Last week marked Mental Health Awareness Week which also coincided with the publication of some revealing statistics from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR’s) State of the Profession report 2019.
An initiative from the Mental Health Foundation, which was first launched in 2001, Mental Health Awareness Week has tackled topics including stress, relationships, loneliness, sleep, alcohol and friendship. There’s no doubt that the discussion around mental health has come a long way since then but the advent of social media in the intervening period has also created a whole raft of new issues.
The biggest change to me seems to be that the message is reaching a more ‘mainstream’ audience now. In the last week we’ve had three high profile celebrity documentary-style programmes go out on primetime TV along with Prince William hosting a discussion about football, men and mental health which included Thierry Henry and Gareth Southgate. Discussion on social media has also increased with not just mental health charities and organisations joining in the conversation – this is a positive when it comes to not only education, but also encouraging for people who are struggling to talk to someone.
Another big change since 2001 has been the impact of mental health in the work place. The emphasis on employers to ensure they are helping to support the mental health of their employees has never been greater. The fast-paced, always ‘on’ world in which we live can be overwhelming and when this adversely affects us, it can impact on our ability to do our jobs. The latest issue of Influence magazine, the quarterly publication from the CIPR, includes a piece about the impact of mental health issues in the sector and reveals some worrying results.
On average, PR professionals rate their stress levels as a 6.7 out of 10 with 62% reporting a level of 7 or higher. More than a fifth have been diagnosed with a mental health problem and almost a quarter have taken time off work due to stress, anxiety or depression. Sadly, these figures are reflective of the mental health issues faced by the country as a whole, but what is our industry specifically doing to support employees?
The CIPR itself has launched #influencetakes10, encouraging people to take time out. There were also some examples given by agencies to illustrate how they are prioritising employee wellbeing, including Frank who have developed an app which awards points to employees who don’t check their phones as often. The Frank on Hold scheme allows the points to be redeemed for vouchers and other treats.
However, it doesn’t have to be something as complex as an app. There are some simple and effective measures that can be put in place to ensure employees feel supported and help to address problems before they become bigger issues. At Target, we take employee wellbeing seriously. This starts with our culture which encourages a good work/life balance as well as empathy and compassion for our colleagues. We each complete a monthly wellbeing survey and every team member has a mentor with 1-2-1 sessions scheduled regularly. While the focus here might be on supporting career development, it’s also a space to discuss any other issues which includes wellbeing.
The results revealed by the CIPR about the industry’s experience of mental health shine a spotlight on how PR professionals are coping (or not) with the demands of the job. Organisations can’t exist without their staff and if their job performance is affected by a mental health issue, this will have a knock-on effect for the business. Ignore it at your peril.