Film unions address mental health & addiction issues with online hub

Film unions address mental health & addiction issues with online hub

Mental health and substance abuse issues are everywhere; no industry is immune from the heartache and disruption that can stem from depression, anxiety attacks, addiction, and suicide ideation.

This is especially true in the film and television industry, where intense working conditions can exacerbate pre-existing issues, says Alexis Hinde, an assistant business agent at the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia.

“Eighty to ninety hours a week is not uncommon in a five-day week, and because you’re working that much, you’re not seeing your friends and family, the people who keep you grounded,” says Hinde. “It’s freelance, so there’s no job security. The stakes are high. The expectations are constantly shifting.”

Mental health and addiction resources have long been available to film industry workers, according to Hinde, but “it was very much up to the member to figure out what those were and what might work for them, and when you’re working so much that you barely have time to get your laundry done, to sit and look at all of the things that are available to you, and you’re already in a state of mind that’s not optimal, it’s not really realistic.”

Enter Calltime: Mental Health, a new information hub that rolls out today (Friday, April 27).

Calltime: Mental Health is the brainchild of a multi-union working group whose members include representatives from the DGC BC, Teamsters 155, IATSE 891, ICG IATSE 669, UBCP/ACTRA, FSEAP and the BCCFU. The working group convened more than a year ago to build strategies to connect film industry workers struggling with mental health and addiction issues with available resources.

“Unions help people with working conditions and minimum rates of pay and all that sort of thing, but on the subject of mental health and addiction, we were each working in our own silos dealing with our own members, and the fact is that all of our members work together,” says Hinde, a member of the working group and a lead on the Calltime: Mental Health web site (the site’s tagline – “No calltime is more important” – is a reference to the time that cast and crew are instructed to show up to set each day). 

It wasn't long before the working group "settled on creating an online hub of information, because what we think is happening is people are either unaware of what their union offers, or afraid to use it because they’re concerned that someone would know,” says Hinde, noting that the services provided through the Calltime: Mental Health site are confidential, and that the individual unions will never know who accesses the third-party care.

“We know there’s a stigma," adds Hinde. "We want to make sure that people know that this information is there, and that they can access it.”

 Producer Robyn Wiener (left) and writer-producer Enid-Raye Adams on the set of the "We Can Help" PSA. 

Producer Robyn Wiener (left) and writer-producer Enid-Raye Adams on the set of the "We Can Help" PSA. 

Calltime: Mental Health launches today with the “We Can Help” campaign, a PSA created by and for motion picture professionals to remind their peers that help is available. The three-minute PSA was written and produced by Enid-Raye Adams (Arrow), directed by Jason Bourque (Drone), produced by Robyn Wiener (Black Fly), and features a mix of on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent speaking their deeply personal truths, which include depression, suicide attempts, and addiction, and repeating the message of the campaign: We can help. (Read more about the PSA in this recent Vancouver Courier article).

Says Hinde: “Our long-term goal is to end the stigma around using the services that are available. We want to make sure people know about them. In short, we want to save lives. That’s what it comes down to, and for somebody like me who’s in recovery myself – I’ve been sober for 24 years – it’s hugely personal.”

Visit the Calltime: Mental Health website – and view the PSA – at www.calltimementalhealth.com/we-can-help. Follow @calltimemh

Pictured above: Natasha Tony and Jason Bourque on the set of the "We Can Help" PSA. 

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