Ruth Kieran is MD at Cirkle. Below, she explains what Cirkle are doing to help raise awareness of mental health within the PR and comms industry.
We all know that in the last decade the pace at which we have to work has hugely increased. The out-of-office cliché stating that you will have ‘limited access to emails during this time’ harks back to yesteryear, while a culture of ‘always on’ is praised and rewarded, often to the detriment of the individuals trying to keep on top of constant information and demands.
Needless to say, the communications sector has also had to adapt to a punishing 24/7 news agenda which presents the industry, and the individuals who work within it, with a huge challenge of how to adapt and simply keep pace.
But there are other elements at play, which particularly affect agency professionals. As a service industry, we’re often at the beck and call of our clients, and it’s highly likely that a typical agency employee also works within a traditionally hierarchical organisation, where power and control is reserved for those at the very top.
So it’s no surprise that as many as one in three people working in the communications industry have suffered from a mental health issue, compared to the UK average of 1 in 4.
And it’s a growing issue. During Mental Health Awareness Week last year, PR Week and PRCA carried out a mental health industry survey. The results show that we clearly have a problem, but one we’re not willing to talk openly about.59% of respondents had suffered from or been diagnosed with mental ill health, but only 39% said they had spoken to their manager about it. In fact, it seems that most people aren’t honest about their mental health issues. When it comes to confessing to a sick day due to stress only 5% said they were open about the reason.
Think about it, how often have you had an employee ring and say they’re taking a day off sick because they are suffering with a mental health issue? And if they did, how would you react?
That’s why Cirkle has committed to supporting mental health, and has joined forces with Time to Change, a growing social movement which is working to challenge the way we all think and act about mental health problems. The organisation has already reached millions of people and begun to improve attitudes and behaviour towards those suffering from mental health
On the 10th October, to mark World Mental Health Day, we signed our Time to Change Pledge, which outlines a range of initiatives that we’ll be rolling out in order to raise awareness of mental health not just at Cirkle but in the wider PR industry and hopefully help reduce the stigma that so many people face each day.
These include our workshops with Mind, resilience sessions, implementation of a mental health first aider programme and training for line managers, all spearheaded by our mental health champions - colloquially known as our ‘Wellbeing Warriors’.
We hope that our actions will help you think about your own assumptions about people suffering from mental health in the workplace and encourage open dialogue and positive action in your organisation. Together we can make a difference and be that colleague in your corner!