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Article: Why are we still so bad at addressing dancers mental health?

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Loved this article.  And this quote in particular:  "Talent will take you far, but emotional strength will take you farther."


I know that SFBS offers (as part of their "wellness" program) seminars and monthly one on one sessions with a licensed clinical psychologist.  A step in the right direction. 

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I thought the article insiteful and liked that it gave advice for dancers, parents and teachers. It definitely gave me food for thought as our daughter considers year round programs.

I think this aspect is probably more common than we realize.

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Thanks for the article. Promptly forwarded it to DS. I am sure he loves these missives :wink:

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Great article -  ballet, like any sport or like getting into the best colleges etc. is very competitive and the pressure seems to be on early.  This is a great article because it reminds everyone that these are young, malleable human beings and some are better at rejection etc than others.   Being from a professional  performing arts background  ( not ballet) has given me insight that I have been able share with my dd because these issues of "am I good enough" will always creep in and we need to find a healthy way to deal with them and to also realize that it's important to have a life outside of ballet to keep things in perspective.    I think that's why when there are questions on these boards about online/homeschooling, I always add my 2 cents of.... stay in a brick and mortar school  for as long as possible ( and if they are going the professional route, that is not an option at some point0 because the demands of ballet are physical and mental and it's nice to have other outlets ...   another thought... as parents we do need to be careful in the early years to encourage and support but not get into the whole "other student" thing  which will lead to self-esteem issues- I always avoided that knowing it doesn't matter in the end 

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The thing is, there is still a stigma about mental health in general..... If going to see the psychiatrist/psychologist twice per year for a check-up, just as we do the dentist or obgyn, there might be half a chance of catching issues before they become a real problem.

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Just an FYI psychiatry and psychology are not synonymous terms.   

Psychiatrist:  Medical doctor who focuses on mental illnesses and can prescribe medications.  Trained in a medical school

Psychologist: Ph D who focuses on mental illnesses and CANNOT prescribe medications.  Will use therapy.  Trained in an APA certified program in a university but not a medical school.

If you are getting treatment it is important to know which type of treatment professional you are seeing.   Like a PT, nurse, doctor, and Physician's Assistant are not the same. 

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As a primary care provider, married to a primary care provider, you do not need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist yearly to assess your feelings/depression/anxiety.  Family doctors, nurse practitioners, PAs, pediatricians and internists are able to help assess and treat and refer you if necessary.  All are trained via simple questionnaires to diagnosis problems.  Depression is a very common diagnosis and a majority of people in all walks of life suffer with feelings of sadness and inability to find joy.  Anxiety is the same.  If you are unable to experience joy, or do your daily work, seek help.  You are not alone. 

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Hello everyone,

As a psychologist myself, I'd like to note that the training required for the designation does vary a bit globally - so the APA certification would be for US only.  Additionally, in the US there is a school psychology certification, which is through NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) and not APA. School Psychologists would often see students presenting with symptoms of anxiety/depression.  As learning.a.lot notes, there are other practitioners who could also deal well with these types of symptoms/diagnoses.

I was contacted by a member regarding this thread, and would like to share some of the things we discussed.  I have to say that the member expressed some issues which I would agree with, having had two daughters train in two different Residency programs.  First of all, I do think it's a good idea for Ballet Schools to have mental health professionals students can be referred to if the need arises.  However, I also know that students may not easily trust someone who's a ballet school staff member or referral source - students are frequently afraid that the things they share will not be kept confidential.  Specifically they worry that their status with the ballet school could be compromised if artistic staff learn of struggles with mental health issues.  While as a psychologist I find this very sad, I have to say that it is still a reality for the students.

Ballet schools, in my experience, are pretty good at monitoring physical injuries (in one dd's case, students were expected to report any injuries/issues at the beginning of class and modifications were made as appropriate).  I think considerable progress is being made with the understanding and care of possible eating disorders, though there's probably some room for improvement still.

When mental health issues present themselves, artistic staff at Ballet Schools are probably out of their comfort zone.  My wish would be that teacher training programs would have required components of child/adolescent development AND some understanding of mental health symptoms/issues and when one should look to a professional for assistance.  Students dealing with a psychological issue should have the same access to teacher understanding and class accommodations as those with physical injuries, in my opinion.

For parents who have children seeing someone either on staff of the ballet school, or referred by the ballet school, please talk to your dancer to make sure that he/she is feeling comfortable to share with the person they are being referred to.  Ditto for those teen dancers who may be attending a Residency program away from home.  When in doubt, ask questions about the confidentiality agreement.  Where I live (Canada), a regulated professional such as a Psychologist, Physician, Social Worker, or Nurse would have a legal obligation to a confidential relationship with the client.  A school counsellor may not have such an obligation.


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Thank you so much and yes, I concur about confidentiality.  I have actually seen residential schools really mishandle mental health issues.  Usually because the wrong person is trying to handle the issue. 

IMO parents with minors at residencies should be approving any educational (academic) or health issues (physical or mental).  I find that some schools really just kind of want to run the show entirely. 

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Just an fyi, using psychologist/psychiatrist would be the same as him/her in sentence.  And should not be thought of as lack of knowledge of the requirements for each degree.  


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Regarding confidentiality - again, depending on the jurisdiction and the related legislation it could be that the student/client would be able to keep things just between him/her and professional - that is to say that the student/client would control the flow of information and have the ability to decide what, if anything, is shared with parents as well as any artistic staff members.  I mention this as folks sometimes assume that parents would be privy to everything discussed in a therapeutic relationship.

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Not talking about the content of therapy.  Talking about a school taking your child to the doctor or counselor without your permission or knowledge. 

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Hmmm.  Speaking about only the U.S., I assumed that any discussion between a patient and a licensed psychologist/psychiatrist would be privileged -- and prohibited by law from being discussed with both parents and/or the school, at the very least under the HIPPA (Health Information Privacy Protection Act) laws (unless such a discussion was immediately necessary to protect the health/life/safety of the patient).  But I am coming from a legal background, not a medical one. 

I am sure -- however -- that the age of the patient has some bearing on whether parents are informed of the mental health or doctor visit (if not the content). 

Learningdance -- I don't know the circumstances of your concern regarding a school "taking over" the care of the dancer.  That is a valid concern, and one that would be very tricky to navigate in the dance world, in particular, where so many dancers are removed from a family support system. 


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Learningdance-I agree with you on parentals approving these issues for their child.  But in the cases of ballet residency much like private boarding school, it will be important for each parent to read carefully the language and legality of any medical and educational waivers they sign before they sign payment/engagement papers with the residency.  Depending on the state, and depending on the language used in that paperwork, there may be a vast difference in how that is interpreted.  Age may be important, but it will also be important to understand each individual state, residency, boarding school, etc and how "medical in loco parentis" works is defined in that state.  

In our state, due diligence to contact a parent is key.  But, then due diligence is also defined differently based on the actual situation.    Certainly anyone with the child's best interest at heart should be contacting a parent.  The question, based on what is signed away, is do they have to initially.  Possibly some of our members who are lawyers can speak to this.



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