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Prioritizing Mental Health in Canada's Film Industry: Insights from Set Protect's 2022 Survey

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

In the world of film, the realities of “the grind” behind the scenes often remain in the shadows.

In May 2022, Set Protect conducted a survey that was sent out to over 250 non-union film workers of varying demographics in Vancouver, BC. The survey aimed to bring light to crucial aspects of mental health, substance use, and the struggle for a healthy work-life balance among the film and entertainment industry in Canada

film industry workers in a film set in Vancouver

The Silent Struggles in the Film Industry

The survey exposed deeply concerning statistics. A significant 77% of film workers in Vancouver, Canada admitted that their mental health had been adversely affected by their job, with long hours and high-pressure environments taking a toll on their well-being. The burden of overwork was evident as 76% revealed their struggle to decline upcoming work, even in times of burnout or needing a break. To put it into a global perspective, Entertainment Assist in Australia has reported that depression-related symptoms are five times more prevalent in the entertainment industry than in the general population. The Film and TV Charity in the UK reported that only 11% think the industry is a mentally healthy place to work, and Behind the Scenes in the US reported that 44% of participants reported suicidal ideation compared to 10% in the general United States population.

of commercial film workers say: Their mental health has been affected negatively by their job at times.

Seeking Support: A Necessary Step Forward

58% expressed the desire to have access to a counsellor, highlighting the need for accessible mental health resources within the industry. 46% also expressed their willingness to engage with an on-set wellness facilitator or counsellor if they were facing concerns about their mental health. This tells us that film workers are eager for support and would utilize it if it was provided.

58% of commercial film workers expressed desire to have access to a counsellor, highlighting the need for accessible mental health resources within the industry.

Advocating for Change

An overwhelming 78% believed that their mental wellness would significantly benefit from shorter days on set. Additionally, 84% voiced the need for "do not disturb" hours to be enforced, underlining the importance of uninterrupted personal time to rejuvenate and recuperate adequately.

84% voiced the need for "do not disturb" hours, highlighting the importance of uninterrupted personal time to recuperate.

The Pandemic's Impact on Film Folks

The film industry, like many others, was deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Productions came to a halt, livelihoods were disrupted, and uncertainty became the new norm. The pandemic took a toll on mental health, worsening existing stressors and introducing new challenges. As the industry moves forward, it's essential to recognize the lasting impact the pandemic has had on mental well-being. According to Lifeworks, 45% of Canadians reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their ongoing mental health. Prioritizing mental health is not only about addressing pre-existing concerns but also about providing much-needed support in the wake of the pandemic.

45% of Canadians say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their ongoing mental health. - Lifeworks

The Writer's Strike - Another Blow to the Industry

The Writers' Strike, another period of uncertainty and halted productions, compounded the already existing stresses within the film industry. Already struggling with the demands of their careers and pandemic traumas, film workers are navigating more loss of work with no end in sight. This strike sent countless people into financial uncertainty, many of whom have had to move homes, sell assets, and find alternative work sources to stay afloat, as government assistance was unavailable during this crisis, unlike the pandemic. This has further exacerbated the need for mental health support, as livelihoods have been threatened time and time again.

What Can Be Done?

Mental Health Support Program

Production companies and organizations can implement mental health support programs by offering counselling services, workshops, webinars, and access to therapists, counsellors, and coaches - either virtually or in person. These resources can be accessed through Set Protect’s services.

Promote Healthy Coping Mechanisms:

Education campaigns can raise awareness about healthy coping mechanisms, encouraging individuals to seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals rather than turning to substances. Our docuseries, “Being Scene”, brings awareness to these issues and discusses these topics. See more in Episode 01 – Justin’s Story [WATCH HERE].

Enforce humane work conditions

Ensuring reasonable working hours and encouraging breaks can greatly reduce stress and exhaustion among film workers. A good place to start is making sure film crews don’t drive tired and are getting adequate sleep between shifts. How to make changes is discussed in “Being SceneEpisode 02 – Jen’s Story. [WATCH HERE]

Destigmatize Mental Health through Culture Change

Creating an open dialogue around mental health is crucial. By reducing the stigma associated with seeking help, more individuals will feel comfortable reaching out for support when they need it. This can be achieved by providing Mental Health services to the film Industry.

Conclusion: A Brighter Future Awaits

By looking at the results of this survey paired with the current economic environment and global trends in the entertainment industry, it’s evident that the time for transformation is now. By acknowledging the challenges faced by its workforce and implementing necessary programs, Canada's film industry can pave the way for a future where mental health is a priority and work conditions are sustainable for all workers.

The film industry will continue to rise above adversities, as it always has, but by acknowledging these challenges and actively working towards solutions, the industry can thrive and not just survive.

Click here to read the full survey results.


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