> “ The Opposite of addiction is connection ”
— Johann Hari, TED Talk
One of the most powerful, positive forces in mental health and addiction support and recovery is the power of people’s personal stories. And in the Motion Picture sector, the most powerful force is the stories of fellow peers working in film and television – people who understand the pace and unique pressures of working in film and how that has intersected with, and impacted, their mental health and wellbeing.
Recently, Richard R., a member of IATSE 891, volunteered to share his story in a recorded Zoom interview with Gregg Taylor, a counsellor and mental health advisor to the Calltime campaign and President of fseap, the Employee/Member & Family Assistance Program provider for IATSE 891 and Teamsters 155. (View video below)
Richard wanted to share his mental health and addiction story so that others in the sector who struggle with mental health and addiction challenges would know that they are not alone, and that with connection, help, and support we can all get stronger and find new, healthy ways of coping and facing our struggles.
As Richard says, “If you reach out to someone, or someone reaches out to you and says ‘hey, are you all right?’, be honest with them and honest with yourself, because once you talk about the problem or what’s going on inside, sometimes that’s all you need to lessen the effect it’s having on you.”
Richard’s story includes struggling with addiction, culminating in attending a live-in treatment program. While he had support from family as he initially faced his issues, now a key to his ongoing wellness and wellbeing is having a supportive supervisor, crew and team. “After struggling (with stress and mental health) recently after returning to set, everybody rallied around –not just my department but the show itself…I received calls from people I didn’t even know in LA checking in on me, and even at Christmas people were calling to check in, and that meant the world to me.” He adds, “The highlight of my film career has been the people that I work with. I love them. I mean, you spend this much time with these people, then you become like family. You’ve got to like them or the long days are just going to be longer!”
When asked what he would want to share with others, Richard said, “we’ve taken a hit this year to our mental health – with COVID, what’s been going on in the world all around, and what’s going on in our communities…it’s tough. But if we can open up and get past our fear of letting people know we’re not OK – that it’s OK to not be OK – we can get past the stigma about talking to a counsellor, or getting therapy, or taking medication.”
For those who want to be a support to others, Richard says they only need to know how to listen. It’s ok to not have all the answers and to say so, but offer to help seek out resources. “I’m doing this video to put a face to my story. Please don’t suffer alone.”
If you are struggling with your mental health or addictions, know that there is care and support available to you.
If you are needing support for yourself, or you would like to support someone you care about, check out the resources on the Calltimementalhealth.com website.
Under Looking for Help, you’ll find a list of BC’s film unions and the benefits available to their members related to mental health and addiction treatment and support.
Under Learning Centre, you’ll find two training program tracks of 4 modules each – one track for individuals, for supporting your peers and friends/family, and one track for leaders, managers and supervisors looking to develop new skills and confidence for supporting their crew members.