Investigating Mental Health & Burnout in the UK Film & TV Industry
Updated: Oct 24
Firstly, a bit of back story to how a cinematographer came to be investigating industry mental health is probably a good idea. So, when the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was working as a cinematographer and in the middle of a feature documentary, finishing up a short film, prepping for a series that had received funding after years of work, awaiting the imminent release of two feature films and had just signed to a new agent. That all came to a screeching halt, as it did for many people.
Due to the fact I use immune suppressants to control ulcerative colitis, I was rapidly classified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (CEV) by the NHS and government and told to ‘Shield’, which was literally to stay at home and not leave under any circumstances that were not life threatening. It was made very clear this was not going to be a short-term solution. Shielding actually lasted in one form or another until September 2021, and the guidance to be extremely cautious about work or social interactions wasn’t fully withdrawn until April 2022. Twenty-five months, during which I, and other CEV people, received a lot of official and alarming texts, emails, messages and phone calls instilling how vulnerable we were, something that will take a long time to recover from mentally in its own right.
Anyway, as a consequence of my doctor’s advice and my own experiences of being immunocompromised, I began to plan a possible two-year period out of the industry and so decided to do another degree. My previous qualifications were in computer engineering and film school but this time I decided to do a part-time MSc in psychology because of my personal experiences in mental health and working with a clinical psychologist for several years. Much of my personal mental health problems have been an anxiety and panic disorder stemming from a combination of chronic health problems and stress around working within the film industry.
This brings me to now, after almost two years of hard studying, my post-graduate research study is based on investigating mental health and burnout amongst all types of workers of the film and television industry in the UK including streaming services. This investigation also takes into account mental health stigmatisation and, optionally, negative sexual experiences with a view of how they relate as well.
There have effectively been no peer-review published studies conducted into our industry around the field of occupational health psychology, so my intention is to seek peer review and publication once this study is completed. Organisations like Film and TV Charity and BECTU have tried to quantify it. In 2020 & 2022 the Film and TV Charity released their Looking Glass Reports from their own industry surveys outlining their findings: poor mental health, exceptionally long hours, poor culture and a multitude of other negative findings. In 2017 BECTU published its own Eyes Half Shut report in to industry working hours and how such long hours impact productivity, safety and work-life balance.
Consequentially, I wanted to help raise these concerns more widely and one way I could do this was to bring these concerns in to an academic and research setting to study them from a rigorous psychological and scientific standpoint. This research has now been years in the planning for myself with not too many people knowing exactly what my goals have been so as to keep it as independent as possible. Participation is open to anyone who’s worked in the UK film and television industry in the last year and is over 18. All responses are anonymous and should only take 10–15 minutes to complete:
(Survey now closed and initial writeup is in the process of being assessed ahead of being turned in to an academic paper for peer review.)
Northumbria University Ethics Approval Ref: 45697
If you have been affected by any of the issues that have been raised in this study and you need further support there are many industry related support channels as well as the more conventional sources as well, like the following:
Film & TV Charity 24-hour support line 0800 054 0000 or live chat at https://filmtvcharity.org.uk/your-support/support-line/
MIND (online: https://www.mind.org.uk/ or phone: 0300 123 3393).
Rape Crisis have support lines for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse, national helpline 0808 802 9999 or live chat https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/want-to-talk/
Film & TV Charity have also set up hubs for the industry
Access to various industry support services including mental wellbeing.
Wellness check in and looking after yourself in the industry.
Record your experiences or witnessing of bullying.
BECTU have links to many other mental wellbeing support groups:
Equity have free counselling and support for members:
If, however you feel like you need further support or information in person, please get in touch with your local Health Care Professional (e.g., GP). You can find your local GP here.