How to communicate Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

Monday 15 May 2023 marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, focusing on Anxiety.

All Things IC Communication Consultant Dan Holden has shared his own experience of anxiety below. You’ll also find information at the end of the article resources on how to keep conversations about mental health open throughout the year.

If you feel affected by the content shared, several support services are available.

How to communicate Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 featuring the awareness week green ribbon

My experience

I’ve previously been diagnosed with Generalised anxiety disorder due to a workplace situation at a former company, and it’s a theme that resonates with me. I want to share a little of my own experience in case it helps at least one reader recognise that they might be in a situation that isn’t right for them and to seek support.

I remember feeling at the time very lonely and trying to keep a happy face so that people wouldn’t notice anything. Trying to carry on with work was a struggle. Sitting at the laptop with a sinking feeling inside, worrying about whether I was good enough at the job and as the weeks went on, it became harder and harder to do the job. I went home, tried to push the feelings aside and put it all down to new job nerves, but the sleepless nights, illness each morning and delaying starting projects made everything feel 100 times worse.

By chance, a colleague recognised something wasn’t right, and after a few attempts of them asking me, I broke down about how I was feeling. I know I had heard this expression many times before, but feeling like a weight was slowly lifting from me was a welcome sense.

After some gentle encouragement, I went to my doctor, unsure what to say or ask. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or what they could do, but the doctor listened to all my random talking and signed me off work for a few weeks.

This was the first time I had received a sick note, and I wasn’t sure if I felt better or ashamed in any way. In one sense, I thought I was giving in to weakness and the welcome relief of stepping away from the situation. Those initial weeks were extended, and I decided that the right thing for me was to seek a new role. Since then, I’ve become more aware of the culture and support that are important to me at work.

During this time, I also connected with Rachel here at All Things IC. I received one of the All Things IC workbooks as a gift and messaged Rachel to thank you. After a brief exchange of messages, I shared how I was feeling and Rachel was very kind and signposted me to a couple of vacancies clients had open. After that, we kept in touch, and I never imagined I’d be here with the All Things IC team a few years later.

If I was to share one reflection from the situation, it’s ok to put your hand up and say I’m not ok.

Help can come from unexpected places! Even though I didn’t know the cause or the solution at the time, once I had talked to someone, even though it was a brief conversation, it helped me take the first step forward.

Many of us will experience anxiety throughout our lives, sometimes for a short moment and for others, it could be for an extended period.

You can find more information, resources and support on the Mental Health Foundation website including downloads for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Ways to help keep the conversation going

Plan the year ahead

There are many ways to plan your wellbeing campaign, and these are just a couple of ideas to help get you started.

  • Themes such as mind, body, finances, and family can be used monthly or quarterly to help plan your content
  • Check your EAP / health provider as they often have their content and events calendar, saving you much work
  • Awareness dates can be planned, but please be careful not to try and do them all. Focus on what is important to your colleagues
  • Employee forums and networks can help give you extra insight into areas of focus and support colleagues need.

Choose your tactics

This list could be endless, so here are some communication methods I’ve found to work well when used together in different ways. Don’t forget to consider your different audiences, as not everything will suit everyone.

  • Leadership teams can set examples such as taking breaks, keeping on time in meetings and sharing personal tips
  • Consider a light vs heavy method, as not every piece of content needs the same impact
  • Create a worry / concerns box where colleagues can tell the business what’s on their minds and what is causing them concern. This could be a physical or virtual box
  • Wellbeing is also about celebrating the good, which provides many opportunities to embed wellbeing within team celebrations
  • Demonstrations to groups such as managers of products and services such as Employee Assistance Programmes can help highlight what they offer
  • More so than ever, giving colleagues a digital detox by stepping away from screens and tech can be a significant relief.

Importance of measurement

As communicators, we can demonstrate our value even more by showing outcomes rather than outputs. Your occupation health service, EAP provider, and HR team provide a great source of data, such as sickness rates and the number of enquiries received, that you can use to support your measurement.

I’ve also found posting a single question once a quarter asking ‘How confident do you feel talking about wellbeing at work’ on the intranet homepage or social channels can also be a helpful indicator.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important, is to look after you! Part of the reason I feel passionate about talking on this topic is that as communicators, we can spend much time focused on delivering the content rather than absorbing the advice ourselves. Make sure you stop and take in some of the content for yourself.

Further resources

From the All Things IC blog

How to communicate World Mental Health Day 2022

How to keep a mental health conversation going

Why we need to talk about mental health in Comms

How to communicate World Mental Health Day 2021

Paws for thought – giving colleagues a voice in mental health

How to communicate Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

You can also bookmark this handy shortcut to all our blogs on Mental Health.

 

Workplace support

Mental health in PR – Small steps that will make a big difference

CIPD – Wellbeing support and guidance

People Manager – Employee wellbeing needs to be a year-round conversation

Communicating about mental health by the IoIC

 

External organisations and charities

Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health UK

Mind

NHS

 

Mental health support for comms professionals

How to look after your mental health as a freelancer

How to stay mentally healthy if you work in comms

CIPR Members – Health Assured service

IoIC Mental Health Factsheet

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Post author Dan Holden
First published on the All Things IC blog 15 May 2023

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