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Lunch & Learn Recap: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Kim Fay / August 30, 2022

Lunch & Learn Recap / no comments

On August 24, Lori Rubinstein, Executive Director of Behind the Scenes, shared tools, resources, and information about mental health care and suicide prevention specifically for IATSE and entertainment industry workers and their families.

Launched in 2019, Behind the Scenes is a mental health and suicide prevention initiative with a focus on the unique nature of the entertainment industry: longer hours, stressful deadlines, etc. The program partnered with numerous organizations, including IATSE which considers mental health and emotional wellness a priority and has been involved from the start. These partners are a mix of industry professionals combining forces to provide tools and resources.

*The following may contain triggering language for some people.

Facts about Mental Health and Suicide

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins at age 14, but there is an average delay of 10-11 years of symptom onset before getting help.
  • 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health condition.
  • In the U.S., someone dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes.
  • The entertainment industry is the third highest for suicide rates in the country.



Behind the Scenes provides various grants for mental health and other issues:

The basic requirement for a grant is that you’ve earned a living in the entertainment industry for a minimum of 5 years.

Industry Specific Therapists

In an initial survey of entertainment industry professionals, Behind the Scenes found a common theme: It’s frustrating to have a therapist who doesn’t understand the unique stress what you do for a living.

In response Behind the Scenes created the Entertainment Industry Therapist Finder. Therapists found in this search engine have either counseled people in the industry, have been educated by people in the industry, or used to work in the industry.

If you find someone who is a good match but doesn’t accept your insurance, contact them and ask if they will accept a sliding scale. Also, teletherapy has become common, so if you don’t find someone right for you in your area, you can broaden your search; your therapist can be located anywhere as long as they are licensed to practice in your state.


You can take a selection of self-assessments online. These assessments are free and anonymous. You can take it for yourself or for someone you are concerned about. Different assessments focus on general well-being as well as specific issues like post-traumatic stress, alcohol abuse, and depression. The result of your responses will lead you to resources.

Resources are grouped by topic, such as hotlines, suicide intervention, and therapy finders. Many of the resources are nationwide, but most of their sites have local sections. Sites are identified with icons:

  • Knowledge icon: The site has good information about the subject matter.
  • Tools icon: The site goes one step further and can provide resources.

Harassment and Bullying

Another common issue in Behind the Scenes’ initial survey was harassment and bullying. Concerns came from across all age groups, sexual identities, races, and jobs in the industry. In response, Behind the Scenes started a dedicated Stop Bullying campaign in partnership with Right to Be, a social justice organization fighting bullying and harassment in many different forms.

Tools include resources for:

  • Building a support network
  • De-escalation
  • Bystander intervention

Webinars are offered quarterly. For future dates contact Behind the Scenes through their website or email

Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talks offer sample language for mental health to become part of group discussions (i.e. in departmental and crew meetings) in the workplace. Included are tools for a person to convince someone higher up to include such discussions in staff talks.

Tools identify key issues, stressors, and challenges and acknowledge how they can affect mental health. There are pre-scripted talks in different voices for different work situations—so you can find a style that meets your needs, and is appropriate for your workplace, and use it as is or as at a starting point.

There are also One-Sheets about issues like anxiety and depression for managers and supervisors to share with staff or colleagues to share with colleagues. This is way to quietly get information to someone you’re concerned about.

It’s important to remember: The more we talk openly about mental health and safety in the workplace, the more we remove the stigma.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Behind the Scenes’ newest tools address alcohol and substance abuse, which is a major problem in the entertainment industry. Resources include:

  • Information about signs and symptoms of misuse and abuse.
  • Tools to assist someone depending on your role: i.e. someone who reports to you, someone you report to.
  • Tips for how to start a conversation with someone you’re concerned about.
  • Coping skills for yourself as you try to assist someone else.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide was a major issue during the pandemic, and it has not eased coming out of the pandemic. In the Behind the Scenes initial survey, a lot of people said that they don’t feel strong enough to help with suicide prevention. That’s okay. Just don’t walk away. If you have to, bring in others who can offer support.

When asked in the survey, what would prevent you from assisting, the top answer was: I’m afraid I might hurt my relationship with that person. Don’t let this stop you. The whole point is to save their lives. You can rebuild your relationship once the crisis has passed.

More lives are saved every year by someone close to the person rather than mental health intervention.

Suicide prevention resources include:

  • How to know the warning signs, including general signs as well as signs specific to the entertainment industry.
  • What to do if you’re concerned.
  • Posters that can be downloaded and hung in break rooms, boardrooms, notice boards, and any other place safety information is displayed.
  • Suicide prevention wallet cards with a QR code that goes directly to resources for reaching out and receiving guidance through a crisis.
  • Information for getting support and taking care of yourself; assisting another through a crisis can be emotionally exhausting.

At all times you can use the following numbers:

  • 988: Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
  • 800-273-8255: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Burnout and Mental Health

Burnout is a big issue across the entertainment industry because of the excessive hours and the push for people to produce. Self-care is essential. You can’t change your work situation, but you can find ways to take care of yourself. Small things can add up and make a big difference:

  • Step away from your work for just 90 seconds, take deep breathes, and reset your brain’s stress level.
  • Prioritize what’s most important in your life: getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, etc.
  • Examine your connections. Get rid of those that are toxic and nurture those that are supportive.

Mental Health First Aid Certification

This Mental Health First Aid Certification teaches you how to:

  • Spot signs of distress.
  • How to listen.
  • A 5-step action plan to stabilize someone until appropriate treatment can be received.
  • How to refer support.

The goal of these programs is a cultural change. The pandemic has created a moment in time when people are more willing to talk about mental health.

Anyone in a position of leadership or who is responsible for the safety of others should get certified, as well as those who want to be able to help when needed—in short, everyone!

Classes are offered virtually 2-4 times a month. Classes are 6 hours. The fee of $125 is reimbursable through the IA’s Training Trust Fund. If you want to take this class, register early since there are 2 hours of pre-work before the virtual, live instructor-led class.

Companies and groups can also schedule a private class for groups of up to 25 people.

This certification is voluntary, and if you are trained it does not legally oblige you to step in and help.

If you have additional questions for Lori Rubenstein, you can email her at

The information in this post is for reference only. Please seek professional advice for any mental health or suicide prevention questions or needs you might have.

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