Ben Steel. (Photo credit: Vicki Jones)

Given the impact of the pandemic on the screen sector, emerging from lockdown should feel like relief. However, for many, the truth is likely to be more complicated – and that’s okay, writes actor, filmmaker and mental health advocate Ben Steel (The Show Must Go On).

As New South Wales, and shortly Victoria and the ACT, start to come out of what we all hope will be the final series of lockdowns on our shores, it’s understandable that many screen workers are feeling unsettled, rather than an overwhelming sense of relief.

The last 19 months have been incredibly traumatic, and have impacted every part of the screen industry. From our creative tertiary institutions, production, post, and right through to exhibition. Businesses have had to, if they could, pivot online. Screen leaders have had to create and implement COVID-Safe production protocols, which screen workers have had to adopt – all the while under an increased risk that a project could be shut down at any minute with a single case of coronavirus, or a new government health mandate. 

It has been an incredibly challenging time, not only navigating our work life, but our personal lives too. I don’t think we will fully know the long-term psychological and emotional impacts for a long time. Health mandates have required us to change some of our personal behaviours and sacrifice some of our personal freedoms for the greater good, which over time, I believe, has subtly impacted or even changed us. To a certain degree, working under lockdowns and in our isolated production bubbles have become the norm, familiar; providing a sense of security that we are keeping the show on the road and coronavirus out. However, with the lockdowns now slowly being rolled back we are entering into an unknown territory and an unknown environment – which may explain why, for some of us, there are increased feelings of fear, anxiety, and hesitancy popping up.

Living under restrictions became the new normal for many of us, and now getting all of our previous freedoms back – our autonomy back – can feel very strange, confronting, scary, and quite abnormal. Whatever you are feeling as lockdowns begin to fade away is completely normal and valid. We are all different, and while many of our COVID experiences have been similar, they have also been very unique to each of us.

It’s okay to be feeling a mixture of things as we move forward through this new stage of ‘life after lockdown’ together. Take comfort in the fact that our screen sector and our screen workers have shown enormous resilience, strength, and ingenuity as we’ve learnt to adapt to every new challenge this pandemic has thrown us. Know that you aren’t alone in feeling hesitant as restrictions ease. Share how you are feeling with your workmates, friends, and family as they love you and can be a great support. Do reach out for additional help if you need it. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Should you or a workmate need support, reach out to the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline 1800 959 500, a free, confidential, 24/7 counselling service for anyone working in arts and entertainment, with counsellors who are trained in the quirks of our industry. 

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