Elena and Flora
Elena and Flora

Mental Health in the Arts Sector: a Research from Hungary

As part of their Tandem Europe collaboration, Elena Giunta and Flora Eszter Sarlos have been working on CO-WARMING: Prevention of mental freezing state in work communities. Their aim has been to exchange their diverse expertise and develop a sustainable method that helps in preventing BurnOut Syndrome and raising awareness of mental health issues in the work environment. As part of their research, they have run focus group research on mental well-being and BurnOut in the Hungarian arts sector.

As part of the research for our Tandem project Co-Warming, we have organised three focus groups with our colleagues. Altogether 15 people were involved in the focus group research, including artists, art teachers and cultural managers.

Types of wellbeing - www.designforwellbeing.ch
To describe the syndromes of a state of mental fragility and possible BurnOut we mentioned the following:
  • loss of motivation
  • no sense of creativity
  • emptiness and nihil = “nothing touches me” or “nothing is important”
  • I don’t have time to live a moment or live an experience
  • loneliness
  • lack of focus
  • no source of energy
  • lack of recognition, lack of feeling useful – “it does not matter what I am doing”
  • lack of perspective
  • lack of love and attention
  • “I cannot take any input” feeling
  • private life catastrophe – no time for human relations, family, friends and relationship
  • lack of connection to myself, feeling of losing myself
  • feeling of disgust (of work or life)
  • lack of feeling progression
  • the feeling that I cannot give more to people / to outside

As it resonates with the description of BurnOut in psychological professional contexts, we concluded that all of the participants were familiar with the phenomenon of BurnOut, and could contribute to defining what it meant for them.

In the next phase, we explored possible causes of the BurnOut. Although external factors (e.g. unstable, threatening political context) were mentioned, the focus remained on personal feelings and situations, such as:
  • the FOMO (fear of missing out) and the incapability of saying NO,
    freelancer lifestyles and related causes (endless working hours, no lines between personal and professional lives, continuous multitasking)
  • burden of proof, when success is more important than happiness even without understanding what success is.
  • focus on expectations instead of personal goals.
  • lack of perspective and sustainability in the cultural and educational sector
  • no feedback, no feeling of recognition
  • the intangibility of the work in the performing arts sector – no physical trace of our work
  • too much work (10-12 hours daily to make a salary between the minimum and average)
  • pressure of multitasking
  • feeling of intellectual exploitation

We can therefore conclude that the general lifestyle of our working environment makes us highly exposed to BurnOut, that is intensified by the environmental factors, such as the political and economic situation of Hungary.

We are also wondering if one’s personality type can be more exposed to Burnout than another? Why is it so important to leave a physical trace of our work? If given professions or sectors are more exposed to BOS than others? If there is a difference between overload (working for myself, I am still motivated but I work too much, no rest, etc, the theory of harmonic passion) and BOS (working for others or trying to meet others expectations, the theory of obsessive passion). And finally, how much BOS of artists is a Hungarian thing?

However, as a positive factor, we identified that the arts sector supports open communication and awareness about BurnOut, compared to other sectors. This suggests a possible constructive way of overcoming the individual challenges we face, by creating common wellbeing within our direct working environment, that then can contribute to each individual’s improvement in their own wellbeing.

Let’s see…