By Dave Sanders.
The iprovision Mental Health Hotline has been featured as an example of how offering anonymous support can overcome some of the stigma that may be felt by people in need of support from their profession’s charity.
A new report by the Association of Charitable Associations (ACO) – the umbrella body for charities that provide support to individuals (also known as benevolent funds) – concluded that there are a number of reasons why stigma exists when it comes to individuals approaching a charity for support – and why people often leave it until the last resort to ask a charity for help.
The report identified a number of barriers that charities need to break down in order to reduce any stigma, including how to reach those who might be embarrassed or ashamed to approach a charity for assistance, how to address any concerns about the application process and how to improve awareness amongst potential beneficiaries that benevolent funds exist and can help with a range of services.
Offering anonymous support was seen as a possible first step in overcoming any stigma and helping develop a relationship between the individual and the charity. The case study included in the report explained how Covid-19 accelerated iprovision’s plans to introduce a helpline for those struggling with mental health issues, as well as comprehensive resources available online and to download – all with the benefit of total confidentiality.
Explaining the thinking behind the helpline, iprovision chair and former CIPR President Tony Bradley told the report: “The iprovision Mental Health Hotline was an idea we had been kicking around with the CIPR for some time. It was apparent that mental health issues were either the root cause, or a symptom, of the difficulties facing an increasing number of requests for our help.
“The hotline and the accompanying online resources are easy to access, and avoid applicants being embarrassed or even feeling stigmatised when voicing their concerns around personal issues. It operates in conjunction with Health Assured and was funded by the benevolent fund for the first year.
“We have just agreed to underwrite it for a second year, and I’m reminded of something I heard at an ACO annual conference where one of the speakers said that sometimes it’s more effective to pay for railings at the edge of a cliff than fund ambulances at the bottom. It’s an analogy that’s stuck with me and made our decision an easy one.”
In year one, the iprovision Mental Health Hotline’s online portal received 260 hits, 10 individuals made calls to the service – two seeking advice and eight received counselling. Low mood was the most common issue, followed by work related stress and redundancy concerns. The biggest number of website hits, by far, occurred in January this year.
“These are not huge numbers,” added Tony Bradley. “But given the fairly small size of the PR community we serve, they are significant. Hopefully a bit of support, and a few words of advice from an experienced BACP-accredited counsellor at an early stage, can help stop some issues developing into something much more serious.”
As a charity, iprovision is independent and exists exclusively for CIPR members in need and their dependants. All of iprovision’s income is derived from voluntary donations, the vast majority of which have come from CIPR members past and present.
Dave Sanders FCIPR is treasurer and a trustee of the CIPR benevolent fund, iprovision.