and-white figure sitting with clasped hands in front of a square of black dots.We developed a community survey using Google Forms to better gauge the relationship between creative practice and mental wellness. To achieve this, the survey focused specifically on one aspect of mental wellness in the creative sector: rest. We distributed the three-question community survey online through personal and professional networks during the first half of 2022. Respondents were given the opportunity to have their responses credited, or to remain anonymous.

Key findings:

  • Creatives have diverse relationships to their artistic practice. Some feel happiest or more energized while creating, while other artists need to take breaks to create their best work. Some work according to a balanced schedule, while others stay up for days on end while inspired. This underscores that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of creatives.
  • Confirming our research review, the act of creating is a therapeutic practice for many creatives. However, they expressed concerns about how capitalism and precarious employment influence their relationship to their arts practice.
  • Many survey respondents touted the benefits of rest in whatever form it may take—video games, walking, podcasts, etc. They find that rest fuels their inspiration.
  • Many creatives struggle with burnout. They cope with varying strategies: long breaks, being selective about the opportunities they accept, meditating, drugs, finding quiet time, monitoring moods, exercising, sleeping, spending time with friends, seeking balance, keeping a routine, speaking to a therapist, finding joy in creation, allowing for extra or “buffer” time when quoting project timelines, and more.

Read the full community survey report

A black-and-white figure holds its hands open over its head in front of a rainbow of black dots.We relied on our own knowledge, research, and the suggested resources provided by our community survey to compile a broad list of local, national, and international resources for creatives that support professional development, community building, and wellness. This collection, catering primarily to North American creatives, is meant to serve as a start and is not comprehensive.