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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

Mental Health in the Film Industry: Top Tips to Lead Change

Updated: Jun 9, 2023


The film industry can be an exciting place to work. As a child who didn’t want to have their name in the credits of a film? It can be very rewarding to see your ideas come to life, give other people joy and challenge norms through films. The reality of working in the film industry is that it often involves long hours away from home, tight deadlines that change frequently and a high-pressure work environment. This can take its toll on the mental health of the people working in the film industry.





Mental Health in the Film Industry, Statistics

The current statistics of people’s mental health in the film industry as researched by the Film and TV charity show that people who work in the film industry are more likely to experience mental health difficulties than the general population. The report highlights high levels of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the film industry. It also highlights the impact of extreme working conditions on people’s mental health. Given the statistics it is essential that the film industry improve the mental health of its workers and ensure it is a safe place for everyone to be able to work free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying.





Benefits of improving mental health in the film industry:


Reduce people leaving the industry- Currently the conditions of the industry lead to poor mental health and burnout. Therefore, creative people who are good at their jobs leave and the film industry loses good talent.


Improve people’s productivity and creativity- When people experience high levels of stress their body goes into flight or fight mode. This means they are focused on threat i.e. penalties for doing something wrong and getting things done on time rather than letting ideas flow. This starves creativity and has a negative impact on work produced. It can also have a negative impact on morale as people aren’t producing the work, they know they could develop if they felt less stressed.


Increase innovation- If people have good mental health, then people are free to think of ideas and have more capacity to focus on their job which increases innovation.


Increased profits- Good mental health in the film industry would enhance creativity, reduce turnover, and ensure good people don’t leave the industry. This would most likely lead to increased profits and is therefore a win/win all round!


Enhanced loyalty to the employer- People will want to work on film projects led by people who put mental health at the heart of their productions as most likely they will feel better when working on these productions. This will make mentally healthy employers’ jobs easier when hiring as it won’t be hard to hire.





The Legal Bit

If the benefits of improved mental health in the film industry haven’t sold you yet, you may also find that you have a legal duty to improve mental health in the film industry.


Basic human rights. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of association means we have a duty to ensure people work in environments that allow for opinions to be expressed and allow for people to advocate for their rights.


Health and safety legislation. This Legislation keeps us safe from hazards, including psychological hazards. This means employers and project leaders are responsible for ensuring they have risk assessed for psychological hazards and have put procedures in place to prevent against psychological hazards.


Most people with mental health difficulties meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010) in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995, as amended) in Northern Ireland. This means if employees or colleagues meet the definition of disability for any reason including meeting this definition because of mental health difficulties then that person is protected by law from any form of discrimination.





How can the industry start to make changes to enhance wellbeing?


1. Encourage people to talk about managing mental health in the film industry. Encourage talking about mental health and make this a regular occurrence. Encourage openness, talk about how you manage your mental health. This will normalise the conversation about mental health throughout the industry which will help to reduce stigma. This will also encourage others to take action to manage their mental health. These conversations will also encourage people to think about the best ways the industry can change. The more people advocating for change the quicker and better the changes will be.


2. Support people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. If people you are working with or your employees are experiencing mental health difficulties thank them for sharing this with you, listen and signpost them for mental health support. You can gain support by going to your GP, contacting the Film and TV charity and by contacting creatives in mind for one-to-one therapy with qualified therapists for people in the creative industries.


3. On call sheets put where people can gain mental health support should they need it. The nearest hospital is usually on call sheets but not where you can gain support if your mental health declines. This could include contacting Creatives in Mind for therapy or making it clear that 111, option 2 helps you to gain access to urgent mental health support.


4. Take time to manage your wellbeing and support those on your production or your employees to do the same. Read this article on tips to manage your wellbeing as a freelancer for pointers on how to manage your own mental health.


5. Recognise people have a work-life balance. I know that this can be tricky in the film industry but try to respect when you can that people have a life outside of work. If a call can wait until the next day, call the next day instead.


6. Small steps of activism. Driving cultural change can seem like an overwhelming task but small steps of activism can help. What do I mean by this? If you can take actions in line with how you want the film industry to value mental health, then this will start to impact those around you who can then impact other people and the cycle of cultural change continues. Taking the example from step 5 of waiting to call people the next day if you can, this will show those around you that you value work life balance. The person who you waited to call will be grateful you respected their work-life balance. They may then stop and pause the next time they go to call someone outside hours when it’s not 100% necessary and slowly we have a cultural shift.


7. Encourage breaks or incorporate them into projects. Breaks benefits everyone. We may think we are being super productive having worked for hours without a break, but research suggests otherwise. Taking regular short breaks has been found to increase productivity, prevent people from feeling stressed, help people maintain a high level of performance throughout the day and reduce the time needed for recovery from a long days work. Social breaks have been found to be particularly beneficial in reducing stress and its thought to be because these breaks involves connection to others and takes you away from work. Try to take a break when you can and encourage others to do the same.


8. Allow people to have a say in their work. If you can, allow employees or colleagues to have a say in how and when the job is done. Having some control over your work has been found to reduce stress and enhance people’s productivity and mental health. This might be doing the work from home rather than the office, allowing people to have the final say on what lenses they use etc.

9. Feedback. In the film industry where many people work freelance, we may not get feedback on our work. Feedback helps us grow and not having an accurate picture of our work can lead to anxiety. Give feedback on peoples work and give feedback on how they carried out the work e.g., did they help colleagues, did they help you? Thank them for this. This encourages people to be kind to others and thanking people has been found to have a huge impact on morale.


10. Develop policies to deal with bullying, discrimination and harassment and implement them. Even if you are a small project ensure that you have policies in place around bullying, discrimination, and harassment. Make it clear what behaviour will and won’t be tolerated. Ensure there is someone people can go to if they need support. Utilise the National Bullying Helpline and the Film and TV charity for more support with this.


11. Communicate change. Last minute changes may be inevitable but if changes and the reasons behind the change are clearly communicated then people are likely to feel more respected and this will lead to increased morale. If there are changes afoot, we need engaged people to help with the change.





In conclusion mental health in the film industry needs to improve. Encouraging people to talk about their mental health, supporting people who are experiencing mental health difficulties, on call sheets listing where people can gain mental health support should they need it, taking time to manage your own mental health and encouraging others to do the same, recognising that people have a life outside work, taking small steps of activism, encouraging people to take breaks, allowing people to have a say in their work, giving feedback, having policies to deal with harassment, discrimination and harassment and ensuring clear communication around change are all steps the film industry can take to improve mental health.


Improving mental health in the film industry may seem like an overwhelming task but one step at a time it can change. Even small actions you take as an individual will help drive change. If you want support to help improve mental health in the film industry, contact us at creativesinmind.org. We provide bespoke workshops on various topics on mental health which will improve your team’s/ projects knowledge on how to improve mental health in the film industry. This can include how what step leaders in the industry can take to improve mental health and how freelancers can support their own wellbeing. We also provide one to one therapy with people who understand the industry and can be contacted for project consultation. Project consultation involves us looking at how your project can ensure the wellbeing of the people who work on it.

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