We are on a mission to see mental health treated with the same seriousness as physical health in dance culture.
Minding the Gap was founded in 2018 by former dancer, writer, and nonprofit development professional Kathleen McGuire Gaines. After more than a decade of writing about mental health challenges for dancers in Dance Magazine, Pointe, and Dance Spirit magazines, Kathleen shared her own experience with depression in a Dance Magazine article titled “Why are we still so bad at addressing dancers’ mental health?” The article went viral online overnight, becoming one of the most read in the magazine’s history.
Following the concerning popularity of the article, Kathleen wrote an online survey with psychologist Dr. Brian T. Goonan which was published on the Dance Magazine website and received 899 responses from dancers. The results were disheartening. Only 10% of dancers would definitely feel comfortable talking to a teacher if they were having a mental heath issue. 80% didn’t feel that the dance community does enough to address mental health.
Little over a year later, Kathleen left her position as the director of development at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to become the founder of Minding the Gap LLC. She works under the expert consultation of Brian T. Goonan, Ph.D. and Leigh A. Skvarla, Ph.D. We seek to disrupt dancer culture to value the importance of mental health through advocacy, research, and eventually, resources and solutions.
There is very little data regarding dancer’s mental health. We know from repeated research that dancers are 3-5 times more likely to struggle with an eating disorder than the general population, but know very little about the incidents of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem that can lead to it. Minding the Gap is planning an unprecedented three-year longitudinal study with more than 200 pre-professional level dancers to begin to answer these questions.
Following the collection of baseline data, we will work over the next three years to implement mental health interventions and access to services to address the issues we gather. Over time we hope to show improvements in the dancer’s well-being and success to compel other dance institutions to invest in the same kind of support.