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‘I was literally tearing myself up’: can the performing arts solve its mental health crisis?

Mar 2nd, 2017 by

With performing arts workers twice as likely to attempt suicide than those in other industries, 90 arts organisations have joined forces in Victoria for an industry-first initiative to support them

Operatic soprano Greta Bradman was 19 years old when she started to self-harm. Intense bullying through high school had coincided with her parents’ divorce. She felt isolated and started skipping school. A year earlier her grandfather, cricket star and national hero Sir Donald Bradman, had died.

Donald Bradman and his grand daughter were close – their relationship has been chronicled in a double episode of Australian Story – and he had instilled in her a love of classical music. Greta saw singing as “a kind of solace” for her pain, and she was accepted into the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide. But that overwhelming sense of self-loathing stayed with her, and she began trying to destroy the one thing that brought her joy: her voice.

Related: Insomnia, anxiety, break-ups … musicians on the dark side of touring

You have these immense highs of being part of a [big show] … and then suddenly it’s all gone

I pulled up my pant legs and we both gasped at the ragged, bloody strips I’d torn in myself.

Related: A short history of mental illness in art

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