A new initiative from New York City’s Office of Nightlife offers people working in entertainment, bars and clubs the opportunity to receive free mental health care, as COVID-19 continues to impact those working in the nightlife industry. 

Through the initiative, called “Elevate,” workers can participate in a free weekly, virtual support group moderated by licensed therapists. According to the Office of Nightlife, this support group, which meets every Monday at 4 p.m., is meant to “provide a safe place for people in the nightlife industry to come together and discuss what it means to work in nightlife today.”

The initiative also gives nightlife workers the opportunity to meet one-on-one with case managers to create individualized mental health plans, with referrals to therapists and organizations plugged into the nightlife industry. 

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people who work in the nightlife industry have kept our city running, while facing significant emotional and physical demands of their own: many became unemployed, risked exposure to illness, and became isolated from their communities. The uncertainty and anxiety associated with COVID-19 has created a collective trauma in the industry,” the program’s website reads. 

According to the Office of Nightlife, the mental health services are being provided by a non-profit called Backline, which was initially founded to provide resources for the music industry and has recently expanded into nightlife. 

Image from NY Office of Nightlife’s Instagram

The success of the program and the number of nightlife workers who opt to participate are still up in the air. But those in the industry seem to be happy the city is making an effort, albeit slightly late, and are optimistic about its potential. 

“I think the fact that this is becoming a conversation is important. Just that within itself is creating a lot of positive impact,” said Anya Sapozhnikova, co-founder of House of Yes

“As nightlife workers, because we use nightlife as a way to escape and as a coping mechanism for whatever we are going through, when the pandemic happened and all of that was taken away, a lot of unaddressed traumas came up for a lot of people, including myself,” Sapozhnikova continued. 

Last year, in need of help, Sapozhnikova spent 30 days at a mental health facility. A few months later, after she left the facility and felt comfortable enough to talk, Sapozhnikova hosted a virtual AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with mostly people from the House of Yes mailing list. What started as Sapozhnikova just trying to be upfront and honest with House of Yes fans morphed into something greater. 

“It became this beautiful thing where a lot of people felt relieved and supported just by the virtue of me talking about my experience, which was an unintended consequence,” Sapozhnikova explained. “I think any time it is brought to the forefront, it is huge for people who are struggling to realize that they are not alone.” 

Top photo credit: Eric Walton, first appearing in this article.

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