As part of Women In PR’s ongoing commitment to supporting a wide range of issues that affect women in the workplace, the team ran a panel session on dealing with mental health issues and how they affect leadership, teams and individuals during mental health awareness week on 15 May.
Against a backdrop of recent stats from the 2019 CIPR state of the Profession Report, which found that 63% of PR professionals felt that their job is stressful and 23% had taken time off due to anxiety, stress or depression. And further compounded by a PRWeek/PRCA survey on mental health found that only 24% of PR employers operate a formal mental health policy there was lots to talk about.
The panel was asked to discuss their own experiences of dealing with mental health issues, alongside strategies and practical solutions to supporting staff and teams who may be experiencing them.
The panel was Chaired by Ali Jeremy, Director of Communications and Marketing at the NSPCC and included Ebony Gayle, entrepreneur & independent PR communications consultant, Emma Mamo – Head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, Richard Martin, Byrne Dean – Lawyer & Specialist Mental Health First Aid Trainer, at Byrne Dean, Sarah Pettit – Workplace Client Relationship manager at Mental Health first England and Adele Minchin – Director & wellbeing champion at Riot Communications.
The session kicked off with Ebony describing her own experiences of a situation where her mental health was affected by a highly stressful and ongoing challenge in the workplace and compounded by a boss who refused to listen and support her. Ebony talked about dealing with stress and anxiety and how she ultimately came through stronger and more able to understand the signs of mental health that have helped her throughout her career.
She described beautifully how it took a bad situation to help her understand the kind of work place environment she wanted to operate in and ultimately decide on a career as an independent consultant as she is a firm believer that work is what we do and not where we are.
Richard described his own experiences of the legal profession and having a break down which led to him working in mental health and offered insights in how to support someone on your team to spot the signs and give practical support.
Emma talked about the work at MIND and the benefits to offering an open and supportive culture, Sarah added that the work of MHFA England was in high demand as companies are recognising the need to be offering solutions to staff and managers. Finally, Adele gave insights into how her agency RIOT communications supported staff through their wellbeing programme which focused on both personal and professional aspirations and how it was an integral part of their ethos.
To help encourage engagement and because it is a sensitive topic, we used interactive tool Slido so the audience attendees could post their questions anonymously. There were many thought provoking questions from the audience. These included how to deal with prolonged mental health issues in teams; what best practice solutions could be offered; how to balance conflicting priorities such as client demands, busy workloads with understanding staff needs and supporting day to day stress and anxiety; and how these can escalate into more long-term problems if not discussed at an early stage. They also touched on issues around work places having policies but not implementing them, or senior management not practising what they’re preaching and how to tackle that sort of culture. It was a really lively and engaging debate on a very important topic.
If you’re feeling concerned about your own mental health or that of a team member check out these helpful resources:
This site created by the charity, Mind, provides access to a wide range of resources to support mental health at work.
Led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, this organisation focuses on changing attitudes to mental health problems. They have a range of useful materials, including research in this area to help individuals and employers.
The Mental Health Foundation is the UK charity for mental health. They provide useful guides and information on various topics, including mental health in the workplace.
This guide developed by Mind and the CIPD helps anyone involved in people management and includes information, templates and practical advice to help managers facilitate conversations about stress and mental health issues.
This toolkit from Business In The Community, signposts the stages for establishing mental health support programme in the workplace.
Byrne Dean is a leading provider of workplace training and HR / ER support services on mental health and more.