Film and TV Charity Survey highlights need to improve workplace support for mental health

On Thursday 13th February, the Film and TV Charity published the results of it’s much awaited ‘Through The Looking Glass’ survey in to mental health within the Film, TV and Cinema industry.

The results are stark showing that 87% of respondents had suffered from mental illness when the figure is nearer 65% in the general population. More worryingly, 55% had suicidal thoughts and had considered taking their own lives. This figure is nearly 3 times that of the UK figure and 10% had actually tried.

The survey highlights a mental health crisis within the film and TV industry and the accompanying report delves into some of the reasons that may contribute to the fact that there is a crisis in the industry.

Many of the workers are freelance and therefore have little job security, are prone to working long hours and are often subject to bullying and harassment. The latter appears to have been a significant factor in several recent high profile cases.

A significant factor across the industry is the lack of support available to workers in the industry. Outside of the large corporations, management structures are poorly defined and there is little or no HR function present. Workers admit that they have no management training and are unable to support themselves or colleagues if they suffer mental illness. This leads to the signs of stress and mental ill health going unrecognized and therefore a higher prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders.

Workers have little control over their work patterns with long hours being seen as a badge of honour which breeds a culture that is poor for wellbeing. These long hours have, so far, thwarted some of the efforts to make work in the sector more flexible for workers with families. The survey highlights an increase in mental health issues in women aged 30-39.

The report is accompanied by a program called ‘The Whole Picture’ which is due to start in April 2020 and is backed with £3 million donated by the likes of Disney, Warner Bros, C4 and ITV. Research shows that for every £1 spent on mental health the return is £5 in improved productivity and reduction in sickness absence.

The aim of ‘The Whole Picture’ is to bring a sustainable solution to the mental health crisis by tackling the 3 c’s. Culture, Capability and Conditions within the industry. It contains elements of preventing issues occurring, intervening and supporting when issues do occur and also measuring the success of the program.

Developing a plan for any workplace that includes Prevention as well as intervention is paramount to ensuring that a business meets its legal duty under both the HSWA and Management of Health and safety at work regulations. Simply adding Mental health first aid will not bring the desired improvements. Finch consulting can assist with developing and implementing a robust and sustainable plan.

One main area for improvement is training of managers who are seen as key to any successful effort to improve mental health and wellbeing. A tailored i-act program offered by Finch Consulting is being considered as part of the program, having been successfully delivered to Unit Nurses in the industry and is being considered by Film London and Directors UK (The representative body for film and TV directors).

Many years of Finch working with clients on human factors and behaviors in the leisure, entertainment and creative industries, has given rise to its capabilities in dealing with mental health and wellbeing. This now includes working with organisations to develop management programmes and systems. Part of the Finch offer is the I-act program for managing and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. This is a one-day training course designed to enable people who manage or supervise others to understand how to spot stress and common mental health conditions in employees and signpost them to get support. It also underlines the legal duties of managers with regard to protecting the mental health of their employees and offers several tools to help improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Finch is able to adapt the program to suit different a wide range of diverse industries including heavy manufacturing, energy generation, waste, film, tv and rail as examples.

Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Matt Longley, Finch Consulting