It’s not just the wellbeing of those on-screen that is being neglected; we need to face up to the uncomfortable truth for those toiling behind the scenes, says CEO of the Film & Television Charity Alex Pumfrey.
According to the latest stats from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) there are an estimated 180,000 people working across the screen industries in the UK. However, despite being a much-loved and desirable career, the largely freelance working culture is known to take its toll on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing.
In January 2017 a location manager and close friend of many in the industry, Michael Harm, took his own life. Before he died, Michael wrote letters to colleagues expressing how lonely he had found his work, “there is no HR, there is no structure” he wrote, urging better support for people working in the sector.
Michael’s story inspired us to launch the very first helpline targeted towards those working in film, television and cinema. Established in April 2018, the Film & TV Support Line provides callers with 24/7 support, giving advice on a range of issues such as debt, depression and harassment.
Since launching 14 months ago, we’ve received thousands of calls from dismayed industry workers trying to manage a range of issues, big and small. Analysis of over 2,000 of these calls has revealed that stress and strain is common for those trying to make a success of working in this sector.
Brilliant people are the heart of our industry, but the stories that we hear every day through the Support Line continue to shine a light on an uncomfortable truth when it comes to the wellbeing of those making a career out of working in this sector.
Calls for heightened duty of care for contributors on TV programmes have continued to grow but the industry’s less visible workforce could be facing their own, unspoken crisis.
This is why we are now rallying people to participate in the UK industry’s largest-ever mental health and wellbeing study. The first of its kind, the ground-breaking study ‘The Looking Glass’, will provide the largest and most-focused review of mental health and wellbeing in the sector ever conducted.
To mark the commencement of this study, we worked with director Tim Pope to create a thought-provoking short film that uses a powerful metaphor to bring to life the struggle that people encounter when trying to ‘break’ into the industry and posing the question – but at what personal cost?
”Stress and strain is common for those trying to make a success of working in this sector.”
The first part of this study, an anonymous evidence-gathering online survey, is now live and will close at midnight on Sunday 7 July.
We want to work with industry to face this issue and piece together a true reflection of what’s really going on. We are calling on everyone who works in broadcast, film and exhibition to take part so I would encourage you to share the survey widely with your colleagues.
Whilst the industry is now more open to dialogue around mental health, we appreciate that employers can struggle to support workers, particularly freelancers, who may be managing mental health issues at work. Through this programme we aim to be an honest broker – creating a step change by bringing industry together to start a conversation about the wellbeing of our sector.
We have assembled a Taskforce and an Employer Forum to steer and challenge the work. The Forum will draw on the views of HR and diversity leads as well as mental health champions from organisations including the BBC, STV, Channel 4 and Endemol Shine Group, who will help to channel energies into responding to the research findings and developing practical interventions, to ensure that the industry can continue to attract and retain the best possible people.
However, we can’t do this without the support and input of those in this industry. Please watch the film, share the survey and share your experiences.
You can call the Film & TV Support Line 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 054 00 00 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow the charity @FilmTVCharity
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