Mental health training: guidance for employers

This is an industry framework for employers to develop mental health training programmes for their workers.

This guidance is published by ScreenSkills in partnership with the Film and TV Charity. It was produced by the charity’s Training+ Working Group and Focus Group in response to research on mental health and training in the industry.

ScreenSkills now leads this working group and will continue to update and develop the guidance.

It is designed to give you a framework or overview of the different areas of training you could consider or include when putting together a holistic mental health training plan for your staff or your freelance team.

The guidance bears in mind the specific concerns and needs of the film and television industries. It also looks at factors beyond traditional mental health training which might be important to consider.

The members of the working and focus groups are as follows:

Working Group: BBC, Bectu, BFI, BIFA, Channel 4, Film and TV Charity, ITV, Mama Youth, Production Guild of Great Britain, ScreenSkills and Sky.

Focus Group: 6ft From The Spotlight, Dart Centre Europe for Journalism and Trauma, Dolly Mental Health, Film in Mind, Men Talk Health, Solas Mind, Team Human.

The guidance is divided into the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Why should employers invest in mental health?
  3. Understanding your company’s needs
  4. Mental health training accreditation
  5. Addressing industry factors which contribute to poor mental health
  6. Different styles of training and learning

1. Introduction

In 2021, the Film and TV Charity published a White Paper which highlighted the need for more mental health training for people working in the screen sector and recommended developing an industry-specific approach.

As well as raising awareness of mental health issues, it is important to understand and address certain factors which are specific to the screen sector, so you can equip people with the resources they need to develop and implement safe working practices.

To achieve this, you must consider a holistic approach to mental health training and provide access to ongoing development.

Through an industry working group, the following guidance has been curated to help employers and freelance managers understand what factors to consider and to support everyone they work with, including senior leaders, managers, employees and freelancers.

There is no one solution as each organisation or team will find an approach that best suits their people and needs.

Following this advice, employers and those with line-management responsibilities will feel empowered to put together immediate and longer-term training plans for themselves and the people who work with them.

2: Why should employers invest in mental health?

The 2020 Looking Glass Report commissioned by the Film and TV Charity reported that nine in 10 workers in film and TV have experienced a mental health issue. It is clearly time to put mental health and wellbeing centre-stage and ensure a safer, happier and healthier industry.

What’s more, if you want to attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, create compelling award-winning content and be a leading player in the global moving image industry, you must address the root causes of poor mental health in all working practices.

3. Understanding your company’s needs

Each organisation should consider what is relevant to them depending on their size, location of staff and specific needs for a particular production or considering the work that the company or team does.

What do you need to provide to ensure the psychological safety of everyone who works with you and how can you offer appropriate, relevant and meaningful support?

To answer these questions, you should carry out a risk assessment. There is more advice on how to do this below. It will help you identify what is needed so you can then start addressing each need.

Bigger organisations might have internal, corporate structures in place to help support workers, such as in-house training, HR resources and an Employee Assistance Programme.

For smaller companies, there are still ways to provide support even if your company only has a few permanent staff members. For example, you could contract a third-party independent organisation to provide HR support at a cost that is appropriate to the scale of your company and workforce.

Companies of any size should have corporate policies in place, for example safeguarding and anti-discrimination. Make sure these are kept up to date – again, a third-party HR organisation can help with this. These policies should be made available to everyone who works with you.

Consider your organisational or production-wide communications procedures. What is the mechanism for reporting upwards? How will you stay in touch with your workers? Include this information in your on-boarding documentation, for example on call sheets or when agreeing contracts.

Further support and best practice recommendations:

  • The Film and TV Charity’s Whole picture toolkit: a resource for mentally healthy productions will be available in February 2022, to help productions throughout all stages in the production cycle. Co-designed with TV and filmmakers, it has a clear set of actions for each stage in the production cycle. It also contains examples of best practice and ready-to-use templates.
  • The Bectu Welfare Policy will be published in 2022 following consultation with members. It provides practicable policies which have the dual purpose of benefiting the workers and production companies. In the meantime, find out what other support is available on the website or email the membership team.
  • There is support available to production companies through Pact or for individuals through the Production Guild of Great Britain and Directors UK.

4. Mental health training accreditation

There are three officially accredited mental health training frameworks in the UK: MHFA, i-act and NUCO

These courses are based on building awareness and are not bespoke to the screen sector, or to managers.

When booking training that addresses mental health, it is important to ensure that the training provider has the necessary skills to deliver a safe and trusted course.

You should also consider upfront what follow-on support will be available after the course and what other training you will make available, to address all factors which contribute to poor mental health.

Mental health training is also available from Mind, including specific training for employers and managers, and through the NHS.

5. Addressing industry factors which contribute to poor mental health

An effective mental health strategy for your workplace means not only raising awareness but also developing skills and tools to implement a mentally healthy working environment for all at every level.

This means including training to address industry-specific factors which contribute to poor mental health, specific training for managers, better understanding of how mental health and related training works and its benefits, including the need for follow-on support and the integration of mental health training into other existing training and development programmes.

Mental health training raises awareness that everyone has mental health and highlights the issues of having poor mental health. This is important for everyone to understand on a personal level as well as across a team and those they manage.

Within accredited mental health training frameworks there is limited scope to deliver bespoke courses for an industry. Therefore, the training doesn’t tend to identify or address industry-specific factors which contribute to poor mental health in film and TV.

By understanding what these contributing factors are, how they directly impact an individual’s mental health and how you might address and mitigate against these factors, you can develop practical tools to benefit yourselves and others with better mental health. It is therefore important to include relevant training courses in mental health training plans.

Here we have identified some of the main factors in our industry working practices and culture which contribute to poor mental health and suggested how training might help to reduce or prevent the ill effects on workers.

6. Different styles of training and learning

Learning is a life-long endeavour and we learn through many different experiences. Here we explore different types of formal training and education, development through peer support, and the value of and need for continuing professional development including informal follow-on support and learning.

By putting together training programmes that address and cater for each of these three areas, you can develop an effective strategy for good mental health for your workers and our industry as a whole.

Make sure you take time to discuss different approaches and benefits with your people, to support their needs.

About this framework

This framework will be reviewed biannually by the industry Working Group to:

  • Ensure the framework remains relevant and updated
  • Promote the framework to employers
  • Develop the framework further
  • Measure impact of the framework

If you have any comments about the framework, or suggestions for information that would be useful to include based on your industry experience please let us know at mentalhealth@screenskills.com.

If you have any concerns or questions related to support needed for your personal mental health, please contact the Film and TV Charity support line on 0800 054 0000