Mental health in PR – busting the myths

PR can be stressful. We all know that. But if we weren’t already aware of how stressful it could be this year’s State of the Profession Report found that 51% of senior managers in PR identify as being “extremely stressed” or “very stressed” in their roles.

While workplace pressure is not the only cause of mental health issues, the report’s findings mean it is important that PR professionals have a greater understanding of how to best deal with it in the workplace.

Therefore, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the CIPR’s Diversity Working Group hosted a talk from Jonathan Naess, founder of Stand to Reason, a pioneering mental health charity. Following what he describes as a ‘manic episode’ Naess was diagnosed with bipolar in 1990, aged 22, yet because of the stigma attached to mental health he did little to treat his condition until a second incident many years later.

Naess described how his workplace experiences were affected by his illness and outlined some of the common misconceptions about employees living with mental health issues.

“There is this myth that you are suddenly not a safe pair of hands and you therefore need to be shuffled off to the back office and taken away from any stressful situations. This idea that work is bad for people with mental health issues is totally wrong. Speaking from experience, it gives you structure and a social network.”

Naess had several useful pieces of advice for the group for when it comes to sensitively handling a member of staff who has been signed off sick. “Often people are worried about speaking to the person who is off because they ‘might say it was work stress that’s the cause’. This is totally wrong. As long as you have their consent, speak to them, maybe via email – however they prefer. This can be very helpful. Without this contact a person can become very isolated and from there it’s a long way back to the desk.”

Stand to Reason has conducted some high profile campaigns in recent years, including being instrumental in the passing of the Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013, which removed the bar to people with suffering from mental health issues from holding important positions, including Member of Parliament.

Naess also said how they regularly work with companies and see results of reducing absenteeism and increased productivity.

The event was very enlightening and provoked a lively debate from the well informed audience, many of whom shared personal experiences and advice.

For more information on mental health issues and PR click here or follow the diversity group @ciprdwg.

Image courtesy of pixabay


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