When I wrote about the CIPR’s State of the Profession Survey last month, I mentioned that I would revisit the mental health findings at a later date. As this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, it felt like this was the perfect opportunity.

What is the mental health of the PR industry?

As a reminder, the CIPR’s survey found that nearly a quarter (23%) of PR practitioners had taken time off sick in the last year due to stress, anxiety or depression. Other findings included:

  • 21% of respondents had been diagnosed with a mental health condition
  • 53% said that work was a large contributor of stress, blaming unrealistic deadlines and unsociable hours
  • 23% said that managers ignored their concerns when they were raised

The results broadly reflect wider research into mental health in the UK. According to the Mental Health Foundation:

  • One in six people over the age of 16 have had a common mental health issue in the last week
  • 43% of adults think they have had a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime
  • Nearly 20% of people have been identified with anxiety or depression

It’s not just an issue in PR then, although there are certain conditions and cultural norms that are specific to the industry, such as the cliché of being “always on”, waiting for that next call or crisis.

Why is mental health important?

Healthier people make for a happier working environment. When the survey was published, Rachel Royall, chair of the CIPR’s health group, said: “It is in everyone’s best interests to support good mental and physical health: a happier and healthier workforce will be more productive, have reduced sickness and retain skilled talent.”

Aside from this, employers have a duty of care. Ethical businesses should be doing everything they can to ensure that their workplace contributes to positive health and wellbeing. This ranges from environmental factors to specific policies and practices that help their staff. Top of the list should be creating a culture that provides a safe space for staff to share any concerns and problems so that they can be worked on together.

My six tips for better mental health

We can all have bad days and it’s important to find ways of looking after your mental health that work for you. There are a range of options, and I’ve shared some things below that I find work for me:

  • Take short breaks: during your working day, a change of scenery and pace can help. If you’re feeling stressed or struggling to focus, a short walk, grabbing a brew, or taking some time away from your desk on another task, can provide a useful chance to relax your mind
  • Know your limits: knowing when you need rest and understanding the things that create stress allow you to devise your own ways to tackle issues and prevent them becoming too serious
  • Talk to people: your colleagues, peers, friends and family all offer opportunities to share a problem, to “sound-off”, or to ask for help. This can help you to feel less isolated and provide a way of solving issues
  • Look after your physical health: a healthy body helps with a healthy mind. Prioritise good sleep, diet and exercise where possible
  • Improve your immediate environment: if you can, try to make your work environment (e.g. your desk area) reflect you and your interests. Photos, personal items, or some greenery can make you feel at home
  • Make time for your hobbies: when you’re busy, the instinct can be to work longer, cutting your relaxation time to get more done. This will eventually make you more tired and stressed. Keep time for the things that you enjoy.

More on Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week is being organised by the Mental Health Foundation. The site includes an online tool so that you can check your own mental health as well as other resources, including how to get help if you need it.

If you’d like to share your experiences of working in PR and the impact it has had on your mental health (or hear from others), the CIPR is running a tweet-chat today (15.05.19) at 12:30 (#CIPRchat). (UPDATE – thread here).

And, if like me, you work in the construction sector, a new campaign Building Mental Health offers some other tips including how to train staff to address mental health issues, utilising employee assistance programmes, and using an interactive toolbox to get conversations around mental health started.

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