Letter from Hexham: talking about mental health
There’s lots been written and said this week about mental health and wellbeing for International Mental Health Week. That’s a good thing. Mental health is no longer a taboo.
In marketing, media and public relations we work in an always on environment, often as an intermediary between stakeholders with very different expectations. It can be stressful. If you work in issues and crisis it is especially acute.
Two years ago, Sarah Hall and I investigated the issue of mental health in public relations for a #FuturePRoof report published by the PRCA. We found that mental illness in the public relations profession was frequently ignored or managed as a line management or performance issue.
It’s a different situation two years on. It’s something I’ve written about this week.
Addressing mental health in the workplace
Mental health is now cited as one of the top issues impacting the profession. It’s firmly on the agenda of industry bodies and progressive organisations are talking steps to address it for employees.
The managers of agencies and in-house teams have recognised mental health and wellbeing as critical to retention, utilisation and good work. Bold creative and excellent campaigns cannot be delivered by an organisation with a sick culture.
The #FuturePRoof report recommended making mental health a management issue.
Company policies and procedures should cover sickness due to mental health. Provide clear signposting and training to all employees and managers on policies and procedures.
Where resources do not exist within an organisation, access external support such as the resources listed in this report. Small organisations should consider retaining specialised support.
I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this letter.
Virtue signalling: call out the say do gap
But while some organisations are proactively addressing mental health there are plenty examples of virtue signalling. Breathing exercises, fresh fruit and yoga aren’t going to help if an organisation has a sick culture.
In October last year I published an anonymous guest blog that spotlighted the gap between what organisations say, and what they are doing to support the wellbeing their employees.
I don’t usually post anonymous blogs, but this is an important issue and I verified the identity of the author via two sources. You’ll get a measure of the individual's seniority and maturity from their writing.
Professional communicators have a responsibility to call out the gap between awareness and policy implementation. The mental health of your organisation - and life itself - depends on it.
Building your own mental health resilience
There’s also a need for personal responsibility on the part of individuals. I’m going to end my letter this week with a personal story.
Here’s an article that I wrote two years ago about my own mental health. It's a story about illness, death and relationship breakdown. It's an everyday story about life.
I've tried most things to help manage my mental health: art and craft; growing and nurturing plants; meditation; and nature. Exercise is powerful as it improves your personal wellbeing as well as your mental state.
It's difficult to underestimate the power of simply talking. I've had some wonderful heart-breaking and heart-warming conversations with men and women simply by recognising a shared experience and asking for help.
Hit reply to this email if you want to talk. Look after yourself.
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