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Production Manager, Isobel Stenhouse, talks about wellbeing and mental health in the animation industry.

Isobel Stenhouse: Text
Isobel Stenhouse: Image


December 2019

Q : What was it that gave you the push to speak up about the challenges faced in the animation industry?

A : After working on four beautiful but difficult projects in a row, I realised I was exhausted both physically and emotionally, and that my work had overtaken my life.  Part of that was down to the scale of the projects and the constraints we worked too, but another part was down to my own drive.  At the same time, and particularly because I had become a manager, I became very much aware of friends and colleagues going through their own struggles.  I was given the opportunity to give a short talk on mental health and wellbeing in our industry as part of AWUK's Achieve Programme, and this gave me the momentum to explore these topics further.

Q : Are there any challenges you have faced in the past that you look back on and realised you could have handled them differently?

A : Since focusing on wellbeing in our industry, I've discussed my need for reasonable working conditions prior to starting all of my jobs.  I feared this would result in me losing out on work, but actually, I've felt heard and supported, resulting in more free-time.  It has taken me time to realise my own part in the long, hard hours I was putting into jobs, but now that I do, I'm far more self-aware and am better at drawing the line. Of course, there are still tough projects and when you're in the middle of them, it can feel hard to find a way through. These are the points at which I feel I could have asked for more help in the past.  Even if I don't always get it, I do ask for support when I feel I'm sinking now, and it's had a really positive impact on my life.

Q : What are some of the ways you've looked after your wellbeing outside of work?

A : If I'm honest, self-care is still something I struggle with and I do a lot of things that aren't positive for my general health, such as drink alcohol and eat too much sugar. However, I've started playing the piano and love taking photographs of any critter I lay my eyes on!  I've also seen a therapist for the first time this year, and although I haven't been magically cured of all my woes, it has helped me through some tough weeks. In the last few years, I've been studying anything and everything I can lay my hands on in relation to what makes humans tick, and I've learned so much about myself in the process. That's also helped my understanding of my own role in life's ups and downs, reflecting more consciously on why I've behaved in a certain way.

Q : The world of animation is full of great people, but working with others is also part of the challenge.  In what ways can we improve our people skills as an industry?

A : I think because our world is so project-based, it's easy to get the head stuck into the computer, crunch the numbers, draw the drawings, but forget about the people in the room.  As an industry, it seems that we're behind when it comes to training and development. So I would love to see people-focused workshops that are available to all, with emphasis on some of the challenges of the working world like communication skills, assertiveness and resilience, as well as providing a better understanding of mental health.  Although it's not specific to this talk, I would also like to see those in a leadership role keeping up to date with issues related to diversity and equality.

Q : If you could give a single nugget of advice, what would it be?

A : Recognise that you, whoever you are, and whatever role you are in, can have a positive impact on how the industry is shaped.

Isobel Stenhouse: Text
Isobel Stenhouse: Text
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