The PR industry is making progress in tackling mental illness amongst practitioners, but a new survey published by PRWeek and the PRCA today has found significant room for improvement.

We need to take mental health and employee wellbeing seriously, I’ve seen too many excellent Comms pros suffering and unable to carry on in their roles.

You are in a visible role, but you are not invisible.

According to the survey, 60% of the PR and Communications industry have suffered from or been diagnosed with mental ill health. I’m surprised it’s not higher. Mental health is a topic which is incredibly close to my heart. I’ve been investing in my own mental health through counselling for the past couple of years. My local mental health NHS Trust in West London has been a wonderful support.

It’s ok to not be ok and ask for help. If I can, you can.

My Twitter DMs, client conversations and inbox are full of practitioners getting in touch to ask for support or admitting they are struggling. I’ve restructured my whole business over the past year or so to focus on nurturing and advising Comms pros and create opportunities for honest conversations.

My VIP mentoring sessions and Consultation calls are often emotional, with practitioners contacting me as they’re beyond stressed and want to ask a peer for help or to see if I know of any jobs as they cannot bear to stay in the role they’re in.

It’s a privilege to offer that support. Part of the reason I’ve created the services I offer is because I know how valuable I’d have found having a confidential Consultant I could contact when I was in-house. I’m not a counsellor or mental health first aider, but someone who listens, doesn’t judge and gives honest advice. That’s hard to find when you’re in-house, in a senior role or are a team of one.

This taps into all of my personal values and is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

If you are looking for specialised support with your mental health and wellbeing, check out The Blurt Foundation, Mind and World Federation for Mental Health. The Buddy Boxes offered by The Blurt Foundation are wonderful.

Resources: PRCA Mental Health Toolkit.

There’s still so much to do.

Only last week I blogged about career goals and aspirations for 2019, mental health and wellbeing featured heavily. I believe to be an effective Comms professional, you need to focus on every part of the way you work, your mind and mental health included.

Francis Ingham, Director General of the Public Relations and Communications Association says: “We must equip all line managers with the tools to manage the mental health of their employees” – I couldn’t agree more. What does your organisation do?

Further reading: How Scottish Heritage focuses on wellbeing.

Let’s look at what the survey found
The survey was launched by the Public Relations and Communications Association (which I’m a member of) and PRWeek in October 2018. It focused on mental health and whether the stigma persists. This repeated a survey launched in 2017, with the number of respondents increasing to 546 – twice as many as in 2017.

The majority of respondents who have suffered from mental ill health cite depression or anxiety as the issue. Furthermore, almost 50% of respondents said they felt under more stress currently compared to 12 months ago.

It is any wonder given the uncertain circumstances we find ourselves in? I’ve written many times on my blog about the visibility of Comms pros. You’re in an extremely visible role, with every word you write being up for scrutiny. Everyone thinks they can do your job (and tells you often) and if you’re based in the UK and trying to make sense of Brexit, is it any wonder there’s more stress?!

Who to talk to

53% of employees said they felt very comfortable or fairly comfortable talking to their line managers about the state of their mental health. 44% of respondents have spoken to their line managers about their mental health.

Employees feel more comfortable talking to their peers or colleagues about their mental health. 62% of respondents said they feel very or fairly comfortable about speaking to their peers about their mental health, and 59% have actually discussed these issues with their colleagues.

67% of employers said they encouraged their employees to talk to their line managers about their mental health. Furthermore, 81% of employers said that they have discussed these issues with their employees.

I’m not surprised by this. I blogged a number of times last year about mental health first aiders, which is a move I welcome. Are you doing this in your organisation?

When I was in-house at Visa back in 2006 I asked my line manager for help with a personal situation I was dealing with. He encouraged me to contact our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and have a confidential conversation. The company was incredibly supportive and through Visa’s EAP I was able to access weekly specialised counselling for three months, paid for by my employer. It made the world of difference and enabled me to continue working and focus on my mental health at the same time.

Supporting your employees and communicating how you can support their mental health needs to be constant and consistent.

Further reading about mental health via the All Things IC blog:

Support for mental health

Positively, 65% of employees said that their organisation was very or fairly supportive of people suffering from mental health, and 38% said that the support for staff’s mental health has improved in the past two years.

When employers were asked the same question, 90% said that their organisation is very or fairly supportive of people suffering from mental ill health, and 63% said the support for staff’s mental health has improved in the past two years. However, only 72% of employers said they have a formal mental health policy.

Respondents were generally less positive about how accepting the wider industry is of people with mental ill health, as 52% of employees said the industry is not accepting and 42% of employers said the same thing.

In response to the results of the survey, Francis Ingham MPRCA, PRCA Director General said:

“It is time that the industry takes the issue of mental health and employee wellbeing seriously. We know that the fast-paced nature of the PR and communications industry is taking a toll on our employees and this survey highlights this and we can longer ignore this issue.

“I am encouraged by the progress we have made as an industry to destigmatize mental health and making employee wellbeing a priority in the workplace. It is also encouraging to see employers and employees alike are more willing to talk about mental health.

“There are certainly areas where we need to improve. First, we must equip all line managers with the tools to manage the mental health of their employees. Second, we must also look at how we can make the work environment less stressful and make flexible working a priority. Finally, we must be willing to talk about mental health and destigmatize it even further.

“The PRCA will continue to raise awareness about mental health and we will continue to provide the industry with resources to ensure that workplaces are more inclusive of people with mental ill health. This is why we’re constantly updating the PRCA Mental Health Toolkit, and we will work with industry leaders and organisations to ensure that we’re supporting PR and communications practitioners.”

Further reading: PRWeek article about the survey.

What’s your take? As ever, you’re welcome to contact me below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by, take good care of yourself.

Rachel

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 7 January 2019.

 

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