Report: “There is a mental health crisis within the UK film and TV industry”

The long-awaited results are in from a survey commissioned by the UK’s Film and TV Charity on the state of mental health across the film and television industry in the ...
February 13, 2020

The long-awaited results are in from a survey commissioned by the UK’s Film and TV Charity on the state of mental health across the film and television industry in the region.

And while the findings were expected to be eye-opening, the severity of the situation, as expressed in the Looking Glass report created from the data, has prompted a promise of action from several top UK production and broadcast groups.

According to the study, conducted by The Work Foundation and incorporating responses from more than 9,000 industry professionals, workers within the UK film and television community are twice as likely to experience anxiety compared to the national average, and workers are three times more likely to have self-harmed compared to the national average.

Perhaps most troubling — over half of the workers surveyed have considered taking their own life, compared to a rate of one-fifth nationally, and one in 10 have attempted to do so.

In the face of such grim statistics, the report states that “the survey findings suggest that there is a mental health crisis within the UK film and television industry.”

The report identifies three factors as helping to create a “perfect storm for poor mental health” — work conditions, industry culture and the capability of the industry to provide support for its own.

Seventy-eight per cent of workers surveyed reported that they struggle with work-life balance, compared to a national average of 27%. Meanwhile, 82% of workers in the industry reported witnessing or experiencing bullying at work.

The stresses that accompany freelancing within the industry also figured prominently in the findings. According to the survey, 77% of females aged 30-39 that are freelancing have considered leaving the industry due to concerns about their mental well-being.

Issues concerning diversity and inclusion in the workplace also factored into the findings. The survey reveals that 69% of black male workers have experienced workplace bullying, compared with 50% of all men in film and TV. Another sobering finding from those surveyed: 22% of LGBTQ+ workers in the UK film and television industry have attempted to take their own lives.

As previous studies in other territories have illustrated, these issues are widespread within the global film and television content industry. A 2015 report from Australia’s Entertainment Assist revealed that 44% of respondents from the entertainment industry reported having moderate to severe anxiety, which at the time was 10 times higher than the general population. That report also found that suicide attempts for Australian entertainment industry workers were more than double that of the general population.

Following both the release of the report and a summit of industry leaders conducted by the Film and TV Charity dedicated to the issue, there is an initial £3 million commitment from major industry stakeholders to fund an action plan, dubbed The Whole Picture Programme and set to launch in April. Working closely with experts in mental health, the industry-led taskforce, to be co-designed by industry partners, will include an enhanced, 24/7 support line for workers in TV and film, and an industry-wide campaign aimed at changing industry behaviors that are contributing to the problem.

“I’m pleased to be working with the members of the new Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health to spearhead a movement for change,” said Alex Pumfrey (pictured), chief executive of The Film and TV Charity, in a statement. “Devastating though the findings from our research are, we firmly believe there is cause for optimism.

“As the charity supporting the film, TV and cinema workforce we often hear the stories that others don’t,” she added. “We can no longer shy away from the need for real change.”

Participating production, distribution and broadcast groups include Banijay, Channel 4, Disney, Endemol Shine, ITV and Sky.

“Channel 4 actively supports the collaboration with other industry leaders to provide better mental health care and support for our people,” said C4 chief operating officer Jonathan Allan. “An industry’s culture cannot be changed by one organisation acting in isolation, so by working together, we are sending a clear message to employees, freelancers and the next generation that their mental health and well-being are our priority.”

“Our people, both behind and in front of the camera, are the lifeblood of this industry and as our Duty of Care Charter makes clear, their mental health and well-being is our top priority,” offered Julian Bellamy, managing director at ITV Studios. “At the heart of ITV’s social purpose strategy is our Mental Wellness five-year campaign and as part of it, we back taking an active role in the Taskforce and this program. We support this initiative which brings the industry together to reiterate and say to our teams, we are there to support you.”

The Film and TV Charity 24/7 support line for workers in the UK film and television industry can be reached at 0800 054 0000.

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