It’s 2021 and the pandemic continues to test our resourceful, successful industry to its limits. In this third national lockdown, many of you are finding it hard to sustain the energy and resilience you need to look after yourself and others. We’re here to help make it easier to get the support you need.
We’ve put together the following mental wellbeing advice – based on guidance by our strategic partner Mind – specifically for people who work in film, TV and cinema.
Work during lockdown
Everyone’s concerns about work will be different depending on the sector they work in, the skills used, current employment status and their home life. More parents in our industry are in work – compared with the first lockdown when schools were closed – which means more are having to divide their attention between their work and their children.
Work x home school
If you’re trying to combine working from home with home schooling, think about Making a childcare bubble with another household. If you both have a child aged under 14, you’re allowed to form a bubble to provide each other with informal childcare. Taking childcare cover in turns might help you carve out dedicated time to work. If the kids are friends at school, it’d also give them a valuable chance to interact and motivate eachother as they learn.
The NHS has compiled some great core principles to apply when balancing home schooling and working, as well as hints and tips, plus links to practical learning resources. They have a simple infographic sharing advice from ‘real people’ who are going through these challenges too.
Parents aren’t the only ones whose work/life situations have changed dramatically. Now may be the time that more workers and employers alike start looking at 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.
BECTU are launching a new podcast series around mental health. The first episode features an occupational psychologist, who also gives advice about juggling work and home school, based on his experience as a dad as well as a medic.
If you’re currently filming, you may be feeling anxious about the more transmissible strain of 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 in the future, 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.
Ask your employer to set up a drop-in session for colleagues to share work-related worries in confidence and support each other. Or set one up yourself, so a cohort of co-workers can look out for one another. This could be for your own team, parents who are home-schooling, those with a close friend or family member who have got Covid or a group of like-minded freelancers who are between jobs. The support you can receive from others who are going through the same thing, in a space where you feel safe enough to share things, can often be the one thing that gets you through a tough time.
The possibility of redundancy could be making you feel incredibly stressed. You can learn more about your rights during redundancy via Acas and Mind has advice on coping in this situation. They have also identified 7 steps you can take to help manage the challenges you may face if you are furloughed.
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.
Is now the time to consider job sharing? Our work/life situations have changed dramatically and if you’re also a parent you may have new considerations around childcare and flexible working. 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.
Are you experiencing zoom fatigue? After looking at a screen all day long, you may find the last thing you want to do is jump on Zoom with friends, or even look at the TV screen.
Where possible, take breaks, talk on the phone if you need time away from your computer, and get outside in the fresh air.
Feeling connected with others is vital for your mental health but find time to connect with yourself too.
The importance of physical exercise can’t be understated. Give yourself a daily dose of mood-lifting endorphins, which are released in the brain when you exercise. Try and do it before you start your work day so you don’t get distracted, or commit to getting active as part of your lunch break.
Recent research has highlighted how detrimental sitting for long periods of time can be for our mental health. Working adults are typically sitting for 9 hours a day! The 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.
If possible, try standing at your desk when taking calls and add more movement into your working day. There’s a free Chrome app that sets break reminders on your computer that could help.
Multi-tasking things like work and childcare, or caring for a vulnerable adult, is challenging for everyone. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan. Try not to see it as ‘working from home’, but rather, ‘trying to make things work during a pandemic’.
With reduced opportunities to socialise with friends or even to interact with strangers, there are millions of people experiencing loneliness and isolation during this lockdown.
Often it’s younger and more junior colleagues who live on their own or in house shares, and are finding lack of contact very difficult but it’s important to remember loneliness can effect anyone. There’s still a stigma associated with loneliness that can prevent people from speaking out, so be proactive and check in with colleagues that you know are living alone.
Bupa have compiled stories from people living alone in lockdown who share coping strategies that they have found helpful.
If you want to connect with others anonymously use our online mental health community to chat in a safe and supportive environment, or just take time to focus on yourself by accessing a wealth of self-help resources. Known as Togetherall, we have made this mental health platform free for everyone working behind-the-scenes in film, TV and cinema. Available 24/7, you can talk openly and anonymously with others online, take guided self-help courses such as assertiveness training and giving up alcohol, or use the self-assessment tools to keep track of how you’re doing. Try it now and be part of the community.
Screen Skills regularly run a wellbeing drop-in session called The Daily Cuppa. Often over a lunch break the 1hr session offers a safe online space to connect and check in with yourself and others working in film and TV.
The new Unscripted branch of Bectu is hosting fortnightly Mental Health Meet Ups for their members. You are welcome to say as little or as much as you like in small groups. It can be a place to share experiences and coping strategies.
Podcasts can be a great way to feel engaged in a conversation about something that interests you. There are lots that cover industry concerns e.g. 6ft from the Spotlight. Or for some escapism and a bit of Hollywood nostalgia try You Must Remember This which explores the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.
In the UK’s third lockdown, finding fun amidst the daily grind can feel particularly challenging but is probably more important than ever.
As adults, we sometimes forget how to play. It doesn’t need to be a huge virtual event or demand lots of your energy. Finding joy in everyday interactions can make a difference.
Mind’s Mental Health At Work website has some great lockdown advice on how to ‘Look out for ourselves and each other.’ They recommend finding ‘pockets of joy’ in your day and making it a practice that you share with your team. From frothy coffees to puppies – they all count.
Socialise with your network as well as talking about work. Host a virtual movie night or start a book club.
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.