Honest stories about mental health struggles (and exploitation) in Hollywood

Continuing my ongoing conversation about “going back to the basics,” I don’t believe there is any more basic, fundamental, or necessary area of your health to prioritize more than your mental health – especially when your livelihood and your ability to support yourself (and your family) depend on your ability to be creative.

I know there’s a huge stigma around even discussing mental health, but thankfully over the last ten years or so that has changed significantly. I remember way back in 2014 when I first began podcasting and blogging (the ‘Fitness In Post’ days for the OG’ers out there), it was almost heresy to openly discuss mental health issues. If you couldn’t “hack it” in Hollywood, it simply meant you were weak. Given I spent the vast majority of my waking life in a small dark room – alone – it was so easy to assume everyone else had it figured out but me.

Why do I feel like the only one who’s exhausted all the time?

How come everyone else can handle the long hours except me?

Doesn’t anyone else want to go home and spend time with their families? How do they do it?

What I quickly discovered after writing one of my very first articles – A Classic Case of Post-Production Burnout – is that I was not alone. I received hundreds of messages from people all over the world thanking me for coming out publicly about my struggles with mental health. I quickly discovered that practically EVERYONE in the entertainment industry is exhausted, overwhelmed, overworked, and feels exploited and taken advantage of at some point.

Last fall during one of the most contentious contract negotiations in the history of the entertainment union (IATSE), there emerged a single Instagram account that ended up igniting a firestorm of controversy centered around the treatment and exploitation of those of us “below-the-line” in Hollywood. @IA_Stories became a global phenomenon amassing over 160,000 followers in a matter of a few weeks by doing nothing more than sharing screenshots of the private messages they were receiving with absolute HORROR STORIES about the exploitation happening in the entertainment industry at the expense of our health – and for some literally their lives.

I spoke recently with one of the founders and moderators of the IA_Stories Instagram account to hear the truth behind the scenes about the explosive growth behind this account, the controversy that surrounded it and how it influenced negotiations, and ironically the massive toll running this account took on their mental health despite the purpose of helping people prioritize their mental health (an irony I unfortunately appreciate all too well).

If you’ve ever felt like you were alone in your struggles to survive this brutal industry, I promise after listening to this interview and reading just a few of the messages shared on the @IA_Stories Instagram account, you’ll know that you are anything but alone.

Hollywood on the Record: The Real Story Behind @IA_Stories | with Marisa Shipley & Amy Thurlow

If after listening you’d like to dive much deeper down the rabbit hole into the many mental health resources and honest conversations my site has to offer, see below for where I recommend you get started.

My Top 3 Podcasts On The Importance of Mental Health

Real Talk About Mental Health and Depression | with Michael Kammes

“I Was Fired For Requesting a Mental Health Day” | with Jim Page

“I’m Not Going to Let the Business Kill Me” | with Fil Eisler

And here are two BONUS RESOURCES if you really want to dive into the science behind how the brain works and how to better manage and optimize your own mental health:

The Science Behind Depression and Anxiety | with Dr. D and Dr. Michael Mark

Reverse Depression, Anxiety, and ADD at the Genetic Level | with Dr. Ben Lynch

Before You Go…

Given how important maintaining your mental health is to your creativity, what is one small change you could make TODAY that can help you prioritize and improve your mental health?
Be well.
Zack Arnold
Creator, Optimize Yourself

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”