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Mental health and wellbeing in PR: What the research tells us

In the final episode of this special Smoke Signal series on mental health and wellbeing in the PR sector, Sophie Holland shares the latest research and insight coming out of the UK.

Sophie heads up the mental health research team at UK-based insight agency Opinium. Having studied Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, Sophie is dedicated to giving people greater understanding on the topic of mental health so we can more effectively take a preventative rather than a reactive approach.

Opinium recently released a report titled Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing at Work and in a survey of 400 PR professionals in the UK to be released this month, Opinium found:

  • 89% have struggled with their mental health in the last 12 months (that includes stress, anxiety, feeling low / down, panic attacks, exhaustion/ burnout, stress, other mental health problems), versus 62% in wider worker population
  • Only 31% of those who struggled took any time off work for their mental health (vs. 36% wider worker population). Compared to 63% for physical health (vs. 59% wider worker population).

 Top stresses in PR:

  • Workload (59%)
  • Impending deadline/ targets (45%)
  • Not feeling good at their job (41%)
  • Demands from clients (41%)
  • Poor work-life balance (40%)

Promisingly 53% think their employer takes the mental health and wellbeing of their employees seriously (vs 44% in wider worker population).

To help employers address mental health and wellbeing of their employees, Opinium has launched a workplace audit that is academically robust and gives a tailored approach to give both actionable insights and a benchmark to assess and compare mental health wellbeing.

We continue hearing the #threewishes from PR leaders from around the world with this episode featuring Mark Worthington from Klareco in Singapore; Kornelia Spodzeieja from  Charles Barker in Germany; Sarah Matthew, Founder of Vibrant Company in the UK; and Michael Pooley, Founder Map Collective.

Mental Health and Wellbeing in PR: Setting minimum standards

“We all have mental health – it is not a thing that only a few people have. It is both good and bad, it’s on a spectrum, everyone will have good days and bad days and we will all be touched by it. And the fact that we are all touched by it, means we need to stop treating it like a taboo subject and be able to have better conversations to improve mental health in our industry,” Andy Wright.

Andy Wright is co-chair of the Mentally Healthy Change Group – founded by a group of leaders from across the creative, marketing and media sector. Its aim is to de-stigmatise mental health as a topic of discussion and help facilitate the conversation between leaders in the industry and employees.

The Mentally Healthy Change Group evolved from a survey of over 1800 workers across the creative, media and marketing sectors – the biggest study ever done into mental health in the sector – which found 56% were displaying mild to severe levels of depression and 55% were displaying mild to severe levels of anxiety.

To help set the sector on the right path,  the Healthy Change Group recently released a set of minimum standards to put a line in the sand. Since being launched, 45 businesses and agencies have signed up – including Facebook, Edelman and Havas to name a few. In our discussion, Andy describes the goal of the minimum standards as two- fold – to bring the topic of mental health front of mind for employers and a framework for employees to raise issues if they feel they are not being delivered on.

Andy shares his three for the media, creative and marketing sector:

  1. A lot of businesses will say their people are their most important asset – I wish we would actually believe that and treat them like your most important asset
  2. The industry starts to address some of the systemic issues – the client-agency relationship dynamics and the ways of working that are peculiar to our sector
  3. We can treat mental health like we do mental health – take away the stigma of having a day off because you need to rest or recover, just as if my back is really bad.

In this episode we also the #threewishes from Edelman’s Michelle Hutton; Nicky Young – Group Managing Director of MullenLowe salt; Karen Van Bergan – CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group; Arwa Husain from India’s largest independent PR agency – Adfactors; and Jo Hooper, founder of Mad and Sad Club.

Mental health and wellbeing in PR: Why workplaces are so important

For the past six years I have had the privilege of working closely with the Margo Lydon, CEO of Superfriend – a not for profit workplace mental health and wellbeing organisation that was established by the Superannuation industry.

Margo has been in and around the industry for the past 20 years and when it comes to raising awareness of mental health and wellness I have never met anyone more passionate than Margo.

In this special episode to mark World Mental Health Day this week, Margo shares her insights into why the workplace, all workplaces, are so important in supporting individual’s mental health.

Here are a few of her pearls of wisdom:

  • The sense of belonging that a workplace gives is a really important antidote for mental illness and suicide
  • It is important for mental health to have that connected-ness, and the workplace provides an amazing setting for that to happen
  • Workplaces who invest in creating mentally healthy environments for their people generally experience increased productivity, through increased discretionary effort, engagement and creativity. There is also a direct cost reduction – worker absenteeism, staff turnover and reduced workers compensation among others
  • It is not just about the fruit bowl or the yoga. It is not just a tick a box exercise. Do a stock take, what could we do better and take it from a positive lens – what makes this a great workplace and build on what you already have in place
  • Employers need to understand that investing in this will not just help my business – and there is a genuine business imperative here – it will also absolutely help your people be happy, healthy and thriving – and who wouldn’t want that?  

To raise awareness and provoke discussion of this topic in PR, I have asked senior PR leaders from around the world to share their three wishes when it comes to mental health and wellness. In this episode we hear from: Chris  Savage, James Wright from Red Havas, Angela Scaffidi from Senate SHJ and Robyn Sefiani.

Margo’s #threewishes are:

  1. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others – it is not hard
  2. We have a greater respect for renewal, weekends, downtime, doing nothing and being mindful – the benefit of that is it strengthens your mental health
  3. As society we lean into people who are experiencing a mental illness

Mental health and wellbeing in PR: What are your three wishes?

To mark World Mental Health Day, I am thrilled to launch the first in a series of episodes this week discussing the topic of mental health and wellness in the PR sector.

These are the statistics: 1 in 5 Australians workers are suffering a mental health condition in any 12 month period; 45% of the population aged 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime – that is 1 in 2 of us!

To raise awareness and provoke discussion of this topic in PR, I have asked senior PR leaders from around the world to share their three wishes when it comes to mental health and wellness in the PR sector.

In this first episode I speak with UK practitioner Jane Fordham who coined the three wishes concept as a way to get PR leaders to share their three wishes, three tips, three kernals of advice for moving the discussion on mental health forward in a positive way.

Jane, who has held a range of agency roles over the past two decades, including head of people and talent at 150 strong UK agency Golin before more recently striking out as a consultant on all things people, culture and diversity within creative industry and corporate sector, says the topic of mental health in PR cuts across competitor industry divides, different disciplines or different levels.

She admits the success of #threewishes has been both sobering as to how big the need and the challenge is but also empowering with seeing it gathering momentum.

There is no shortage of data showing there is a business imperative to having this discussion. Leaders and cultures that are built around humility, curiosity, empathy a true ability to listen, Jane says, will have happier staff, more engaged staff who are going to be in a better position to deliver outcome for clients.

She references a statistic from Sean Archer – a Harvard psychologist – who has found that your brain at positive, so when you are feel happy, engaged and or well, is 31% more productive than at negative or neutral – who wouldn’t want that?

Jane’s #threewishes are:

  1. Truly listen to your staff and engage on an ongoing basis to have meaningful dialogue
  2. True change requires cultural and behavioural shifts which are not quick and easy
  3. Supporting and training your managers – giving them permission and trusting them to deliver support to your staff

Following in this episode, Ava Lawler – Possibility Partnership; Matt Holmes – Poem; Richard Brett – CEO of OPR; and David Brain – Enero; also share their three wishes.

I first heard the concept when Michelle Hutton spoke at Mumbrella CommsCon earlier this year and thanks to Michelle and Jane for their support in getting this series together.

Be sure to subscribe to hear from other industry leaders in coming days and do also share your views using #threewishes .

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