10 October 2017 Awareness PR Musings Trends

It’s PR, not ER! – World Mental Health Day and PR

Did you know that public relations is one of the most stressful industries to work in?  Year after year PR ranks in the top ten most stressful jobs in the world, sitting not-so comfortably beside doctors, firefighters, airline pilots & military personnel.  Every PR has heard the saying; ‘It’s PR darling, not ER,’ but judging by this survey, it very well might be!

According to PRCA’s latest #FuturePRoof research on mental health in the industry, symptoms of poor mental health in the workplace are often ignored or managed as a performance issue. The report also found that 56.7% of PRs, from assistants to Managing Directors, said they would be uncomfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace.

A life of a PR comes with a rollercoaster of emotions with manic highs and depressive lows. It’s a high speed chase towards a whirlwind of deadlines, press releases, new business, bylines, sell-ins, so it’s no wonder the average age of a PR professional is just 28 years old.

Now, as the author of this post, I understand this more than others. I’ve been working in the PR industry for 13 years; I’m definitely over the age of 28 and I have bi-polar.  I have always been quite open about it, as it’s part of me.  Luckily I work in an agency that encourages transparency and offers solutions to help me manage my mental health.

Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to mental health.  It’s so important for PRs to inform their senior managers and to expect that their employers will work with them.  But mental health in our industry seems to be literally swept under the carpet. There’s no conversation and therefore no progression. In an industry known for its creativity and blue sky thinking, more should be done to be open, transparent and smart about mental health.

Employers need to create a culture that rewards openness and provides the necessary support.  Based on what Cherish is currently developing, these are recommendations for employers to help create a nurturing, supportive work culture.

  1. Open door policy. It’s so important to encourage members of staff to talk openly and honestly about their mental health.  What’s stressing them out?  Are they feeling bombarded by work?  Get into a habit of having regular one-to-one catch ups with your team to talk about their emotional health as well as their activity levels.
  2. Work it out. Exercise is vital, especially in an office environment, and there’s countless studies that prove regular exercise protects against anxiety and depression. Organise activities that all team members can do, such as organising a free/discounted gym membership, starting a football/squash, netball club, or organising free salsa dancing lessons.   At Cherish we started Run Club where the team go for a 40 minute run around Hyde Park during lunch which helps break up the day and gets us in a happy mood ready to tackle the afternoon’s ‘to-do list’.
  3. Be Flexible. Allow staff members to have the option to work from home or adapt the working hours to better suit their needs.
  4. Eat healthy.  Healthy body, healthy mind.  Rather than purchasing regular sweets, biscuits and chocolates for the team, try offering them a healthier option. Buy fruits and nuts for staff to snack during the day.

According to the PRCA, these are their procedural recommendations for employers: 

  1. The cost of mental health to public relations and the broader business community is well known. Make mental health and wellbeing a management issue within your management team.
  2. 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.
  3. Where resources do not exist within an organisation, access external support, or consider retaining specialised support.

Change doesn’t happen overnight but awareness drives such as World Mental Health Day help shine a positive light on mental health.  The PRs who come forward and ask for help today will make it easier for future generations to be open and honest as employees and employers.

Written by Pally Kaur, Cherish PR

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