Film editor Amy Daneel has undiagnosed complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), which expresses itself as chronic anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
She recently answered our call for a disabled film crew to produce our latest marketing campaign, The Human Touch.
Amy has studied and worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, first in Cape Town and then London. But during that time, she’s found the industry’s perceptions and attitudes towards mental health, working practices and inclusivity to be sorely lacking.
Our production marked a change in that experience - “Irwin Mitchell was the first job in a two-decade career where a client asked me 'how can we accommodate you?'”
Living with an unseen disability
One thing that makes things particularly difficult for Amy in the workplace is the unseen nature of her disability.
“If you were to step into my edit-suite,” said Amy, “I can imagine that I would present as well-dressed, personable and articulate. We’d sit down, briefly discuss the project and with a few keystrokes, I’d seamlessly present your film to you.”
“At no point during this interaction would I strike you as someone who’d spent the entire previous day in bed, thinking of how I could kill myself in a way which would evoke the least suffering on myself or anyone who would have to find me. And yet, this is how I’ve been navigating my life since the age of 17.”
But when Amy has tried being open about her mental health needs in the past, she’s faced a range of unhelpful responses or even outright denial. In the entertainment industry, hardship is often seen as character-building and self-sacrifice as necessary for success.
That’s despite the fact that, according to BECTU, 66% of film, TV and cinema freelancers have considered leaving the industry due to concerns over their mental health and wellbeing.
Changing the way we work
Amy believes we need to radically change our perceptions and ways of working in order to live in a truly inclusive world. Otherwise inclusivity measures are just tokenistic gestures.
“We are at the embryonic stages of understanding and talking about mental health which is why many live and manage their symptoms privately,” she explained. “If we are to survive and thrive as a society, it is very much in our interests to start having these uncomfortable conversations.”
One positive change that Amy has seen recently is the shift to remote and flexible working during the coronavirus pandemic. It allowed her to make the lifestyle change of leaving overstimulating city-life for the seaside where she can still work remotely and live more comfortably.
“There’s nothing like a global pandemic to reveal the truth about how many people detest the 9 to 5 office culture,” says Amy, “And with the stay-home culture that has arisen in the last two years, we know that it is in fact completely possible for companies to adapt which is something the disabled community has been begging for for decades.”
Amy believes that confronting our unconscious biases like this can help us realise our full potential, both in the creative industries and other walks of life too. Doing something one way just because that’s the way we’ve always done it only holds us back.
“Culture is built upon our value systems and until we investigate why we uphold those values, we won’t be able to initiate a shift in behaviour.”
Part of this involves asking ourselves some difficult questions, but there should also be a dialogue with the people we work with. If we want to get the best out of our colleagues, they can tell us how.
“Neuro-divergent people have different ways of accessing & processing information which could revolutionise the output of a project, why are we not harnessing that?” Amy asks.
Our inclusive campaign shoot is proof that it’s possible to accommodate a diverse workforce, and we’ve shown how powerful the results can be.
The power of sharing stories
"I’ve invested in the ability to bring someone’s story to life, listen to someone’s story and share that story with the world,” said Amy. She believes that film that wants to be told already exists, and it’s her role to be the technician and give that film the space to come into existence.
When Amy was invited to join our new campaign shoot, she was excited to let her passion shine through and move people with her editing. She said: “As a group of people who are here to tell stories, it would be wonderful if we were more invested in each other’s.”
Amy sees film as an opportunity for people to tell their stories and encourage change in the world. She feels extremely lucky to have been part of such an inclusive behind-the-scenes production crew, which has kick-started a change in this industry.
A step in the right direction
Our campaign, ‘The Human Touch’, features real clients who share their stories of the support they’ve received from Irwin Mitchell that’s helped them navigate life’s ups and downs.
The campaign shoot inclusive aligns with our responsible business strategy, with 60% of the production team in senior roles being disabled.
Amy feels very grateful to have been part of this production team, showing the emotional transitions our clients go through, and the role our colleagues play in helping them navigate the best path to a positive outcome.
“When I was given permission to take ownership of my hidden disability in a professional context through the Irwin Mitchell campaign,” said Amy, “it provided a significant shift in consciousness as all the realities of my me-ness could coexist at once. It was also evident that I could be honest about limits, have them respected whilst meeting the project’s needs, delivering on time and within budget.”
“I've never spoken so publicly, let alone professionally about living with CPTSD. What a difference a single job can make.”