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PR professionals 25% more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to other UK workers

PR practitioners are significantly more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to other UK workers, according to new research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).

I’m not surprised by this research, particularly given its timing in light of the pandemic. We have incredibly visible roles at the best of time. The pace of communication, particularly internal communication, has been intense. Every single week I have conversations with in-house IC professionals who are stressed, overwhelmed and in need of a break.

I was interested to note the findings of this research, it makes sombre reading, but the stark reality is reflected in this report.

It states: “Mental health initiatives, such as flexible working, working from home or mental health related information and techniques are on the rise, and employees are feeling more confident about knowing how to approach the topic of mental health at the workplace.”

Do you agree? Does your organisation (or you) know how to approach the topic of mental health at the workplace? I’ll share some resources at the end of this article to help you if you want to read more about mental health via the All Things IC blog.

Further reading: Read the CIPR and PRCA mental health survey.

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What does the research say?
The research – conducted by Opinium – found nine in ten (90%) PR professionals have struggled with their mental wellbeing to an extent over the past 12 months, compared to 65% of UK workers.

PR professionals are also less likely to take time off from work for mental wellbeing reasons than other UK workers; one in four PR practitioners took leave for mental health, compared to one in three UK workers.

Younger professionals aged 25-34 were noticeably more likely to have taken time off due to their mental wellbeing (32%) compared with those aged 35-49 (22%). Workload was cited as the main barrier to taking time off by more than half of respondents.

mental-health-research-findingsEncouragingly, PR professionals increasingly feel their workplace takes the mental health of their employees seriously. 60% of those experiencing mental health issues have told someone at work.

Key findings from the survey reveal:

  • 60% of those experiencing mental health issues have told someone at work about it
  • 54% of those who didn’t take time off work for their mental health cited the heavy workload as the top reason for not doing so
  • 61% of those taking time off due to mental health problems have felt guilty for doing so
  • 60% felt considerable improvements in their mental wellbeing after having taken time off
  • 74% of those speaking up at work about their mental health issue found their workplace to be understanding and supportive
  • 67% said an overwhelming workload was a key source of workplace stress
  • 95% of PR professionals believe their workplace has a role to play in looking after the mental wellbeing of employees

Other findings from the report were:

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Further reading: Read the CIPR and PRCA mental health survey.

CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra said:

“This research does more than shine a light on a well-known problem. It is a call to action; the power to improve the mental health of our employees and colleagues is in our hands and action is expected. If our model of work isn’t working for the majority, how do we fix it? Normalise conversations around mental health. Allow people time off for stress and mental health concerns. And actively manage your team’s workload and your stakeholder’s expectations.

The pressures of working in public relations are very real and it’s right that we should be concerned but we should also be hopeful. There has been a noticeable shift towards more open and supportive cultures, with more than half of those who experienced mental health concerns talking about them to someone else at work. That must continue and the industry must embrace the new world of hybrid working as an opportunity to deliver a better balance between work and life. Another way is not just possible, it’s essential.”

PRCA Director General Francis Ingham MPRCA said:

“This report delivers data on where we are, and recommendations on what we should do. Some of its findings -such as nine out of ten practitioners have suffered mental ill health over the past year- are shocking. Others -such as three out of four have found their workplace to be supportive- are very welcome.

The four recommendations are simple, sensible, and sound. You shouldn’t feel guilty because you’re feeling unwell. You definitely should talk about the issue. We need to take better care of ourselves, and for many, that’s about workload. And where hybrid working works well, keep on with it.

Every crisis is a catalyst for change, whether for the better or for the worse. If we embrace the recommendations made here, then that change can definitely be for the better.”

Opinium CEO James Endersby said: 

“As we reach our third year of conducting our mental health audit amongst the PR industry, we have started to see organisational change not only within how mental health is communicated, and supported throughout the industry but how mental wellbeing as a whole is approached.

There was a lot for the industry to learn during the pandemic, how to adapt to a completely upside-down world, remote working, fear and stress at all-time highs. The industry has made great progress since the knock of Covid.

We hope this report continues to provide actionable insights and recommendations for the industry to continue to support colleagues and improve workplace wellbeing.”

The research forms part of the CIPR and PRCA’s collaborative efforts to inspire positive action on mental health across the industry. The industry bodies launched a pan-industry ‘Heard Mentality’ campaign earlier this year to urge leaders to heed the concerns of colleagues. More than 250 teams across from across the industry took part in a collective Heard Mentality conversation last month.

Further reading about mental health on the All Things IC blog

Mental health is a topic which is incredibly close to my heart. I’ve been investing in my own mental health through counselling for the past few years. My local mental health NHS Trust has been a wonderful support.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to ask for help. If I can, you can.

If you are CIPR member, don’t forget there are resources available to help you. See the CIPR website to find out more.

 

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Founder of All Things IC communication consultancy. Chartered PR Practitioner and CIPR Fellow.

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