Mental health for documentary field in the spotlight via week-long forum

US documentary forum The D-Word is rolling out a widespread discussion on mental health that it says is “urgently needed” in the doc community.

In partnership with the International Documentary Association, the 20-year-old forum – which runs free discussions on documentary film and production – is hosting a ‘Mental Health and the Documentary Business’ conversation online, inviting those in the field to share experiences or pose questions to the group. Filmmaker-psychotherapist and Scottish Doc Institute outreach manager Rebecca Day will also be available to provide guidance.

The discussion comes months after doc directors such as Orphans Of Ebola’s (pictured) Ben Steele and Drugsland’s Xavier Alford spoke out about the need for more support for filmmakers – particularly those working on challenging projects.

With broadcasters struggling to grow budgets for documentary and timetables getting crunched, those working in the field are increasingly doing more for less, with concerns around mental health now reaching fever pitch. The UK’s Film and TV Charity recently launched an industry-wide study of mental health and well-being to reach those working behind the camera.

Within the documentary arena, the issues are compounded by an SVOD-fuelled boom that has seen some types of films – generally glossy fare with high-profile subjects – rise to the top, with lower-budget projects struggling to break through.

Director Doug Block, who founded The D-Word, said: “The art and business of making documentaries can be challenging, lonely and fraught with internal and external factors that affect our sense of value, purpose and place in the world.

“For some, this might mean facing rejections, financial hardships and self-doubt about their value and talent. For others, this might mean experiencing heavy secondary trauma from the stories they tell, and the human pain they witness. Unfortunately, the mental health aspects of documentary are rarely discussed in our public square, reinforcing the loneliness many feel.”

The D-Word discussion will run from Monday (22 July) to 27 July. Posts published in the forum are available only to registered professional members of The D-Word, and cannot be accessed by search engines.