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What is PR? If you quiz an industry outsider, you would get answers such as #Publicity, #Creative, #Glamour, #Parties, #Page 3, #Bollywood and the likes. And when you talk to PR practitioners about their job, they would be quick to say #stress, #thanklessjob, unreasonable clients, unreasonable demands, unforgiving media etc. But when you ask them the same questions in a formal survey, they would change their response completely and use words such as creative, #strategic, paradise of learning etc.
I am not sure about the reasons for a different perspective in private and public but I am very clear that most professionals avoid talking about their mental health with their peers, fearing it might jeopardize their career
In a recent global study conducted by PRCA amongst 400 practitioners (300 from agencies, 100 in-house), 89 per cent say they “have struggled with their mental wellbeing.”
Undoubtedly our profession has a very high level of stress, people do struggle with crazy workloads and deadline. That adrenaline either works for you or it works against you, and for those it is latter, there is no window to express. Not many consultancies put their people first and job second. The ‘Yes’ culture across the functions, brings in toxicity, it’s a historic issue and I do not see a change soon. To add to it, senior practitioners are not trained to recognize the signs of stress or anxiety attacks. Ultimately pushing our people towards depression and early burnout, just check the attrition rate across the consultancies.
The industry should encourage practitioners to put the taboo aside and have an open dialogue within teams and even at the industry level. Having said that, being open about your mental health isn’t easy, just imagine when everyone is busy around you, neck-deep in work, and you raise your hand and say, I am struggling and I need help. Forget talking about depression or serious mental health issues, your seniors will wonder if you are even fit for your job.
What can you do? Try these
1) Ask your HR to put a mental health framework for employees to begin with
2) Like there are doctors on call, can there be a counsellor on call?
3) How about all employees going through mental health first-aid training?
4) Can there be a training program to train leaders in dealing with mental health issues?
Healthier people make for a happier working environment. It is in everyone’s best interests to support good mental health, a happier and healthier workforce will always be more productive, have reduced sickness and increase talent retention.
On the individual front, if you see your colleagues who were previously normal but suddenly appear to be talking less, makes more mistakes, find it difficult to go through their work, call in sick every other day then you need to sit with them and talk, offer support, help them seek counselling. And, if you are facing any of the above then for god sake, talk! Job is secondary, your wellbeing is paramount. On an industry level, let’s raise awareness, discuss mental health more openly. And I am open to listen, if you want someone to simply listen to you without being judgmental, pick up the phone and call.
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