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The UK’s Film and TV Charity publishes a study on mental health in the film and TV industry after COVID-19


- The body defined the results as “mildly encouraging” at first glance, but the pandemic and the recent production boom have brought new challenges alongside new opportunities

The UK’s Film and TV Charity publishes a study on mental health in the film and TV industry after COVID-19

In 2019, the Film and TV Charity’s Looking Glass research found that 90% of the nearly 5,000 respondents had experienced a mental-health problem, a shocking figure well above the 65% average recorded across the UK’s different industries. Last week, the organisation published the results of its 2021 report. In detail, over 3,000 people responded to the survey between 28 May and 28 June 2021, with 2,097 complete and valid responses used in this analysis. The quantitative dataset was complemented with 20 in-depth interviews conducted one-on-one with individuals.

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The report states that, at first glance, the results may look “mildly encouraging”, since “the headline well-being and mental-health measures have stayed reasonably stable” and “the percentage saying their mental health is ‘good’ or ‘very good’ at the moment is also roughly the same”. However, the recent production boom has brought longer working hours along with new opportunities – for example, 78% of the respondents said that work intensity has negatively affected their mental health, compared with 63% in the previous survey.

The first key figure shows that overall mental health and well-being remained essentially unchanged, as the total score of 19.3 is similar to the 19.4 recorded in 2019 (compared to a national average of 23.6). In addition, those rating their mental health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ were about the same, at 32% (as against 35% in 2019).

Regarding working hours, 39% of the respondents stated that they worked over 50 hours a week, compared with 29% in the 2019 survey. In addition, one in six people are working over 60 hours a week, compared with the UK average of one in 50.

The document warns that stronger line management is urgently required. When asked what steps could support well-being, 51% of respondents asked for this particular measure. The study disclosed, “The capability gap is increasingly exposed as the demand for people encourages early promotion, and individuals rely on strategies of impersonation and improvisation to survive.”

Predictably, the implementation of COVID-19 protocols brought additional stress and concerns. 42% of the participants said it negatively affected their ability to do their job, and 46% stated that it negatively affected their mental health. On the other hand, a 10% minority reported that working under COVID-19 protocols had a positive impact on their mental health, showing that the way we do things really matters.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination remain crucial issues to tackle, as 57% of respondents have been the target of unacceptable behaviours. In particular, racial harassment and discrimination are widespread, with four in ten (39%) of black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents having been targets of these behaviours in the past year, with most suffering mental-health impacts as a result.

Among other key findings, the research shows that “only 10% agree that the industry is a mentally healthy place to work, and one alarming finding is that 51% say that culture and values are having a negative impact on mental health, compared with 29% in 2019”. It highlights that the “stigma around mental health remains, with four in ten (42%) saying they wouldn’t tell anyone in the industry if they were experiencing a mental-health problem for fear of judgement”, but also that, “of those that did tell someone, only one-quarter (23%) said the situation got better as a result”.

Another risk is represented by losing valuable talents owing to mental-health concerns, as many are starting to consider leaving the industry, and some ultimately do. In particular, 65% said they had thought of leaving the industry in the last year alone (as against 63% in 2019). The propensity to leave is even higher for some under-represented groups. For example, 75% of disabled respondents had considered leaving the industry in 2021.

Nonetheless, the report reveals that “respondents were generally optimistic that things would get better and that momentum was building”. Participants pointed out the need for broadcasters to improve production practices, and the importance of strong support from trade unions and professional bodies. Along with this cautious optimism, some expressed scepticism “about how sincere change really is”. In 2019, 24% of the respondents said that people in the industry had positive attitudes towards people experiencing mental-health issues, whilst in the latest survey, said percentage decreased to 20%. More broadly, the report explains, “Workers feel that the industry is beginning to ‘talk the talk’ about mental health, but they have yet to see culture change and are sceptical about whether big industry players are really ‘walking the walk’ yet.”

You can access the full document here.

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