Mental Health In Radio
I used to grit my teeth when I heard radio announcers complaining about their jobs. Didn’t they realise how boring most other positions are and how lucky they were to be able to talk for a living? To entertain thousands of people day after day, enjoying the fame and accolades that accompany being a radio personality?
Last week, I reflected with mixed emotions on the feelings that I used to hold so strongly. Canberra’s Survey 2 was released last week, and it was easily the best result I’ve ever had. It marked 1 year of maintaining the #1 position in the afternoon timeslot, and a 1.7% increase all within 104.7’s core demographic.
However while I should have been celebrating I was instead negotiating a new course of anti-depressants with my GP.
How had this happened? Had I been so naive of how life worked before I started working in commercial radio? I’ve come a long way since starting at 2DU Dubbo, I have the #1 rating afternoon show in Canberra. How could I have possibly turned into the same irritating person that dared to be unhappy despite being successful in a creative, fun industry?
Stories similar to mine are all too common, sadly. These much sought after creative roles, such as those in radio, often have huge rates of anxiety and depression. People strive after a radio gig so much that it becomes seen as a solution and an answer to despair and anxiety. A role in radio is romanticized so highly that many don’t know how to handle the emotions of sadness you thought would have left your life upon landing that awesome gig or getting that much desired survey result.
Occasionally, I receive air-checks from people who have just landed their first Announcer gig. A lot of the time it’s someone from a large capital city who’s moved to some country town they’ve never heard of, to have a crack at their dream job.
One of the first things I tell them is that the heathiest thing you can do is allow yourself to love it and allow yourself to hate it.
So many are surrounded by peers that expect and pressure you to worship the studio you work in, and love what you do on your darkest day. What will save many is recognising what you’ve romanticised, and instead looking at the situation realistically.
A massive part of the realism is working through and tackling issues of mental health head on – one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t beat myself up about the anti-depressants or my anxiety the way I used to. In an era that focuses on the realness of actual personalities portrayed on air, the best thing you can do for your career is to be real with yourself first.
This may look different for each person, whether it’s time spent with a counsellor, speaking to a GP, or simply not beating yourself up for having a difficult time in a dream job.
It’s good to be grateful and enjoy what you do. It’s better to be honest with yourself each day about how you feel – it might give you the strength to enjoy it the next.
If there’s one key to industry longevity, it’s a peer group and mentors you can be truly honest with on your darkest days. It’s truly possible to have a successful on-air career without having to hide or supress issues of mental health.
To anybody reading in the industry that’s struggling with similar issues don’t feel like you have to give up. Feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org); it’s always good to talk to someone who has been there, and knows what it’s like.
Alternatively Lifeline is available on 13 11 14
Dan is the Afternoon Announcer at 104.7 Canberra, and is rating #1 in his timeslot.
104.7 is a joint venture of Southern Cross Austereo and the Australian Radio Network.
Based upon GFK Canberra Survey 2 – 2015