Over the last year our industry has experienced an unprecedented level of change and uncertainty. We now have a roadmap for a gradual easing of lockdown, which brings many longed-for opportunities to see friends and family (even at a social distance), send kids back to school and begin to plan a return to places of work. But we know that for many of you, these changes bring up new challenges and feelings of uncertainty. We’re here to help make it easier to get the support you need.
We’ve put together the following mental wellbeing advice – alongside our strategic partners Mind – to support people who work in film, TV and cinema as lockdown lifts.
Returning to work and taking care of yourself
One topic on many people’s minds is returning to work, or a place of work. We know this is an area of uncertainty for many of you as you begin to think about what this might look like and how to adjust to new ways of working. This could feel even more uncertain if you’re a freelancer. We’ve put together the following tips to help you take care of yourself and manage any feelings of worry and anxiety.
Uncertainty within the industry puts extra strain on people’s mental health. Practicing mindfulness can help you to manage your emotions and thoughts, headspace have a great app for this. You could take some time out to notice your surroundings on a walk, we know this isn’t always easy if you’re on a busy production, but research funded by the Wellcome Trust, suggests regular breaks involving light activity for a couple of minutes, every half hour may reduce the mental health risk and enhance productivity. You can also try a body scan where you sit and move your attention slowly through different parts of the body, starting from the top of your head moving all the way down to your toes.
Handling feelings of anger, frustration or guilt
The sheer amount of uncertainty and loss our industry has endured over the past year can bring up difficult feelings for many of us. That’s completely normal, but there are a number of techniques to help manage them. Breathe slowly to manage feelings of anger (try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in and focus on each breath). You might find it helpful to write down your feelings, even if it’s a note on your mobile, this can give you time to cool down and help you make sense of what you’re feeling. You could do this at the beginning or end of the day. If you need support our Film and TV Support Line provides a listening ear round the clock, 24/7, or you can get in touch via our live chat.
During times of transition when you might be experiencing a range of emotions, it’s important to take care of your mental health and wellbeing. This could include; using trusted sources of information for reliable updates, like the Government’s COVID-19 guidance and being aware of how you’re consuming news and social media and making the effort to reduce screen time. There’s a free Chrome app that sets break reminders on your computer that could help. Try to find a balance with work and make time for activities you find relaxing and take good care of your physical health (SHED – sleep, hydration, exercise and diet).
Whatever area of the industry you’re working in, know that you’re not alone. Many of us, including your crew and colleagues, might be sharing similar feelings about going back to work. Follow our series of Mindful Mondays, in partnership with Mind Charity.
If you’ve experienced or witnessed bullying, we’re here to help. Check out hour new Bullying Pathway Services.
Returning to work and what to expect
Many of us, workers and employers alike, are starting to think about more flexible ways of working as we ease out of lockdown. This could mean splitting your week between home and office or altering your working hours. If you’re unsure about the options available for you ask your employer to set up a drop-in session with HR or management so colleagues can share any concerns and ask questions. It could also be a good idea to create a cohort of co-workers to look out for one another as we readjust.
Our work/life situations have changed dramatically and if you’re also a parent you may have new considerations around childcare and flexible working or job shares. Share My Telly Job is an online community built for freelancers who would like to find more flexible working contracts. If you’re looking to connect with others for mutual support Cinemamas is a welcoming online platform for mums and parents working in film.
If you’re currently filming or are preparing to return to production, you may still be feeling anxious about Covid, especially if this is your first time back in production during the pandemic. ScreenSkills offer ‘Covid awareness on production’ training as well as a downloadable visual guide to help you get ready or give you some reminders.
If you’ve been experiencing mental health problems that are impacting your work, or you think may affect your work when you return, there may be adjustments that your employer should make to help you. Rethink Mental Illness has published a guide to What’s Reasonable At Work that can help you decide how best to approach these conversations with your employer.
Many freelancers are concerned that as budgets get squeezed their rights will be affected and there will be even greater pressure to work longer hours and take on more responsibility for less. BECTU have information on rates that may be relevant to your role and helpful when negotiating. They also have advice specifically related to Covid-19 including workplace rights, health and safety and income support.
Coping with change
In the last year we have all experienced an extraordinary amount of change and in 2021 we are continually having to adapt both in our professional and personal lives.
Your responsibilities at work may have changed, whether that’s having to adapt to new Covid measures on set or learning new skills as the industry responds to different ways of making and viewing content.
It can be exhausting and unsettling to deal with. The NHS has some useful advice on dealing with ‘Uncertainty during Covid-19’. It can be helpful to focus on the short term, one day at a time, rather than getting overwhelmed with future possibilities that you can’t control.
Public Health England’s interactive Mind Plan Tool allows you to create a personalised plan for managing your mental health with a simple 5 question quiz.
Here are some quick tips for anxiety
If you are experiencing greater anxiety or even panic when entering certain situations, there are various resources available on managing anxiety including a free course via our mental health community platform.
Mind have some really thoughtful advice and reassurance if wearing a mask – or seeing others wear them – makes you feel anxious.
Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of a panic attack. Panic attacks can be very frightening, especially if you’ve never had one before. You might think you’re having a heart attack or that something else is happening in your body that needs urgent physical treatment. Remind yourself that it could be a panic attack and that these feelings will pass.
Try a simple breathing exercise like this one from Mind or this from the NHS. Or just breathe in for the count of four…and breathe out for four.
Become a volunteer – helping others can boost your mental wellbeing as well as theirs. 86% of respondents to the Looking Glass survey said they’d be happy to support a colleague at work with a mental health problem.
If you’re not in work currently, volunteering might be a good way to add some structure into your day, whilst connecting with others. There are opportunities to do this within the industry. Screen Skills are looking for mentors to support their industry programme, and they offer guidance and online training to ensure you give and get the most out of the experience.
You could do a government-approved course on ‘psychological first aid’, which will help you understand what someone would need if they’ve recently experienced trauma. NB this is not the same as what’s commonly known as mental health first aid.
Our Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund helped almost 2,000 people in urgent need. There are still many who need urgent support working behind-the-scenes. If you can, please consider donating or fundraising in support of others in the industry by fundraising for the Film and TV Charity. Get creative with it and we’ll be sure to share your efforts on our channels.
If you’re worried about someone else and think they may need support with their mental health, but don’t know how to get them to seek help, Mind has resources to help you with a variety of different situations.
People who can help
Don’t be afraid to admit you’re having a bad day. Or week.
Our Film and TV Support Line provides a listening ear round the clock, 24/7, or you can get in touch via our live chat. We can then provide up to six sessions of therapy, free of charge, via phone or videophone.
If you have lost someone close to you due to Covid-19, our Support Line can also arrange some bereavement counselling sessions for you. Cruse Bereavement Care have put together some really thoughtful resources, which can also be used if you wish to support someone else who’s been bereaved. Our Mental Health Community which is free to everyone working behind-the-scenes has self-guided courses on Coping With Grief and Loss. Winston’s Wish provides advice on how to talk to young children when a close family member has died.
If you need some advice on how to talk to young people about Covid-19 and the risks to be aware of Young Scot has some excellent guides.
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you can seek help safely. Details of several services and safe ways to make contact, for people in a wide range of situations, can be found on the government’s dedicated webpage.
If you need help finding affordable treatment or rehab for drug or alcohol addiction, Help4Addiction can help you locate some practical options.
If you are feeling low, vulnerable or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please know that there is help and support for you. The Samaritans offer a confidential listening service, where they won’t judge or advise, but just listen. You can call anytime on 116 123. Other ways of contacting them are on their website.
Concerned about suicide
You may know someone who’s struggling and becoming more withdrawn. If you have concerns that they might be thinking about taking their own life, it’s important to take it seriously and know how to support them in seeking help. You could save a life.
Although it can be a difficult subject to talk about, suicide is a very real concern. Evidence gathered in 2019 for our Looking Glass report suggested that more than half of people working in the film and TV industry had considered taking their own life.
The campaigner Jonny Benjamin has spoken out about the importance of talking about suicide, which we’re often afraid to do. You can watch this short video that he made in support of CALM’s campaign, explaining why he’s raising awareness about suicide and why he made Stranger on The Bridge about his quest to find the man who stopped him from taking his own life.
If you want a better understanding of the signs to look out for and the skills required to approach someone who is struggling, check out the resources on Zero Suicide Alliance. The Samaritans also offer advice on how to support someone who is struggling covering a range of potential problems including self-harm.
Suicide prevention should be a primary concern and an integral part of managing mental health at work. However, the risk can’t always be eliminated and therefore it’s important to know how to support yourself and others in the event of a suspected suicide. BITC has a suicide post-vention toolkit with practical advice for employers to help employees come to terms with the loss of a colleague or friend.
If you’re talking or writing about suicide in a public forum, eg on social media, publishing anonymous quotes from surveys, please consult the Samaritans Media Guidelines to help you do this safely and responsibly.
Also, here’s a very useful resource from the US regarding how to print and post about suicide responsibly, which contains detail on talking about the death of a celebrity by suicide.