the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect
Long Hours in film & TV damages mental health wellbeing

8 October 2018

As part of the #EyesHalfShut campaign against long-hours in film & TV, BECTU is raising awareness of the mental health issues that workers could face and what support is available.

A long-hours culture has a noticeable effect on a worker’s mental health wellbeing. Overwork and the resulting stress can lead to conditions that affect the way a person feels, thinks and acts. These conditions can last for a short time but can result in long-term illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and eating disorders. And the results can be calamitous, as the Stevenson/Farmer review Thriving at Work highlights, each year 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs.

“Six months ago, I left the industry for exactly this reason. Long hours, an expectation to commute several hours each day and no compassion. [Since leaving] my mental and physical health has improved drastically, I now have a work life balance and can plan for the future.” Joseph, BECTU survey respondent

The UK has on average some of the longest working hours in Europe. If you work 11 or more hours a day you are twice as likely to suffer from major depression as those working the standard eight-hour day. Stress related illnesses accounted for 37% of all work-related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health, in the UK according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Who to turn to for help and support?

Many workplace employers provide support for workers who may be affected by mental health issues via their human resources departments. However as of yet this element of support is not readily available to freelancers working in film & TV.

“There’s no HR department here. No one seems to have given any thought to the impact this practice has on our lives and mental wellbeing.” Karen, production co-ordinator

BECTU organising official, Simon Nightingale, said:

“BECTU are looking to open a conversation with productions to encourage a better support structure for workers who may be experiencing mental health concerns whilst working.

“As part of raising awareness of mental health wellbeing within the working environment, BECTU would like to see a dedicated person on film & TV productions, who would be able to offer advice and support to anyone suffering from the stress that the long hours working culture can cause.

“We are encouraging members to sign up for the BECTU Mental Health First Aid courses which are set to run in 2019. Much like the traditional workplace first aider course, these will train people to be the first point of contact for any freelance worker should they have any mental health wellbeing concerns.”

Help make a change

BECTU is calling for all parts of the industry to come together to form a commission dedicated to reducing the industry's reliance on a long-hours working culture. You can sign our petition in support of this demand at http://bit.ly/eyes-petition

For more information, facts and support about work related mental health, please Like and follow our new Eyes Half Shut Facebook page for updates on the campaign and use #EyesHalfShut on any social media posts.

About the campaign

  • BECTU’s petition, calling for an industry-wide commission to reduce long hours working, has already received over 7,500 signatures. Supporters of the campaign are urged to sign this, here.
  • A report was published in 2017 highlighting the damage long hours working is doing, not only to the workers in the film and TV industries, but to the industry itself.
  • The campaign has its own webpage here.
  • BECTU will be promoting Mental Health First Aid training to our members so that they can deal with instances of mental health concerns in a long-hours working environment.
  • A fact sheet has been produced which can be downloaded here and copies are available on request to members.
  • Individual branches are being supported in campaigning on the issues that most concern their own departments of the industry.
  • A campaign pack has been produced containing:
    • “Eyes Camera Caffeine” #eyeshalfshut posters
    • Badges
    • Stickers
    • Campaign calling cards
    • The Eyes Half Shut report (2017)

– for further information, factsheets and campaign packs, please contact Simon Nightingale (BECTU Sector Organising Official) (snightingale@bectu.org.uk) or ring the BECTU Sector office on 0207 346 0900

External Links:

MHFA England

NHS 

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