Almost 9 in 10 people working in film, TV and cinema have experienced a mental health problem


A man and woman sitting behind a camera filming
Crew members behind a film camera

The Work Foundation has conducted the UK’s first ever study into the mental health and wellbeing of the film, TV and cinema workforce and reveals a major mental health crisis, with evidence that the experiences of mental health in the industry are significantly worse than national averages.

New research conducted by the Work Foundation and commissioned by the Film and TV charity, reveals almost nine in 10 (87%) working in the UK’s film, TV and cinema industries have experienced a mental health problem – in stark contrast to the estimated two in three (65%) in the UK population.

The Looking Glass is the first study of its kind into the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s film, TV and cinema workforce and identifies contributing factors at the root of issues – ranging from lack of control over working hours and intense pressure both on and off set, to loneliness and widespread bullying and harassment. The study also details the barriers that individuals working within the industry encounter when trying to speak up or access mental health support in the workplace.

The report is a result of a 12 month project by the Work Foundation involving in-depth interviews, a workforce survey that gathered responses from over 9,000 industry professionals and engagement with an Industry Forum involving managers from big industry names and key broadcasters. Results identify that, across a range of markers of mental health and wellbeing, experiences are considerably worse than the national average:

  • Workers are twice as likely to experience anxiety compared to the national average
  • The study goes on to highlight that workers are three times as likely to report having harmed themselves compared with the national average
  • And most concerning are the findings about suicide – over half of workers have considered taking their own life (compared with one-fifth nationally) and one in ten had actually attempted to do so

The study reveals three key factors contributing to the industry’s poor mental health outcomes:

CONDITIONS

  • Long working hours – one in 8 in the industry are working in excess of 60 hours per week, compared with one in 50 in other industries. This is exacerbated by a lack of control over the hours they work, which more than half of respondents (57%) felt had a negative impact on their wellbeing
  • Work-life balance – as such, more than two thirds (78%) struggle to strike a balance with commitments outside of work (compared to 27% in other industries)

CULTURE

  • Workplace bullying – over eight in 10 (84%) people working in film, TV and cinema have experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment at work
  • Mental health stigma – only 7% would approach a manager with a mental health issue, falling to just 2% of freelancers

CAPABILITY

  • Poor outcomes of reporting mental health problems – only 28% said that discussing their mental health had improved the situation, over half (54%) said it had made no difference and 5% said it had made it worse
  • Challenging content and vulnerable contributors – only 16% felt there was sufficient support when working on traumatic stories, only 14% felt there was sufficient support when working with vulnerable contributors

The research calls for industry-wide action to tackle the underlying causes of poor mental health, drawing on good practice from other industries and countries to increase support, build capacity, change behaviours and improve working practices. In response to the findings, The Film and TV Charity – in conjunction with the newly-formed Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health – today unveils The Whole Picture Programme – an urgent two-year response as part of a sustainable long-term ten-year strategy.

The Taskforce, consisting of leaders from across the industry from development to production, distribution and exhibition, convened last month at a high-level Summit to agree on the action plan and the short and long-term funding strategy.

Heather Carey, Research Director at the Work Foundation, said: “The film and TV industry is one of the most creative and rapidly growing parts of the UK economy; but the results from the Looking Glass survey paint a concerning picture of working life in this industry.

“Across a range of measures, those working in the sector experience significantly worse mental health outcomes. Our research has surfaced the underlying and interlinked causes – from working conditions and culture, to the capability of the industry to provide support to those that need it most. Many of these risk factors are heightened amongst the diverse talent the industry is working hard to attract; and it is particularly concerning, given skill shortages evident in UK film and TV, that 63% of workers have considered leaving the industry because of worries about the impact it has on their mental health.”

Alex Pumfrey, Chief Executive of The Film and TV Charity, said: “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. Devastating though the findings from our research are, we firmly believe there is cause for optimism.

"As a cohort, we are committed to working closely together to address the widespread issues, building an industry that has ‘great work’; where people are much better supported, in which bullying and the stigma of mental health are relegated to history; and where working practices take account of the very human nature of our work. As the charity supporting the film, TV and cinema workforce we often hear the stories that others don’t. We can no longer shy away from the need for real change.” 

The full report is available here.

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