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U.K.’s Film and TV Charity Launches Two-Year Program For Better Mental Health in Film and TV

The U.K.’s Film and TV Charity has launched the Whole Picture Program, a two-year initiative designed to to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the 200,000 people who work behind the scenes in film, TV and cinema.

The Film and TV Charity has now secured £3 million ($3.87 million) in funding from Amazon Prime Video, Banijay U.K., BBC, BBC Studios, Channel 4, IMG, ITV, Sky, Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia to deliver the program that is supported by the BFI and backed by U.K. mental health charity Mind. The charity estimates that mental health problems, including staff turnover, cost the sector at least £300 million ($387 million) in losses each year.

The program will deliver a toolkit for mentally healthy productions; enhanced professional and peer support for freelancers; people skills and training guides; industry actions to improve behavior; and anti-bullying services and resources.

Alex Pumfrey, CEO of the Film and TV Charity said: “It has been a devastating year for many people in our industry, and it’s clear we cannot afford to return to ‘business as usual’. Our 2019 research showed a mental health crisis in the industry, which has only been exacerbated by the terrible effects of the pandemic.”

More than 9,000 people took part in the research last year, sharing their experiences and stories confidentially, which identified a mental health crisis within the industry. The findings revealed issues including self-harm and bullying. Since then, the pandemic has meant increased isolation and anxiety for many, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the industry have identified the effect systemic racism and discrimination has on mental health.

“The case for improving the mental health of the industry has never been stronger or more urgent,” added Pumfrey. “This program of work is designed to turn the tide on poor mental health by enhancing the available support, changing behavior and improving ways of working; but this will need to be an industry-wide effort to create sustainable change.”

The project has been on hold for six months whilst the charity has dedicated all of its resources to responding to COVID-19, raising £6.4 million ($8.2 million), and supporting thousands of workers with grants and financial and mental wellbeing services.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said: “Unfortunately, self-employed people, freelancers and those in the film and TV industry are among those hit hardest by coronavirus. That’s why we’re pleased to be supporting the Whole Picture Program, which will provide much-needed resource and support to the many experiencing poor mental health in the sector.”

Industry leaders are part of the program’s mental health taskforce and they will work collaboratively to adopt and champion the work both within their own organizations and widely across the sector.

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First man cured of HIV dies of cancer: charity

The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown — known as the “Berlin Patient” — has died after a battle with cancer, the International Aids Society (IAS) announced Wednesday. 

Brown made medical history and became a  symbol of hope for the tens of millions of people living with the virus that causes AIDS when he was cured more than a decade ago.

He had been living with a recurrence of leukaemia for several months and received hospice care at his home in Palm Springs, California. 

“On behalf of all its members… the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim, and his family and friends,” said IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman. 

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hutter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”

Brown was diagnosed with HIV while was studying in Berlin in 1995. A decade later, he was diagnosed with leukaemia, a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

To treat his leukaemia, his doctor at the Free University of Berlin used a stem cell transplant from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that gave him natural resistance to HIV, hoping it may wipe out both diseases.

It took two painful and dangerous procedures, but it was a success: in 2008 Brown was declared free of the two ailments, and was initially dubbed “the Berlin Patient” at a medical conference to preserve his anonymity.

Two years later, he decided to break his silence and went on to become a public figure, giving speeches and interviews and starting his own foundation.

“I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS,” he told AFP in 2012. “It’s very wonderful, being cured of HIV.”

– ‘Champion’ –

Ten years after Brown was cured, a second HIV sufferer — dubbed “the London Patient” — was revealed to be in remission 19 months after undergoing a similar procedure. 

The patient, Adam Castillejo, is currently HIV-free. In August a California woman was reported to have no traces of HIV despite not using anti-retroviral treatment. 

It is thought she may be the first person to be cured of HIV without undergoing the risky bone marrow treatment. 

Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS and director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, praised Brown as a “champion and advocate” of a cure for HIV.

“It is the hope of the scientific community that one day we can honour his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and curs using gene edition or techniques that boost immune control,” she said.

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