Study Reveals "Mental Health Crisis" in U.K. Film, TV Industries

Illustrations by Rune Fisker

According to research commissioned by the Film and TV Charity, 87 percent of people working in British cinema and television have experienced a mental health problem, which has prompted an urgent action plan and industry-led task force.

Nearly 90 percent of people working in the U.K.'s film, TV and cinema industries have experienced a mental health problem, according to a major study commissioned by the Film and TV Charity. 

The figure — 87 percent — compares to 65 percent of people in the U.K.'s general population who have experienced mental health issues, and has prompted an urgent action plan and task force that has received the backing of studios, broadcasters, production companies and cinema groups. 

The study was conducted for the Film and TV Charity by the Work Foundation and included a survey of more than 9,000 industry professionals. Among its findings were that workers were twice as likely to experience anxiety compared with the national average, that workers are three times as likely to have self-harmed compared with the national average, and that over half of workers have considered taking their own life (compared with one-fifth nationally), and one in 10 have attempted to do so.

The report, titled The Looking Glass, states that the findings "suggest that there is a mental health crisis within the U.K. film and television industry."

The Film and TV Charity convened a summit on mental health last month in which industry leaders agreed on a £3 million ($3.9 million) action plan, known as The Whole Picture Programme, which will launch in April. The industry-led Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health will work closely with experts in mental health. The action plan will include an enhanced 24/7 film and TV support line and industry-wide behavior change campaign.

"As the charity supporting the film, TV and cinema workforce, we often hear the stories that others don’t," said Alex Pumfrey, chief executive of the Film and TV Charity. "The study findings are alarming and deeply upsetting. We can no longer shy away from the need for real change, which is why I am pleased and proud to be working with the members of the new Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health to spearhead a movement for change."

Punfrey added: "As a cohort, we are committed to addressing 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."

Sky, ITV Studios and Channel 4 are among those to have joined the task force. 

"Our people, both behind and in front of the camera, are the lifeblood of this industry and as our Duty of Care Charter makes clear, their mental health and well-being is our top priority," said Julian Bellamy, managing director of ITV Studios. "At the heart of ITV's social purpose strategy is our mental wellness five-year campaign, and as part of it, we back taking an active role in the task force and this program. We support this initiative, which brings the industry together to reiterate and say to our teams, we are there to support you."

Added Zai Bennett, managing director of content at Sky: "The Film and TV Charity has delivered a compelling case for investment in the mental health of our industry’s workforce. We are proud of Sky’s reputation as a great place to work, and The Whole Picture Programme will allow us to enhance the support available to our own employees and extend valuable services into the freelance community and across the industry."

Jonathan Allan, COO at Channel 4, said: "Channel 4 actively supports the collaboration with other industry leaders to provide better mental health care and support for our people. An industry’s culture cannot be changed by one organization acting in isolation, so by working together, we are sending a clear message to employees, freelancers and the next generation that their mental health and well-being are our priority."