2-year programme for better mental health in film, TV and cinema kicks off

  • Film and TV Charity commences Whole Picture Programme to support 200,000 strong creative industry
  • Initiative supported by Mind and leading industry organisations
  • Programme is a response to research highlighting a mental health crisis within the industry

A 2-year programme to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people who work behind the scenes in UK film, TV and cinema gets under way today.

The Whole Picture Programme, co-ordinated by the Film and TV Charity and championed by leading industry organisations, will roll out a suite of new services and resources that will empower and support the workforce, and seek to assist and amplify the ongoing work of other industry bodies.

The Film and TV Charity has now secured £3m [1] funding from Amazon Prime Video, Banijay UK, BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, IMG, ITV, Sky, Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia to deliver the 2-year programme, supported by the BFI and backed by the UK’s leading mental health charity Mind. The charity estimates that mental health problems including staff turnover cost the sector at least £300m in losses each year [2].

The programme’s structure will comprise the Film and TV Taskforce on Mental Health, a Steering Group and several Working Groups, all of which will bring insight and expertise from across the industry that will help shape and deliver the programme. Over the next 2 years, the industry can expect to see and benefit from:

  • A toolkit for mentally-healthy productions
  • Enhanced professional and peer support for freelancers
  • People skills and training guides
  • Industry actions to improve behaviours
  • Anti-bullying services and resources

Alex Pumfrey, CEO of the Film and TV Charity said: “Thanks to the extraordinary commitment of our funders, this programme of work for better mental health is now moving into gear.

It has been a devastating year for many people in our industry, and it’s clear we cannot afford to return to ‘business as usual’. Our 2019 research showed a mental health crisis in the industry, which has only been exacerbated by the terrible effects of the pandemic. The case for improving the mental health of the industry has never been stronger or more urgent. This programme of work is designed to turn the tide on poor mental health by enhancing the available support, changing behaviour and improving ways of working; but this will need to be an industry-wide effort to create sustainable change.”  

The programme was developed in response to the charity’s ground-breaking research[3], conducted last year and released in February.

The project has been on hold for six months whilst the charity has dedicated all of its resources to responding to Covid-19, raising £6.4m and supporting thousands of workers with a range of grants and financial and mental wellbeing services.

Over the summer, calls for increased support and rights for workers, prompted by the impact of the pandemic on a largely freelance workforce, have reinforced the need to improve support for people working in the industry.

More than 9,000 people took part in the research last year, sharing their experiences and stories confidentially, which identified a mental health crisis within the industry[4]. The findings uncovered a range of issues including self-harm and bullying. Since then, the pandemic has meant increased isolation and anxiety for many, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the industry have shone a light on the impact that systemic racism and discrimination has on mental health.

As members of the Taskforce, industry leaders are working collaboratively to adopt and champion the work both within their own organisations and widely across the sector.

The Steering Group and Working Groups will include mental health, workplace wellbeing and issue-related experts; industry bodies and campaigning groups; staff and freelance workers – many with lived experience of mental health problems – from a broad range of genres, levels of seniority and diverse backgrounds.

The Film and TV Charity will continually monitor membership of the groups over the 2 years of the programme to ensure that representation is drawn from a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds.

Alex Pumfrey added: “As we get started with this programme we are looking forward to working with our colleagues across the sector, particularly the many industry bodies with whom we share a concern for the mental health of the workforce – and a desire for better ways of working. Our hope is that this programme can support other aligned work, and that together we can create an unstoppable movement for change.     

None of this would have been possible without the foresight and commitment of our generous funders and Taskforce members Amazon Prime Video, Banijay UK, BBC, BBC Studios, the BFI, Channel 4, IMG, ITV, Sky, Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia, and the support of our strategic partner Mind.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “This year has been a difficult one for us all, which is why it’s never been more important for employers to invest in promoting and prioritising employee wellbeing. Unfortunately, self-employed people, freelancers and those in the film and TV industry are amongst those hit hardest by coronavirus. That’s why we’re pleased to be supporting the Whole Picture Programme, which will provide much-needed resource and support to the many experiencing poor mental health in the sector.”

Lucinda Hicks, CEO Banijay UK said: “This initiative is clearly long overdue and as an industry we must work together to tackle the issues and shocking statistics identified in the Film and TV Charity’s ground-breaking research earlier this year. The mental health of our workforce, and the freelancers the industry is so reliant upon, is a major consideration now and for the years ahead, so Banijay UK is committed to supporting this important programme.”

Jabbar Sardar, HR Director BBC Studios, said: “We are proud to stand behind the Film and TV Charity as they work tirelessly to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those who power our world-class creative industries and help ease the difficulties some are facing at this critical time.”

Jen Smith, the BFI’s Head of Inclusion, said: It is vitally important that we support the mental health of people in our industry, particularly as we collectively face uncertainty in the months ahead.”

Jonathan Allan, Chief Operating Officer, Channel 4, said: “Channel 4 is passionate about joining forces with our fellow broadcasters and other industry leaders to provide better mental health care and support for all our people. Following an incredibly challenging year it’s fantastic to see this vital programme of work get under way.”

John Hollywood, Director of Production, IMG, commented: “The research clearly demonstrates the urgent need for support in this area and the importance of this programme for people working within the film and TV industry. We are proud to be supporting the Film and TV Charity and are looking forward to working collaboratively with them to help drive positive change in mental health throughout the sector.”

Julian Bellamy, Managing Director, ITV Studios said: “We know that, during this unprecedented global pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression have risen and our industry has been hit hard. We must and will continue to support the mental health and wellbeing of all those we work with. As a member of this taskforce, along with my colleagues in the industry and Mind, I believe we can make real change through the substantial programme of support in the Whole Picture Programme that complements what we already have in place at ITV.”

Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content, Sky said: “The work of the Film and TV Charity has been essential during the current crisis and so we whole heartedly welcome the launch of the Whole Picture Programme, which will be a vital element to supporting the mental health of our industry. We are delighted to play our part in funding and creating this initiative which will support both our own people and everyone who works across wider the industry.”


For anyone interested in hearing more about the Whole Picture Programme, the Film and TV Charity will be holding an introductory event next month. Register to be the first to hear more.


[1] Anticipated investment over the first 2 years of the Whole Picture Programme is £3m, of which the Film and TV Charity has contributed £500,000 and the Taskforce has contributed the remaining £2.5m.

[2] Based on Deloitte (Jan 2020), Mental Health and Employers: Refreshing the Case for Investment, which estimates that mental health problems including absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover cost the UK economy up to £45bn every year. Impact on the film and TV industry calculated using average cost per employee in the private sector of £1,652 x 180,000 screen industry workers (Annual ScreenSkills Assessment, May 2019) = £297m.

[3] The Looking Glass, commissioned by the Film and TV Charity and conducted by The Work Foundation – was a mixed-model, wide-ranging piece of research comprising a rapid evidence review, a workforce survey, qualitative interviews and consultations with an industry forum. The evidence review explored existing national datasets and found that, using broad measures, mental health problems were more prevalent in film, TV and cinema compared with the national workforce. This informed the centrepiece of the research – an industry survey that ran online for three weeks between 17 June and 8 July 2019.
In total there were 9,399 responses from individuals working in the UK’s film, TV and cinema industry, which gave a final dataset of 4,877 for cross-sectional analysis. The Looking Glass research report can be downloaded here

[4] The Work Foundation state that the seriousness of these findings “suggest that there is a mental health crisis within the UK film, television and cinema industry”, The Looking Glass, (2020), pp15.