U.K.'s Film and TV Charity Launches Mental Health Program

Alex Pumfrey - H - 2020
Credit: The Film and TV Charity

Film and TV Charity CEO Alex Pumfrey

The initiative, with support from studios and networks, comes in response to a study published earlier in the year showed that 87 percent of people working in British cinema and television had experienced a mental health problem.

Following a six-month hiatus as it shifted gears to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and throw its weight behind supporting the U.K.'s crisis-hit TV, film and cinema workforce, the Film and TV Charity has launched a program aimed at improving mental health in the industry.

The two-year "Whole Picture Programme," co-ordinated by the charity with support from leading studios, networks and organizations, is seen as one of the most comprehensive, industry-wide responses to mental health worldwide, and will see the roll out a suite of new services and resources.

The initiative comes following "The Looking Glass" study, commissioned by the charity in 2019 and published in February, revealed that nearly 90 percent of people working in the U.K.'s film, TV and cinema industries have experienced a mental health problem. Among the findings were that workers were twice as likely to experience anxiety compared with the national average, that workers were three times as likely to have harmed themselves 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 charity has estimated that mental health problems, including staff turnover, cost the sector at least £300 million ($390 million) each year.

The charity has now secured £3 million ($3.9 million) in funding from Amazon Prime Video, Banijay U.K., BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, IMG, ITV, Sky, Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia to deliver the program, supported by the British Film Institute and backed by the U.K.’s leading mental health charity Mind.

"It has been a devastating year for many people in our industry, and it’s clear we cannot afford to return to 'business as usual'," said Film and TV Charity CEO Alex Pumfrey. "Our 2019 research showed a mental health crisis in the industry, which has only been exacerbated by the terrible effects of the pandemic. The case for improving the mental health of the industry has never been stronger or more urgent. This program of work is designed to turn the tide on poor mental health by enhancing the available support, changing behavior and improving ways of working; but this will need to be an industry-wide effort to create sustainable change."

The structure of the program will comprise the Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health, a steering group and several working groups, with resources set to include a toolkit for mentally-healthy productions, support for freelancers and anti-bullying services.

The project has been on hold for six months whilst the charity dedicated all of its resources to responding to COVID-19, raising £6.4 million ($8.3 million) and supporting thousands of workers with a range of grants and financial and mental wellbeing services.