Is Mental Health an issue in the Film industry?
Research definitely shows it is.
The Film and TV Charity conducted research which clearly proves there is a disproportional amount of mental health issues in the UK film industry compared to the national average. 87% of people in film industry jobs reported have experienced a mental health problem, that is almost 9 in 10 people. The average statistic for the UK population is 65%, which is significantly lower.
In most industries, the maximum number of working hours is 50 hours per week, whereas in the film industry 1 in 8 people reported working an excess of 60 hours per week.
84% of people working in the film and TV industry said they had experienced or witnessed harassment or bullying at work. And 57% of participants in the study said they had experienced bullying, sexual, racial or other harassment in the past year alone.
This is particularly prevalent for Black, Asian and minority ethnic industry workers. 39% reported having been harassed or discriminated against based on their race. This causes 43% of them to consider leaving the industry.
Another significant issue which is often not considered, is whether people are comfortable approaching their manager with a mental health issue. Unfortunately, in the film industry only 7% said they would, and in the case of freelancers only 2%. This is an issue in all industries, but these statistics are considerably low.
Out of the people who had approached a manager to discuss their mental health, 28% claimed it helped the situation, but 54% said it made no difference at all, and 5% even said it made the situation worse.
Something many people don’t consider about the film industry, is that often people work on very traumatic, in many cases real, stories. They film scenes about sexual assault, child abuse, war and anything you can imagine. Whether it’s a documentary or a fiction film, the scenes all look real. Actors need to often portray these traumatic experiences, in some cases, such as women portraying scenes of sexual assault, they have likely experienced something similar themselves.
Support for everyone involved during these productions is extremely important but often overlooked. That’s why only 16% have felt sufficient support when working on such stories, and 14% felt enough support when working with vulnerable contributors.
Being constantly exhausted, bullied, harassed and unable to speak to your employer about how you’re feeling would take a toll on anyone. Unsurprisingly, all these issues have a noticeable impact on people’s mental health, resulting in some upsetting film industry statistics. Studies show that those working in the film industry are twice as likely to experience anxiety compared to the national average.
Some other very concerning results of these studies show that film industry workers are 3 times more likely than the national average to harm themselves. Even more worryingly, over 50% claimed to have at some point considered taking their own life, compared to 20% nationally. 1 in 10 said they had attempted suicide.
Working over 60 hours a week, in an unpredictable career can’t possible allow a healthy work life balance. Especially if each shift is over 12 hours, including night shoots. 57% of people who feel they have a lack of control over their working hours admitted that it is having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. 78% said they struggle to balance their work with other commitments, this is uniquely high amount compared to other industries where the average is 27%. No career should stop you from having a life outside your work.
Many people in these studies acknowledged that the industry is harming them. Behind the scenes workers admitted that the long hours and skill gaps are hurting their mental health. In 2019 the number of people reporting that the intensity of their work was harming them was 63%, and in 2021 it had quickly risen to 78%.
51% of respondents in 2021 also said that the general culture and values of the industry were negatively impacting their mental health, a big rise from 2019 which was 29%.
The Film and TV Charity is making an effort to improve these conditions and create a safer, healthier film industry. Following their survey of 9,000 people which gave us the above results, they have assembled the Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health. This includes sector-wide organisations and have planned a 2 year initiative titled The Whole Picture Programme, which is part of a 10 year strategy.
They have a £3 million budget with which they aim to change behaviours, improve working conditions and increase support for those working in the film industry. Many of the biggest film industry companies will be collaborating on this project, such as BBC, Apple TV, Amazon, Channel 4, ITV, Universal Pictures, Sky, Paramount Pictures, Walk Disney Company and Warner Brothers. The task force will also be receiving advice from the mental health charity Mind.
In the meantime, until things start to visibly improve, The Film and TV Charity is providing support to individuals with their confidential 24/7 Support Line, which you can reach at 0800 054 00 00 or you can chat to them online.
Of course only the people in power can truly improve the industry, but we can all help by setting a precedent and making sure the next generation of successful filmmakers is considerate of mental health. One way to do this is to always hire Intimacy Coordinators for scenes with sexual content.
In the same way that First Aiders are essential on any large film set, Mental Health First Aid should also be considered a necessity. Especially if the film’s topic could be triggering or upsetting for the cast and crew, but even when it’s not.