by Stacy Dunn
Creative PEI recently released its latest survey on the mental well-being of creative workers. This initiative was supported in part by the PEI Alliance of Mental Well-Being.
The survey was launched in August, 2022, and ran for three months. The 91 respondents were all artists based on PEI.
“We asked them first what artistic medium they work within, and they could select more than one response,” says JoAnna Howlett, Project Coordinator, The Creative Well-Being Initiative – CreativePEI. “The top three respondents were visual artists (photographers, sculptors and painters, et cetera), singers/musicians, and crafters.”
JoAnna says 59 percent of respondents said they earn income from their creative work. “But it’s not enough to survive on. Just 20 percent said they make enough money to survive from their creative work alone.
“Seventeen percent said they did not make an income from their arts practice, but they would like to do so.”
Respondents were asked how making money, or monetization, has affected their relationship to making art:
- 40 percent said that monetization has made them start to lose or lose enjoyment in their work.
- 28 percent said that monetization has not changed the enjoyment in their work.
- 16 percent said that monetization has given them more enjoyment in their work.
“Sixteen percent provided more nuanced answers,” JoAnna said. “One person said they like the work they do, but they feel rushed if there’s monetary pressure. Another person said they feel pressure to make art that will sell and appeal to tourists, and as trends change, they wonder if their art will sell. They also worry that they may lose their authenticity as an artist.”
Creative PEI also asked creative workers about their mental health. Forty-eight percent responded they have been diagnosed with a mental illness; while 32 percent answered that they have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. Twenty percent said they have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, but they believe they are struggling with one.
- 79.3 percent: financial insecurity
- 57.5 percent: lack of community or support network
- 55.2 percent: lack of professional opportunities
- 55.2 percent: lack of access to appropriate medical care
- 43.7 percent: housing insecurity
Mental health impact
The survey asked how poor mental health has impacted their creative practice.
- 2.2 percent said it has no impact
- 8.9 percent said it helps their practice
- 77.8 percent said poor mental health has negatively impacted their practice
- 3.3 percent said not applicable
Comments from some respondents
- “My mental health has negatively impacted my relationship to my personal artistic practice and to the health of my organization. When my art degrades, it feels unsustainable and particularly isolating.”
- “When I do art for money, sometimes I work irrational hours and I show symptoms of anxiety. Lack of income/poor opportunity/poor mental health has not allowed me to create and perform in the past year.”
- One respondent said that their mental health has improved their practice.
The Creative PEI survey reported 62 percent of respondents have sought support through peers, friends, and family. Forty-three percent sought formal supports such as counselling or therapy, and 18 percent said they don’t feel they have supports for their mental health.
“One respondent said that connecting though nature and physical activity has helped,” says JoAnna. “Another said that making art and personal spiritual practices has helped.
Other responses included:
- “Feedback from folks that enjoy my art is very supportive.”
- “Online resources make me feel less alone and offer guidance.”
- “Peer support is crucial to combatting isolation. It’s been a balm in stressful, challenging times.”
Further comments pointed to breaking the stigma of seeking professional help and finding ways to assist creative workers to access affordable counselling. Examples given include a sliding scale fee or subsidized counselling.
“Better yet, arts organizations can help create a list of therapists who understand the unique challenges of gig workers.
“More funding in general will support creative workers and reduce the risk of burnout, which is huge in this sector.”
Other supports mentioned were mentorship, shared art space, and affordable workshops. “We need more opportunities for connection, where it’s not about competition or networking for business.”
JoAnna shared comments from respondents who said more understanding of the experience of creative artists is needed. “A lot of the mental health issues revolve around poor working conditions and a lack of societal value of art. Improving those conditions is essential in improving mental health.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about Creative PEI, visit www.creativepei.ca