What’s Up Doc?

As we approach the end of another hectic year like many I’m sure, I’m feeling a little low in energy from the stress and strains of work, the knocks or outright rejection that are a staple of our industry, and the long hours that our passion for the creative sector often demands of us.

I was having a conversation recently about mental health in Film & TV with the head of another guild as we all know someone if not ourselves who has been adversely affected in either a minor or major way by mental health issues.

Ben Neutze writing in the Daily Review in October 2016, cited statistics from a report by Entertainment Assist and Victoria University that revealed… almost half of the people working in Australia’s entertainment industry have moderate to severe anxiety (a rate ten times higher than the general population) while even more suffer from depression, and almost 60% have sought professional assistance for mental health issues at some point in their lives.

He goes on to say: While those surveyed reveal a strong passion for their work and creativity, it’s clear that there are severe stressors affecting those workers. The report identifies: “a powerful, negative culture within the industry including a toxic, bruising work environment; extreme competition; bullying; sexual assault; sexism and racism.”

Further: The rates of suicide ideation amongst those surveyed is also alarmingly six times higher than the general population, with suicide planning four times higher, and suicide attempts twice as high, at 7.7%.

Australian actor and filmmaker Ben Steel is making a documentary about mental health in the Australian entertainment industry called ‘The Show Must Go On’. You can learn more about it here.

I can’t imagine we are much better off here in New Zealand.

While mental health issues are commonplace they are still talked about in hushed tones if at all, particularly suicide. It’s a welcome relief when it’s brought out into the open as Sir John Kirwan did. He got his knighthood not as much for his rugby but for services to mental health, having been for several years at the forefront of the campaign to heighten public awareness of depression, an illness from which he suffered.

Mental health in the New Zealand entertainment industry needs some attention, both in terms of assessment and treatment. It’s an industry-wide issue that could go on the agenda for 2019. We have Screen Safe addressing Health & Safety in the workplace. DEGNZ has just started on an initiative for a Code of Ethics that we hope will come to fruition in 2019 and may well address some aspects related to mental health. But a more focused effort on mental health for our sector is overdue. An academic study would be a good first step, so if you know anyone looking for a PhD thesis topic why not make a suggestion.

In the meantime as we head into the silly season, don’t damage your brain too much with Christmas conviviality.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director