Steps we must take to tackle mental health issues in PR

The pandemic significantly shifted mental health for society. But when I reflect on it, two and a half years on, it feels like it did that in different ways. On one hand, it decimated people’s mental health. Creating stress in a way many had never experienced, as a result of a deadly virus coupled with uncertainty and a lack of control that had never been felt before, job and income loss for some. But, there was also a huge positive that came as a result of this - as we all started to open up. Talk more freely about our mental health challenges, and start to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. This translated to the workplace, too.

Comms industry must step up

As someone who lives with an eating disorder and has been a long-time advocate for the issue, the pandemic brought something into sharp focus for me. I’ve been thinking for a long time on what we can do as a comms industry to improve how we manage mental health, but it was at this point that it became clearer. I came together with Harvard and CCgroup, two agencies who I knew I shared values and passion with.

1 in 2 employees have experienced burnout in the last 12 months (up to 3 times on average)

Key findings

The first thing we did was investigate the issue. We commissioned research with 1,000 comms professionals through research firm Coleman Parkes and the results raised real alarm bells. Half of respondents reported having experienced severe stress, anxiety or burnout in the last twelve months - up to three times on average. That’s too much. And they told us that when they are speaking up, they’re not always getting what they need. Almost eight in ten respondents who reported their mental health challenge to their employer, went on to feel discriminated against by colleagues, and sadly my own experiences definitely back up these stats. Now, this is a really challenging, nuanced issue - and I must caveat that there are some admirable first steps being taken. But more needs to be done.

How you can help

Together, we’ve built this network, which we’ve called State of Us. Its purpose is threefold. Firstly, to educate. By sharing lived experiences through content and regular events we’ll help others. Secondly, to support. Lots of companies (agencies and in-house teams) are training mental health first aiders. We’re more equipped than we’ve ever been. So, we’ll open ourselves up more widely. Provide support for people in other companies, not just our own. And last but not least, we will be a force for change. Create meaningful impact for the industry. Build a bridge between agencies and in-house teams, where tensions can exist and exacerbate mental health challenges.

Our mission is clear, mental health matters and it’s time to turn comms into action. We’re excited to come together at a launch event on World Mental Health Day (Monday 10th October), which is open to everyone and anyone working in communications. We hope to see you there.

Methodology

The research surveyed 1,000 employees/freelancers working in PR/comms/marketing either agency side or in-house.

Written by Vicki DeBlasi, founder and director of agency Innovate Comms

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