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Using our collective power to secure good mental health

Ian Manborde Guest
Published date
The central, compelling vision of unions as we built mass workers’ movements from the 18th century onwards was one of a working life safe from unemployment, injury and illness.

The emergence of the welfare state and a raft of statutory safeguards in the 20th century, alongside sectoral collective bargaining and rising incomes underlined the crucial role of organised labour in our economy.

It is unsurprising then, that as unions became subject to sustained assault from the late 1970s onwards we have seen a huge rise in mental health problems.

This relationship between instability and poor mental health are underlined in a landmark research exercise released today by Equity for Mental Health Awareness Week. The study was a global review of research on the catalysts of poor mental health in the entertainment industry, highlighting insecurity of work and pay as key factors.

Equity’s membership of creative practitioners may work in a unique sector, but they are subject to the same economic, psychological and social consequences as workers across the economy: of low pay (and sometimes no pay), precarious work, short-term employment, minimal employment rights protections and a lack of managerial attention to enforce these safeguards.

Additionally, Equity’s membership of historically marginalised members (deaf and disabled, Black, LGBT+ etc.) are a greater risk of psychological harm, given their increased likelihood of unemployment and resultant poverty and alienation.

Mental Health Charter

Equity today launches its Mental Health Charter. As our research shows, Equity members have a widespread concern for their mental health and wellbeing, and a concern of working in an industry that’s unwilling to learn how to manage good mental health.

“For many years mental wellbeing has been considered the responsibility of the individual, a notion that simply does not stand up in the face of current evidence. The environments we live, work, and play in have a huge impact on us and it is essential that legislation and industry infrastructure reflect that.” - Alice Brockway, Director of Playing Sane and Equity Member

Our Charter places its demands squarely on government, employers and education providers. Aligned with current collective bargaining aims, it highlights the positive impact that decent pay, safe, secure, inclusive work have on mental health.

The demands of our charter are non-negotiable - as are the rights of our members, and all workers, to live free from economic and social instability.

As we launch our Charter with a clear aim of securing improved pay and working conditions as a platform for improved mental health, we look forward to mobilising our members to march and stand alongside the rest of the trade union movement at the TUC demonstration in London on 18th June.

The collective effort of organised labour is, as history shows, our most effective route to the economic and social stability that workers deserve - and upon which our mental health rests.


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