Advanced Television

Update: Mental health still an issue for UK production

February 16, 2022

The Film and TV Charity has published Looking Glass ’21, a follow-up to the charity’s 2019 research that uncovered a mental health crisis in the UK film and TV industry.

The new research was conducted during the summer of 2021 to establish baseline metrics against which the charity will use to measure the industry’s long-term efforts to reverse that crisis, with new questions added to the survey to examine the prevalence, and effects on mental health, of racial harassment and discrimination.

With the new research being conducted at during the Covid-19 pandemic, but as TV and film production was again booming,  the results seen in Looking Glass ’21 can be viewed as a temperature check on mental health and wellbeing in the industry, with a positive outlook in some quarters balanced against deepening concern in others.

While the report summarises that the headline measures of mental health and wellbeing have remained stable despite the challenges of the last couple of years, a more detailed examination of more than 2,000 eligible responses indicates that there is much more work to be done to improve the picture for many working behind the scenes.

The Looking Glass ’21 report shows:

  • Long hours and well-documented skills gaps are challenging the mental health and wellbeing of many working behind the scenes in film and TV, with the number of people reporting that work intensity was causing poor mental health rising from 63 per cent in 2019 to 78 per cent in 2021
  • 57 per cent of respondents say they experienced bullying, sexual or racial harassment or discrimination, or other harassment or discrimination in the past year alone
  • 39 per cent of Black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents experienced racialised harassment or discrimination; causing 43 per cent of them to consider leaving the industry
  • The number of respondents who say the industry’s culture and values are having a negative impact on mental health has risen from 29 per cent in 2019 to 51 per cent in 2021
  • 74 per cent of disabled respondents considered leaving the industry altogether in the last year due to concerns about their mental health
  • Only 10 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that the industry is currently a mentally healthy place to work

“2019’s Looking Glass report gave The Film and TV Charity the impetus to get to work to mitigate the serious concerns it found,” commented Alex Pumfrey, CEO at The Film and TV Charity. “Two years on, Looking Glass ’21 shows us that, despite stability and remarkable resilience in some areas, there is still much more that we must do – and the urgency is especially acute when we consider the strain being placed on the mental health of people in the industry from under-represented communities, including our disabled workforce and Black, Asian and minority ethnic workforce. In particular, the mental health impacts of individual experiences of racial harassment and discrimination, has been brought to the fore.”

“There is now an industry-wide conversation on mental health, and a growing commitment to from organisations large and small to improve the way we work. The support our Whole Picture Programme partners have shown in helping us to develop new interventions, including the Freelancer Wellbeing Hub and Bullying Advice Service, is evidence of that. However, as we signposted with Let’s Reset, the behaviour change campaign we launched in the autumn, we all need to follow through on those commitments to deliver the tangible change that is so clearly needed,” he suggested.

“As we prepare to launch our Whole Picture Toolkit, a practical resource that will help to embed mental health and wellbeing best practice into productions, I hope we can support the change needed on-the-ground to improve mental health. But this requires the whole industry to step up to the plate, to make the change real, so that we can see meaningful improvements in the next iteration of the Looking Glass research,” he concluded.

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